ORLANDO, Fla. – The 12 jurors who will decide the fate of the Pulse gunman's widow have rules to follow that will help them fairly decide, based on what they have seen and heard during her trial, to acquit or convict Noor Salman.
The federal case brought by the U.S. government began March 1 with the selection of the jury for her trial.
Assistant U.S. attorneys called more than 20 witnesses and experts attempting to prove the Pulse shooting was a terror attack and that Salman, 31, aided Omar Mateen before the shooting. The defense team called 13 witnesses who testified to Salman's naive character and poking holes in the statement Salman gave to the FBI with a false confession expert.
The jurors' verdict comes down to if they believe the government has proven if Salman’s 26-page statement written down by an FBI agent is credible, if she helped her husband through any of her words or actions and if she lied to FBI agents about her knowledge.
During the three-week trial, jurors heard Pulse shooting survivors’ stories, watched surveillance video from the moment Mateen opened fire inside the club; listened to more than a dozen FBI agents, first responders and followed the shooter’s preparation for the attack through cellphone evidence and surveillance.
After closing arguments Wednesday, the 12 members of the jury panel will be given instructions informing them of the legal requirements, or rules, to follow while deciding the case.
Working with U.S. District Judge Paul Byron, Salman’s attorney, Charles Swift, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Sweeney went through each instruction line by line, changing language for clarity and making sure each rule applies to this case.
It’s not enough to prove that Salman knew what her husband was planning; that is not what the U.S. government accuses her of. She is charged with aiding and abetting the attempted provision and provision of material support to a foreign terrorist organization, as well as obstruction of justice.
The charge is a mouthful, but essentially means that Salman offered Mateen support by going with him as he bought items in preparation for an attack in the name of the Islamic State, a terrorist organization, and she aided him through her words by coming up with a cover story.
Here is what the jury will be instructed before they begin deliberating.
- The jury cannot factor in that Salman did not testify into its decision.
- The charges brought by the U.S. government have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a very high bar. If they have any doubt in what the government alleges the jurors must return a verdict in Salman’s favor.
- The jury panel must consider all direct and circumstantial evidence.
- Jurors need to consider the credibility of all the witnesses who testified for and against the defendant.
- The jury must consider several factors when evaluating Salman’s statement to the FBI, including whether they believe she made the statement, how much weight to give it and the circumstances under which it was given.
After evaluating all of the above, the jury must then apply what it has learned through witnesses, experts and evidence to consider the charges against Salman.
Count one is the aiding and abetting the attempted provision and provision of material support to a foreign terrorist organization. If the jury finds Salman guilty of this charge, the government must have proven the following:
Mateen attempted to provide to ISIS personal and services, which the government says was the attack on Pulse nightclub.
That Salman knowingly provided Mateen material support, through words, actions and encouragement and resources even without evidence that she committed the actual shooting. She is criminally responsible of another person if they have aided and abetted that person.
Count two is obstruction of justice. The government alleges that seven statements Salman made to the FBI were an attempt to prevent its investigation into the Pulse attack. To prove this charge, the government needs to show that the crime happened at the venue, or place, it alleges.
The jury needs to look at all the evidence the government used to show those statements were knowingly false and decide if the prosecution was successful. This will, again, depend on how much weight the jury gives Salman’s written statement to the FBI.
If the jury finds Salman guilty of aiding and abetting, the maximum sentence is life in prison. If she is found guilty of either charge, the judge will sentence Salman.
Follow coverage of the trial and verdict at ClickOrlando.com/NoorSalmanTrial.