ORLANDO, Fla. - The fifth day of jury selection for the widow of the Pulse gunman concluded Wednesday with a total of 42 potential jurors in the pool.
U.S. District Judge Paul G. Byron, who is presiding over the federal case against 31-year-old Noor Salman, questioned 18 potential jurors Wednesday, inquiring about their views on Islam, their ability to be impartial and any possible biases they have.
Of the 18 potential jurors questioned Wednesday, eight were dismissed for cause and the other 10 remained in the pool.
Those potential jurors who were dismissed spoke of biases, safety concerns and ties to the attack at Pulse nightclub June 12, 2016 that left 49 people dead and dozens of others injured.
Byron plans to establish a pool of about 60 potential jurors before the court whittles it down to the final 12 plus six alternates.
Salman is accused of aiding and abetting in her husband Omar Mateen’s attack at Pulse, then obstructing justice by lying to FBI investigators after the fact, according to government prosecutors.
Unlike in the previous four days of selection, no potential juror mentioned direct ties to Pulse or any of the victims of the attack, but there were multiple jurors who cited indirect connections.
Juror No. 233, a mother of three children, was dismissed after she told Byron that her co-workers had friends who died at Pulse nightclub and she helped them through the grieving process.
A father, Juror No. 252, admitted that he could not be unbiased in this case because two of his daughters lived a quarter of a mile from Pulse and went to the bar two days before the attack. His daughters had friends who were inside when Mateen opened fire.
Byron has advised potential jurors on multiple occasion that the religion of Islam is not on trial in this case and has dismissed anyone who discloses negative feelings pertaining to Muslims.
Juror No. 225 told the court that he’s traveled to the Middle East on multiple occasions both for pleasure and for his work in a professional motorsports company.
Although he said he believes extremists are to blame for acts of terrorism, he wasn’t sure he could be 100 percent unbiased in judging a Muslim defendant. He was dismissed.
During the second half of court proceedings Wednesday, one juror could not assure court officials that he would feel safe sitting as a juror because of the publicity surrounding the case.
Juror No. 267, a network systems administrator who was the last to be questioned before court recessed, said he would have concerns about his safety even though jurors will remain anonymous and will be escorted by federal marshals.
“There are a lot of angry people, your honor, and I’d hate to walk out of here with more angry people because of a certain verdict,” Juror No. 267 said.
He was dismissed after defense attorney Linda Moreno further questioned him about his safety concerns and how they could affect his ability to focus on the case.
Among those who remained in the pool were a 20-year Navy veteran, an emergency room nurse, the wife of an attorney who has worked with Byron in the past and people who have family members working in law enforcement.
News 6 legal expert Whitney Boan said that having jurors with ties to the military or law enforcement doesn't necessarily mean they will be more inclined to side with the government.
"I certainly think as a defense attorney in my practice, I have found that you shouldn't assume as a defense attorney that because someone served in the military that they may not be your best juror in terms of holding the government to their standard of proof under the Constitution of the United States," Boan said.
Salman wore all black and spoke only to Moreno, leaning in close to discuss the proceedings. She mostly focused her attention to happenings at the defense table and refrained from using wide hand gestures as she has in previous days.
The trial is expected to last about 25 days with opening statements beginning as early as next week. Salman faces life in prison, if convicted.
Follow live updates from inside the federal courthouse from the News 6 team below:
Copyright 2018 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.