ORLANDO, Fla. - A man who worked with a Pulse nightclub shooting victim was among one of the potential jurors selected to remain in the jury pool for the trial of Noor Salman, the widow of the gunman who committed the attack.
During selection proceedings Friday morning, Juror No. 28 said a woman he worked with as a lifeguard at a Universal Orlando resort was among those killed when Omar Mateen opened fire inside the club on June 12, 2016.
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Salman’s attorney Linda Moreno and government prosecutors initially asked that Juror No. 28 be dismissed because he indicated on his juror questionnaire that he knew one of the victims of the attack, but U.S. District Judge Paul Byron asked that Juror No. 28 be brought in so court officials could ask if he could remain unbiased.
Juror No. 28 was asked if it would affect him to see video footage from inside the club, knowing that his co-worker was among the 49 killed.
“I don’t think so,” Juror No. 28 replied.
That juror was among seven of 15 questioned Friday who indicated they had some connection to the attack at Pulse. In some cases that meant they knew a victim or survivor and in other cases it meant that they know someone who knows a victim or survivor.
Juror No. 52 said his coworker’s friend died at Pulse, and because of that, he would lean toward finding Salman guilty of aiding and abetting and obstruction of justice. He was dismissed.
Another potential juror, No. 46, was dismissed because he is an orthopedic surgeon physician assistant who treated 24 survivors “in various states of injuries” during the aftermath of the attack.
Juror No. 64, who works as the vice president of sales for a global manufacturer, told Byron that his daughters went to school with someone who died at Pulse, but he did not feel pressure to convict Salman because of that. He was allowed to remain in the pool.
Byron only chose to dismiss those jurors if they indicated that their connection to the attack would influence their ability to remain unbiased. which in multiple instances they did.
News 6 legal expert Mark O'Mara said that it would be difficult to avoid having jurors with a connection to the attack at Pulse because the mass shooting had such a significant effect on the Central Florida community.
"My concern as a criminal defense attorney is even if a juror can say, 'I can be fair and impartial,' which we all want to be -- you just can't sometimes," O'Mara said. "The closer the connection, the more difficult it is to be fair."
As was the case Thursday, Salman was present during proceedings but never addressed the courtroom. She wore a black blazer over a black and white blouse along with a pair of black trousers.
She used wide hand gestures when speaking privately to Moreno. During proceedings, she wrote on a yellow legal pad and rested her chin in the palm of her hand as she listened to jurors.
Court officials plan to seat a 12-member jury plus about six alternates.
Salman, 31, is charged with aiding and abetting and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors allege she knew about Mateen's plan to orchestrate a mass shooting in Orlando and even helped him prepare for it.
On June 12, 2016, Mateen opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub on Orange Avenue, killing 49 people and injuring more than 50 others. A grand jury indicted Salman on Jan. 12, 2017.
The trial will be held in downtown Orlando, at the Middle District of Florida courthouse, about 2 miles from the nightclub where the shooting happened.
Beginning Thursday, Salman's defense team and U.S. federal prosecutors worked from a pool of more than 600 potential jurors, hearing from 10 of them. Four members of the pool continued on, and six were dismissed.
The trial is expected to last about four weeks. Salman faces life in prison if convicted.
Follow live updates from inside the federal courthouse from the News 6 team below:
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