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Defense begins case in Arkansas soldier's death
Defense begins for man who admitted killing Ark. soldier outside military recruiting station
By The Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) ' A judge refused to dismiss a capital murder charge against a man who admitted killing one soldier and wounding another outside an Arkansas military recruiting station before defense attorneys called their first witness Friday.

Abdulhakim Muhammad's attorneys had argued that prosecutors failed to prove the killing of Army Pvt. William was premeditated, but Circuit Judge Herbert Wright denied their request to have a capital murder charge against Muhammad thrown out.

Muhammad, 26, is charged with capital murder for killing Long and attempted capital murder for wounding Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula in 2009. Prosecutors rested their case Thursday after playing video of Muhammad confessing to the shootings, which he said were retribution for U.S. military action in the Middle East.

On Friday, Muhammad's sister Monica Holley wept as she testified about the night in 2007 before her brother left for Yemen, where he traveled before the shootings.

"He looked me in my eyes and told me, there's nothing to be worried about," she said.

She turned to her brother, who met her gaze for a moment before looking away.

"He looked me in my eyes and I trusted him," she said.

Holley testified she and Muhammad, who changed his name from Carlos Bledsoe after he converted to Islam, grew up together in Memphis, Tenn.

"Every time you saw him, he had a big smile on his face," Holley said. "He was just a joy to be around."

Muhammad tried to plead guilty in the case, but prosecutors would have had to withdraw the death penalty as a possible sentence. A defendant can't enter a guilty plea in Arkansas if he could be sentenced to execution.

Defense lawyers say Muhammad had mental problems at the time of the shooting in 2009; Muhammad and prosecutors say otherwise.

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