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Prosecutors seek death penalty in soldier shooting

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty in the shooting death of a soldier outside a recruiting station in Little Rock.

Prosecutors say they plan to pursue the death penalty against Abdulhakim Muhammad.  It's the major development coming out of the first court appearance for the man charged with shooting two Army recruiters.

Abdulhakim Muhammad showed no emotion in a short hearing this morning.  His only movement was nodding to his father across the courtroom.

Goins says: "Are you worried about a death penalty case?"  Muhammad says: "No."  Goins says: "why not?"  Muhammad says: "allah akbar."

That's the only question 23-year old Abdulhakim Muhammad answered himself Friday

Inside the courtroom of Pulaski County circuit judge Herbert Wright, attorneys entered a not guilty plea for him.  The judge set a February 15, 2010 trial date.

After the hearing, his father Melvin Bledsoe didn't speak with reporters but met with his son's new attorney, Claiborne Ferguson of Memphis.

"The family is obviously concerned for their son and they're also very saddened by what happened,” Ferguson says.  “They know this is a tragedy and they're very upset by the facts and the way it played out."

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.  Court documents allege Muhammad targeted Pvt. William Long of Conway and Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula of Jacksonville outside an Army recruiting center on Rodney Parham because they wore military uniforms.  A police affidavit outlines Muhammad telling Little Rock police detectives he was upset at U.S. military actions in the Middle East leading up to the June 1 attack.

"Obviously he understands the situation he is in,” Ferguson says.  “I think we'll have a good working relationship."

After the hearing, Muhammad left the courtroom among a crush of cameras and reporters but maintained his silence.  It wasn't until he left the courthouse for a Pulaski County jail bus that he even acknowledged questions.

Goins says: "Do you have anything to say about being charged in a death penalty case?"  Muhammad says: "allah akbar, that's all I have to say, allah akbar."

The phrase ‘allah akbar’ is Arabic for "god is great".

Goins says: "Anything to say to the family of William Long or Quinton Ezagwula?"  Muhammad says: "allah akbar."

Muhammad is due back in court next January 11th for a pre-trail hearing.

Pvt. Long's father said he didn't want to give any interviews but did say in the courtroom to reporters, "This is going to be a long, long drawn out thing."

Muhammad is from Memphis and moved to Little Rock three months before the recruiting center shooting.  He applied to change his name back to Bledsoe weeks before the attack.  He withdrew the request at a brief court appearance June 30.

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