LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A potential juror's voice cracked as she discussed her family's military connections Tuesday, but she told a judge and lawyers she could be fair to a man accused of killing a soldier outside a recruiting station in Arkansas.
The woman told defense attorney Patrick Benca that her husband fought for this nation's freedoms — including the right to a trial by jury.
Abdulhakim Muhammad, 26, was charged with capital murder after the 2009 shooting death of Pvt. William Andrew Long, 23, in a west Little Rock shopping center. Muhammad has admitted killing the soldier, calling it justifiable revenge for U.S. military action in the Middle East.
Answering questions from prosecutors, defense lawyers and Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herbert Wright, the woman said she could put aside her feelings about her relatives' military service and judge Muhammad fairly.
"It's a crime just like any other in my eyes," she said.
The woman remained in the jury pool as Benca continued his questions. Seven jurors were selected Monday. Five more are needed to complete the panel, and the judge also will retain a handful of alternates.
Lawyers could deliver opening statements later Tuesday.
Muhammad admitted to The Associated Press and to Wright that he killed Long and wounded Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula, then 18, as they took a cigarette break outside the Army-Navy Career Center.
The two had recently completed basic training and volunteered to work as recruiters. Neither had seen combat.
Defense attorneys told potential jurors Monday there is no disputing that Muhammad shot the soldiers, but they say he he's mentally ill. Muhammad has denied that and tried unsuccessfully to fire his legal team and represent himself.
"The fact of the matter is what happen June 1, 2009 was not due to mental disease or defect as I have said before. But to the government's current war on Islam," Muhammad wrote in a letter to Wright in May.
Muhammad moved to Arkansas in early 2009 as his father expanded the family's Memphis-based tour bus company. He converted to Islam in college.
In 2007, he traveled to Yemen, where Islamic extremists are known to seek sanctuary. He overstayed his visa and was deported back to the U.S. He has claimed ties to al-Qaida, but it's not clear whether Muhammad actually has links to terrorist groups or just says he does.
Jeannie Nuss can be reached at http://twitter.com/jeannienuss