Knight v. State, 47599

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; OVERTON; ENGLAND
Citation338 So.2d 201
PartiesThomas KNIGHT, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 47599,47599
Decision Date30 September 1976

Page 201

338 So.2d 201
Thomas KNIGHT, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Florida, Appellee.
No. 47599.
Supreme Court of Florida.
Sept. 30, 1976.

William Hutchinson, Jr., Miami, for appellant.

Robert L. Shevin, Atty. Gen., and Raymond L. Marky, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee.

PER CURIAM.

This cause is before us on direct appeal to review the convictions of Thomas Knight on two counts of murder in the first degree and sentence to death. We have jurisdiction pursuant to Article V, Section 3(b)(1), Florida Constitution.

Page 202

Appellant was indicted for the first degree murder of Lillian and Sydney Gans in that he did kill and murder them from premeditated design by shooting them with a rifle. Briefly the facts leading up to the murder and defendant's apprehension by the authorities are as follows. Upon arriving at his place of business and parking in his designated space, Mr. Gans was approached by the defendant who was carrying an automatic rifle and was told to re-enter his automobile, to drive home and get Mrs. Gans, and to drive to the bank and get $50,000. While inside the bank, Mr. Gans informed the president about the abduction. The police and FBI were alerted. Mr. Gans then returned to his car with the money. He and his wife, shortly thereafter, were found shot to death, the fatal shots--perforating through their necks--having been fired from the rear seat of the vehicle. Thereafter, appellant was apprehended and taken into custody in a weeded area about 2,000 feet from the Gans' vehicle. Underneath him buried in the dirt was an automatic rifle and a paper bag containing $50,000. There were blood stains on his pants.

After an extensive trial, the jury returned verdicts of guilty of both counts of murder in the first degree and, after separate hearing on sentencing, recommended the death penalty be imposed. The trial judge agreed that under the circumstances the death penalty was the appropriate sentence and wrote his order on sentence carefully evaluating the mitigating and aggravating circumstances, stating in part:

'1. That the aggravating circumstances found by the Court to be present and listed by the Court with the lettering as set forth in Florida Statute 921.141(5), are as follows:

'(d) That the capital felonies were committed while the defendant was engaged in the commission of or in flight after committing the crime of kidnapping of Lillian Gans, and/or the robbery of Sidney Gans.

'(e) That the capital felonies were committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest.

'(f) That the capital felonies were committed for pecuniary gain.

'(h) That the capital felonies were especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.

'It might be considered a close question as to whether these murders were especially heinous, atrocious or cruel, because of the fact that when the defendant actually killed the victims, death was almost instantaneous. However, the Court is of the opinion that the hours preceding the actual killings constituted exceedingly cruel treatment of the victims. Mr. Gans was continually under severe strain, not only thinking of his own life but that of his wife. Mrs. Gans was also under continuous strain. Mr. and Mrs. Gans proceeded to follow the directions of the defendant hoping to escape death, although probably fearing for their lives at every instant. When it became apparent to them that the defendant was forcing them to a deserted area, it probably also became apparent to them they were going to be murdered. This feeling no doubt continued up to the actual moment of the deaths. Mr. Gans' actions were particularly noteworthy. After the initial danger, he could have escaped when directed by defendant to the bank. However, Mr. Gans, with commendable courage, attempting to save the life of his wife, again voluntarily submitted himself to the control of the defendant, only to lose his life together with his wife. All of these circumstances constitute particularly cruel, heinous and atrocious actions by the defendant when he finally shot the victims.

'3. That as to mitigating circumstances, the Court finds as follows:

'(a) the defendant has a history of prior criminal activity.

'(b) the defendant was not under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance when the capital felonies were committed.

'(c) the victims were not participants in the defendant's conduct nor did they consent to his acts.

Page 203

'(d) the defendant was not an accomplice in the capital felonies committed by another person and his participation was not relatively minor.

'(e) the defendant did not act under extreme duress or under the substantial domination of another person.

'(f) the capacity of the defendant to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law was not substantially impaired.

'(g) the age of the defendant at the time of the crime was 23 years. The Court finds age not to be a mitigating circumstance. The Court finds that the defendant is of at least average intelligence and experience as an adult.

'. . . The Court finds, as did...

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81 practice notes
  • Pulley v. Harris, No. 82-1095
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 23 Enero 1984
    ...warranted under circumstances of particular case), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 991, 99 S.Ct. 592, 58 L.Ed.2d 666 (1978); Knight v. State, 338 So.2d 201, 205 (Fla.1976) (affirming death sentence weighing circumstances in case before it); Meeks v. State, 336 So.2d 1142, 1145 (Fla.1976) (same); see......
  • Delap v. Dugger, Nos. 88-3393
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • 20 Noviembre 1989
    ...premeditated murder theory when the indictment charges only the offense of first degree murder or premeditated murder. Knight v. State, 338 So.2d 201, 204 (Fla.1976). See Lightbourne v. State, 438 So.2d 380, 384 (Fla.1983) ("first-degree murder may be committed in several ways, includi......
  • Muhammad v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't Of Corr., No. 12–16243.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • 23 Septiembre 2013
    ...him to death. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed his conviction [733 F.3d 1068]and sentence on direct review. See Knight v. State, 338 So.2d 201 (Fla.1976). In 1980, while Muhammad's petition for postconviction relief was pending before Florida state courts, Muhammad killed again. This t......
  • Knight v. Dugger, No. 86-5610
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • 8 Diciembre 1988
    ...was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. Muhammad's convictions and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal. Knight v. State, 338 So.2d 201 (Fla.1976). Muhammad raised twenty-three points on appeal, including a number of issues related to the extensive publicity that accompanied his tri......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
81 cases
  • Pulley v. Harris, No. 82-1095
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 23 Enero 1984
    ...warranted under circumstances of particular case), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 991, 99 S.Ct. 592, 58 L.Ed.2d 666 (1978); Knight v. State, 338 So.2d 201, 205 (Fla.1976) (affirming death sentence weighing circumstances in case before it); Meeks v. State, 336 So.2d 1142, 1145 (Fla.1976) (same); see......
  • Delap v. Dugger, Nos. 88-3393
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • 20 Noviembre 1989
    ...premeditated murder theory when the indictment charges only the offense of first degree murder or premeditated murder. Knight v. State, 338 So.2d 201, 204 (Fla.1976). See Lightbourne v. State, 438 So.2d 380, 384 (Fla.1983) ("first-degree murder may be committed in several ways, includi......
  • Muhammad v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't Of Corr., No. 12–16243.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • 23 Septiembre 2013
    ...him to death. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed his conviction [733 F.3d 1068]and sentence on direct review. See Knight v. State, 338 So.2d 201 (Fla.1976). In 1980, while Muhammad's petition for postconviction relief was pending before Florida state courts, Muhammad killed again. This t......
  • Knight v. Dugger, No. 86-5610
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • 8 Diciembre 1988
    ...was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. Muhammad's convictions and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal. Knight v. State, 338 So.2d 201 (Fla.1976). Muhammad raised twenty-three points on appeal, including a number of issues related to the extensive publicity that accompanied his tri......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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