Halfway mark during jury selection in trial of Pulse gunman's widow

Noor Salman charged with aiding and abetting and obstruction of justice

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

ORLANDO, Fla. - Jury selection reached the halfway mark Tuesday in the federal case against the Pulse gunman's widow, Noor Salman.

The 31-year-old Salman is charged by the U.S. government with aiding and abetting and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors allege she knew about her husband Omar Mateen's plan to orchestrate a mass shooting in Orlando and helped him prepare for it.

On June 12, 2016, Mateen opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub on Latin night, killing 49 people and injuring more than 50 others. Salman was indicted on Jan. 12, 2017.

[LEGAL EXPERTS DISCUSS JURY SELECTION: Morning preview | Noon briefing | Evening recap]

The trial is being held at the Middle District of Florida courthouse, about two miles from the nightclub where the shooting happened. U.S. District Judge Paul G. Byron presides over the case.

Last Thursday, Salman's defense team and U.S. federal prosecutors began whittling down more than 600 potential jurors to the select the final 12 and several backup jury members.

By the end of the day Tuesday, 10 potential jurors had moved on past the first round of questions by Byron increasing the jury pool total to 32. Both parties are trying to reach at least 60 potential jurors before narrowing the pool to the final jury panel.

Some of the questions being asked of possible jury members are regarding their interactions with members of the Muslim faith and if they believe the U.S. government treats them fairly.

After one juror was dismissed Tuesday for saying that she thought "history has proven why" it is bad to let too many Muslims in the United States, the prosecuting attorney said he wanted to make it clear "that is not the government's case."

Salman's defense attorney, Linda Moreno, had a follow up question for the juror, asking if she could put that notion aside while on the jury.

"We are not prosecuting Ms. Salman for being Muslim,"  U.S. assistant attorney Roger Hamburg said.

Toward the end of the day another potential juror was excused after both defense and prosecution raised an issue when he said that after the trial "some people," referring to Muslims, would not be happy with the verdict. Both parties agreed this revealed a bias.

Jurors were also asked about their history with the U.S. Judicial System and if they or anyone they know have been the victims of any crimes.

Three potential jury members, one of whom was excused, told Byron they or close family members had suffered from some form of domestic violence.

The court has also heard from a wide geographical range of potential jurors, including those who live in Osceola, Brevard, Volusia and Orange counties. Unlike, state court, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida serves a wider area and can pool from a larger population using voter registration.

The fourth day of jury selection came one day after new information was revealed on the whereabouts of Mateen the night of the June 2016 mass shooting.

Salman's attorneys, Moreno and Charles Swift, filed a motion Monday evening asking the court to prevent the government from implying in their opening statements that Mateen targeted the gay community, saying they don't have evidence that would support that argument. The new motion shows Mateen was at Disney Springs and visited another downtown Orlando nightclub in the hours before the shooting, based on cellphone and GPS data.

Walking into court Tuesday, Moreno said she could not discuss the specifics of the motion.

"I'm feeling that this case is starting to see the light," she said, adding that the motion should speak for itself.

See a recap of the pervious day of jury selection here.

The trial is expected to last about 25 days. 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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