Franklin man guilty of beating couple

Published 11:02 am Wednesday, March 21, 2012

COURTLAND—A Franklin man was convicted Tuesday of beating a Southampton County couple in the Walmart parking lot in December 2010.

In finding Khalid El-Amin Muhammad guilty, Southampton County Circuit Court Judge Rodham Delk called Muhammad’s behavior inexcusable, yet his testimony “exhibited a heat of passion that would’ve occurred in a reasonable person.”

“I find heat of passion in this case,” Delk said. “There is no malice.”

The judge found Muhammad guilty of unlawful wounding and assault and battery. The 43-year-old faced a more serious charge of malicious wounding.

Muhammad was accused of beating Oliver and Karen Smith with a souvenir bat after Oliver Smith and Muhammad argued while waiting in the checkout line at the Armory Drive store.

Muhammad and the Smiths testified that Oliver Smith accused Muhammad, who was wearing a cowboy hat and coveralls, of cutting in line, but later apologized.

“I didn’t skip line,” Muhammad testified. “Mr. (Smith) yelled out ‘Hey cowboy, hey cowboy get your a- – to the back of the line.’”

Muhammad said he was embarrassed, and it made his daughter cry.

“It reminded me of what goes on in Franklin,” he said. “He dehumanized me in front of everyone.”

Franklin Police Officer Randall Bailey testified that Muhammad admitted to being aggravated by Oliver Smith’s words and went to his truck and grabbed a small, souvenir bat. Bailey said Muhammad apologized to the Smiths in a statement to police.

Karen Smith testified that her husband’s shirt was covered in blood after receiving a blow to the head. She claimed she suffered a bruise on her back and that Muhammad kicked over their shopping cart before leaving.

Eric Korslund, Muhammad’s attorney, said Oliver Smith provoked Muhammad, which caused him to become enraged.

“It has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it’s not unlawful wounding,” Korslund said.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Toni Colvin argued that Muhammad had plenty of time to cool off while in line at the store and searched for the Smiths.

“This was an intentional act and a wrong act,” Colvin said. “It was not a mistake or an accident.”

Muhammad will be sentenced 9:30 a.m. June 14. Korslund would like the court to consider that a “felony conviction is bad enough for someone like Mr. Muhammad,” who he said was normally “peaceful and passive.” The best-case scenario would be no jail time and probation.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Cooke didn’t want to comment about sentencing.