COVINGTON, Ga. – Seventeen-year-old Quran Ali Knighton was convicted of murder Thursday morning in the 2016 stabbing death of 18-year-old 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 during a fight with Knighton outside of the gated Wesleyan Subdivision where he lived May 19. 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 three-day 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 photos of the victim with Dr. Lora Darrisaw, a medical examiner with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, 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.”