Teen con­victed in 2016 stab­bing death

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - Dar­ryl Welch dwelch@cov­

Seven­teen-year-old Qu­ran Ali Knighton was con­victed of mur­der Thurs­day morn­ing in the 2016 stab­bing death of 18-yearold Mar­kice Sa­muel Har­ris.

A New­ton County jury de­lib­er­ated over a two-day pe­riod be­fore find­ing the for­mer New­ton High School sopho­more guilty on charges of mal­ice mur­der, felony mur­der, ag­gra­vated as­sault and pos­ses­sion of a knife dur­ing the com­mis­sion of a felony in Har­ris’ death last year.

Har­ris was stabbed to death May 19 dur­ing a fight with Knighton out­side of the gated Wes­leyan Sub­di­vi­sion where he lived. The sub­di­vi­sion is on Boogers Hill Road north of Ox­ford.

Dur­ing open­ing ar­gu­ments, As­sis­tant District At­tor­ney Bai­ley Simkoff told ju­rors the fight stemmed from a dis­pute be­tween Har­ris and Knighton over cha­t­room posts us­ing the Kik app. Each made threats against the other and they agreed to meet and fight.

“Qu­ran Knighton brought a knife to a fist fight,” Simkoff said.

De­fense at­tor­ney Jeff Banks told ju­rors that the vic­tim brought the knife to the fight.

” The ev­i­dence will show they en­gaged in mu­tual com­bat and Har­ris pulled the knife,” he said.

Through­out the nearly three­day trial, Simkoff and Deputy Chief As­sis­tant District At­tor­ney Candice Branche me­thod­i­cally laid out the pros­e­cu­tion’s case against Knighton, which in­cluded con­flict­ing tes­ti­mony about how the knife got to the scene and who had it first.

Bri­anna Mose­ley, a rel­a­tive who had gone with Knighton to meet Har­ris, tes­ti­fied in court that she saw Har­ris with the knife first.

“When I first saw the knife, Mar­kice had it,” she said.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors with the New­ton County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice tes­ti­fied that Mose­ley, who was cut in the hand try­ing to in­ter­vene dur­ing the stab­bing, told the same story the night of the in­ci­dent.

Two Depart­ment of Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice pro­ba­tion of­fi­cers told ju­rors that Mose­ley told them the next day that Knighton went home af­ter los­ing the fight, re­trieved a knife and re­turned to the scene.

Ju­rors saw graphic au­topsy pho- tos of the vic­tim with Dr. Lora Dar­ri­saw, a med­i­cal ex­am­iner with the Ge­or­gia Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion, de­scrib­ing each wound. She tes­ti­fied that Har­ris suf­fered four stab wounds, in­clud­ing two to his chest.

Af­ter the pros­e­cu­tion rested, Knighton took the stand. He said he was de­fend­ing him­self when Har­ris was killed.

Knighton tes­ti­fied that he and Har­ris were fight­ing and that Har­ris was on top of him, slam­ming his head against the con­crete.

He tes­ti­fied they stopped fight­ing and stood up when a man yelled at them from a car win­dow.

Knighton said he thought the fight was over, but when he went to re­trieve his jacket Har­ris hit him from be­hind. He said when he turned around, the vic­tim had a knife.

“I grabbed his wrist and took his thumb off,” he said. “I thought he was go­ing to kill me.”

Knighton told ju­rors he didn’t re­mem­ber stab­bing Har­ris.

“I was scared. I was pan­ick­ing,” he said.

Knighton said when it was over, he saw Har­ris walk­ing away and heard Mose­ley say­ing she had been cut.

“I see him walk­ing off,” he said. “Bri­anna said, ‘I got cut, Bro.’

“She was go­ing to­ward Mar­kice.”

Knighton said he dropped the knife at the scene and went straight home.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors tes­ti­fied they were un­able to find the knife af­ter an

ex­ten­sive search, in­clud­ing the use of track­ing dogs.

Dur­ing clos­ing ar­gu­ments, Banks told ju­rors the pros­e­cu­tion had failed to prove its case be­yond a rea­son­able doubt. He added that had his client not been able to wres­tle the knife away from the vic­tim, their roles would have would have been re­versed.

“Had Mr. Har­ris suc­ceeded, we would be here to­day for just the op­po­site,” he said.

In her clos­ing ar­gu­ment, Branche re­it­er­ated the pros­e­cu­tion’s case point by point.

She also told ju­rors to re­mem­ber that Har­ris was the vic­tim.

“Mar­kice Har­ris is the vic­tim,” she said. “He was stabbed to death when he should have been grad­u­at­ing from high school. His mother has to drive past that gate every day. “I’m ask­ing for jus­tice.” Af­ter get­ting the case late Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, the jury de­lib­er­ated nearly four hours be­fore find­ing Knighton guilty. Mem­bers of his fam­ily wept qui­etly as the ver­dicts were an­nounced.

Al­covy Cir­cuit Judge John M. Ott de­layed sen­tenc­ing un­til af­ter a pre-sen­tenc­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Banks told The Cov­ing­ton News the verdict will be ap­pealed.

Speak­ing af­ter leav­ing the court­room, Branche told The News, “I hope this brings clo­sure for Mar­kice Har­ris’ fam­ily. I’m happy that jus­tice was served for him and his fam­ily.”

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