Noor Salman: Jury selection begins in trial of Orlando Pulse shooter's widow

Posted at 4:56 AM, Mar 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-01 11:09:57-05

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Jury selection began Thursday in the federal trial of Noor Salman, the widow of the man who shot and killed 49 people in a nightclub in 2016.

FULL COVERAGE: Pulse Nightclub attack

U.S. District Judge Paul G. Byron questioned jurors one by one about their knowledge of the Pulse nightclub shooting and whether they knew anyone connected to the incident or the case, in what will likely be a lengthy jury selection. It took a half hour Thursday morning to question the first potential juror; each person called had previously filled out a lengthy questionnaire about their backgrounds, opinions, and knowledge of the case.

The judge said the trial could last five weeks or more once the twelve jurors are chosen.

Salman, who is 31, is charged with aiding and abetting her husband, Omar Mateen, in planning the attack. She's also been charged with obstruction of justice and faces life in prison if convicted.

On Thursday morning prior to the proceedings, a man stood across the street from the courthouse holding a sign that read, " 'FRY' HER TILL SHE HAS NO 'PULSE'." There were no other visible demonstrators, but security in the federal courthouse was tight. Some Pulse victims' families are in attendance.

At the time of the June 16, 2016 massacre, it was the worst mass shooting in the United States. Mateen, who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, was killed by police in the hours after the shooting.

Prosecutors say Salman lied to authorities about her knowledge of her husband's plans. She was arrested in California in 2017, where she was staying with family, and has been in jail since.

From various court documents, it is expected that the defense will say Salman was abused and afraid of her husband, and was unable to question him about the attack. Her attorneys also claim she wasn't given proper Miranda warnings by authorities before she made statements.

On Wednesday, the judge unsealed some documents in the case that were submitted by the defense. A nurse and a psychologist who evaluated Salman said she was physically abused by her husband and was afraid to question him about the attack.

"Noor Salman is a severely abused woman who was in realistic fear for her life from her abusive husband," wrote Jacquelyn Campbell, a nurse whom defense lawyers are offering as an expert in domestic violence and PTSD. "Her behavior was entirely consistent with severely abused women who are completely controlled by a highly abusive male partner."