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January 31, 2014 UPDATED 1/31/2014

Miscarriage of justice ends*

Op-Ed by George Makrauer


Jan. 7, 2014 was an oddly chilling Florida day in the history of a frequently demented U.S. criminal justice system, coincidentally related to the plastics industry.

In this case, the injustices began in the entrepreneurial paper and plastics packaging manufacturing industry with a company named Sydney Bag, 39 years, 5 months and 24 days earlier.

Thomas Knight, who had been employed by the company for 10 days, kidnapped his employer, Sydney Gans and Lillian Gans, coerced them under gunpoint to drive to the family and business bank, withdraw $50,000, and then took them to a field where he shot and killed both.

For decades, the Miami Herald had tracked the irrational decision-making by trial, appellate and Florida Supreme Court justices whose sense of "justice" comes obviously from creative fiction writing courses.

According to the newspaper, a jury convicted Knight in 1975 and a judge sent him to death row, and while there, he killed a corrections officer. While his execution was scheduled in 1981, Knight objected, saying he hadn't had his trial for the correction officer's murder.

After being convicted of that crime, too, a federal appeals court threw out the Gans death sentence, ruling Knight should have been allowed to present character and background witnesses during a penalty hearing, the newspaper reported

Character and background witnesses? Really? We're to take these "justices" seriously?

To get a sense of how senseless it became with stay after stay after stay — for 39 years, 5 months and 24 days — get your Google on. The Jan. 7 ABC National News after Knight was finally executed reported this:

"The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his final appeals, but Justice Stephen Breyer said in a dissent he would have granted a stay to hear [Knight's] claims that it may be unconstitutional to execute an inmate after such a long time on death row."

How to describe that? Not demented; not irrational; not stupid. Got it: moronic. Yup, in the context of what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Gans, the extended Gans family, the prison guards, their family members and the other victims of Thomas Knight, to say even in jest one is willing to consider "granting a stay to hear claims that it may be unconstitutional to execute an inmate after such a long time on death row," can be nothing more credible than moronic. That's fit for a "Saturday Night Live" skit, nothing more.

George Makrauer
ComAd Group
The Villages, Florida

*The practice in journalism is Headline Editors, not the reporter or op-ed writer, write the headlines, with a knowledge limited primarily to the specific article or op-ed they read. The op-ed title, "miscarriage of justice," was written by one of the headline editors of PlasticsNews. As so often the case, this headline misleads (due to limited space) about the pains of life for the families of the victims, which did not end with Knight's execution. The other ongoing "pain" that did NOT end is the legacy of ineptitude within the criminal justice system that assures similar injustices will exist. (This same ineptitude is the cause of innocents being convicted and sentenced for crimes they did not commit. My point, here, is mal- and mis-feasance in the criminal justice system.)


I had followed this case since first reported, because the Gans family business was an analog of ours: husband, wife and son; attempting the entrepreneurial "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness"; satisfying customers, creating jobs, building a family success and legacy, and contributing the the community.

One of Mr. Gans contributions was giving job opportunities to released prisoners to rebuild their lives.

Knight was such a released felon.

So much for "contributing to the community."

It gets worse than reported above.

What about Knight's other murder; that of a store clerk he and his escaped cohort killed? Here's what went down:

On 10/21/74, they both entered a liquor store (in Cordele, Georgia) and asked for a bottle. As the clerk retrieved the bottle, he was told to hand over the money.  The defendant and co-defendant then demanded both clerks’ wallets and started shooting.   Mr. William Culpepper was shot three times and was killed; Mr. A.V. Norton was shot twice.  The defendant and co-defendant fled taking $641.00.


FBI agents arrested the subject in New Smyrna Beach, FL on 12/31/74.  At the time of his arrest the subject was in possession of a sawed-off shotgun, a .38 caliber revolver and a 9mm automatic.  These weapons were reported stolen from Titusville, FL.


Previous reports indicate that Georgia authorities did not prosecute the subject (Knight) due to his Florida death sentence (because the Crisp County, Georgia DA was certain Florida's death penalty would put the issue to rest).  

For the complete record of this truly incredible set of events that make the US Judicial System and the Courts a disgusting mockery of Keystone Cops and Judges, click this sentence link.

Date of
Date of
Date of
Sydney Gans
Lillian Gans
James Burke

Lethal Injection
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
to Murderer
Method of
Date of
Sydney Gans
W / M / 64
Lillian Gans
W / F / 60
James Burke
OFFICER W / M / 48


Employer's Wife

Prison Guard

.30 Rifle

.30 Rifle

Stabbing with Sharp Spoon

Thomas Knight
Askari Abdullah
Race B/Sex M
Age at Murders:
23, 29
Age at Execution 62


First, had the District Attorney of Crisp County, in which Cordele is located, site of the additional murders, not been so eager to NOT fulfill his responsibilities and just take the easy way out by excusing himself from prosecuting Knight "because Knight already had a death sentence in Florida," Crisp County likely could have also imposed a death sentence after, unquestionably, finding Knight guilty of the additional First Degree Murder and may have been able to finish him off while Knight's amoral defenders stalled 40 years without reasonable reason. The DA SHOULD HAVE KNOWN that until a terrorist like Knight stops breathing, a death sentence in some other state is moot due to shameful ineptitude of the "criminal justice" system. Lots of family grief, and public time and money would not have been wasted helping this vermin push off his IV injections.

Second, the most important "business relevance" of this morass is the demonstrable ignorance, stupidity and incompetence of the appellate judges all along Knight's unjustifiably lengthy life. The first appellate judge who stopped the execution because "Knight had not had the opportunity to be tried for his murder of the prison guard" is dumbfounding. How illogically and detrimentally anti-social, at the least, was that judge? I wouldn't have hired that judge as a rent-a-cop.

Further -- again -- the written dissent of Stephen Breyer, "he would have granted a stay to hear [Knight's] claims that it may be unconstitutional to execute an inmate after such a long time on death row," is an additional example proving that regardless of the education and degrees one has (Lowell High School [including active membership in the Lowell Forensic Society and debated regularly in high school tournaments], a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Stanford University, a Bachelor of Arts from Magdalen College at Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar, and a Bachelor of Laws [LL.B] from Harvard Law School), one can still be dumb as a rock. Thanks, Bill Clinton, for that court appointment.

But, but, but... his attitude about fair reasoning and common sense may be tainted by his life-style mindset being anything but "common." His wife is "Hon." Joanna Freda Hare, a psychologist and member of the British aristocracy, as the youngest daughter of John Hare, 1st Viscount Blakenham (see Wikipedia). So, as an American who lives above Americans, what can one expect from him?

Voters -- Democrats, Republicans, Independents, all of whom criticize and complain about the declining conditions of life in the U.S. -- MUST understand it is that ilk of "judge" -- people who have absolutely no personal record of employment, experience, knowledge, understanding or daily operational management knowledge and responsibility of how business really works and what businesses must deal with -- who, nonetheless, have the power to make decisions about how commerce and business operations should be run and regulated in the U.S.A. When labor law and environmental regulations and tax codes and international trade are controlled by such judges, and well as by legislators and elected officials with a similar paucity of knowledge and are motivated primarily by political affiliation, yet who see themselves as both "brilliant" and "royal," the state of the Union continues its steady decline of the past 60 years. After all, it can't be constitutional to stay too long on death row without being executed for committing heinous murders, unless one can.



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