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Florida Triple Murderer Executed After 34 Years

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Florida triple murderer Thomas Knight, who had since changed his name to Askari Abdullah Muhammad, was finally executed today for a murder committed in 1980.  While already on death row for killing a Miami couple, Sydney and Lillian Gans, Knight killed correctional officer Richard Burke with a sharpened spoon.  Tamara Lush has this story for AP.

"This is where my dad took his last breath," said the slain guard's daughter, 47-year-old Carolyn Burke Thompson. She was among several family members who witnessed the execution and could be seen crying in the front row as it was carried out.

"The system finally has worked. I am at peace knowing I don't have to wait any longer. I miss my dad a lot," she said.
One of the reasons that the case took so long is that the Supreme Court in 1976 approved Florida's sentencing system with its specified list of mitigating circumstances and then later simply changed its mind and mandated that the defendant be allowed to introduce everything including the kitchen sink.  Applying that rule retroactively, the federal court of appeals in 1987 overturned a judgment that had been rendered correctly under the law in effect at the time of the trial and the direct appeal.  Today, the rules of Teague v. Lane and 28 U.S.C. ยง2254(d) would forbid that.

The defense lawyers filed five petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court, denied here, here, here, here, and here.  The only dissent is in the fourth, where Justice Breyer asserts once again that he would grant review to decide the so-called Lackey claim -- whether, if a murderer can gum up the process long enough, he is entitled to escape his just punishment for good.

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And nary a "sorry about that."

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