ORLANDO, Fla. - Jury selection continued Monday in the federal case against the widow of the Pulse shooter, getting off to a slow start, but quickly picking up speed, ending the day with 22 total potential jury members after questioning.
Noor Salman, 31, is charged with aiding and abetting, and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors allege she knew about Omar Mateen's plan to orchestrate the mass shooting in Orlando and helped him prepare for it.
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On June 12, 2016, Mateen opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub on Orange Avenue, killing 49 people and injuring more than 50 others. Salman was indicted Jan. 12, 2017.
The trial is being held at the Middle District of Florida Courthouse, about two miles from the nightclub. U.S. District Judge Paul G. Byron is presiding over the case.
Salman's defense team and U.S. federal prosecutors started Thursday working from a pool of more than 600 potential jurors to select the final 12 and about six backup jury members.
The pool needs to be at least 60 before the attorneys begin to narrow it to the final panel.
At the end of the day Monday, Byron had questioned an additional 17 potential jurors. Nine were added to previous days' jury members, making the total 22, while the others were excused for cause.
Salman has been in court for all of the proceedings. On Monday, she again wore black and appeared to be very focused on every possible jury member who was questioned, speaking frequently or writing notes to her attorney, Linda Moreno.
For the second time, the issue of language comprehension came up with a potential juror.
No. 152 was born in Nicaragua, has lived in the United States since 1987 and became a citizen in 2011. Moreno attempted to raise an issue about her comprehending the complicated expert witnesses and having trouble deliberating with her fellow jurors.
Byron did not agree, saying, "This is a bilingual state, whether we call it that or not."
"Otherwise we start precluding people," Byron said of not including people for whom English is their second language.
On the first day, Byron established his position on this issue when Moreno had questions about another juror whose first language is Spanish, saying they are citizens and have a right to serve. Byron also said it would be good if both parties required their witnesses to slow down, preventing any confusion.
Similar to the first two days of the selection process, there were also more connections to the Pulse shooting Monday.
Potential juror No. 107 said she donated blood after the shooting, but described that as a "civic duty" more than a personal connection. No. 135 is a recent University of Central Florida graduate who attended a vigil on campus and just started a job at a health care facility where they treated some of the shooting victims. Both women stayed in the jury pool.
For the first time, Byron inquired about social media, asking potential juror No. 91 if she shared anything about the Pulse shooting. No. 91 said she did not, but did support going to candlelight vigils and visited a temporary memorial for the victims.
News 6 legal expert attorney Mark O'Mara said asking about social media is absolutely necessary in a case that has had this much public attention.
"You have to be able to look at, not just what they say to you in the courtroom, but to compare it to what they've said to their community well before they got into the courtroom," O'Mara said.
Byron plans to question 18 more possible jurors Tuesday.
At the end of the day, Salman's defense team, Moreno and attorney Charles Swift filed a motion asking the court to prevent the government from including the idea during their opening statements that Mateen intentionally targeted the gay community in the attack.
The motion presents new evidence using GPS and cellphone data showing that Mateen was at Disney Springs, in the area of Epcot and then drove back and forth between Pulse and Eve Orlando, another nightclub less than two miles away, the night of the massacre.
Mateen found Pulse and Eve Orlando using a Google search. The defense claims that because Eve does not cater to LGBTQ he was not specifically targeting the gay community.
Opening statements are expected to start next week. The trial is expected to last about 25 days. Court will be in session Monday through Thursday, after the jury selection is complete.
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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