TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Supreme Court on Monday delayed the execution of a man who killed a prison guard while on death row for two other slayings.
The justices also ordered a lower court to hold a hearing on whether a new drug being used in lethal injections effectively renders the condemned unconscious.
Askari Abdullah Muhammad, formerly known as Thomas Knight, was scheduled to be executed Dec. 3. The court delayed that until at least Dec. 27 while hearings are held on a claim that the sedative midazolam hydrochloride doesn’t prevent pain after being administered to condemned inmates.
Florida has used midazolam in two executions – William Happ on Oct. 15 and Darius Kimbrough Nov. 12. The state previously used pentobarbital to render prisoners unconscious before drugs that induce paralysis and cardiac arrest are administered.
The Supreme Court said use of the drug will be the only issue to be addressed in lower court hearings to be concluded by Nov. 26. The Supreme Court will then examine the findings and has scheduled arguments in the case for Dec. 18.
Knight, 62, has been on death row for nearly 40 years. He was convicted of fatally stabbing Corrections Officer Richard Burke with the sharpened end of a spoon in 1980.
Knight was originally condemned for the 1974 murders of Sidney and Lillian Gans of Miami Beach. He received two death sentences for their slayings. The death warrant Gov. Rick Scott signed last month was for Burke’s murder.