ORLANDO, Florida. – The gunman who killed 49 people in the Pulse nightclub attack was shot and killed hours after. Now, almost two years later, his widow is called to account, charged with helping her husband plan the attack.
The process of Noor Salman, widow of the shooter, Omar Mateen, opened Thursday with the jury selection which is expected to be a long-term, because of the difficulty of finding jurors in the Orlando area able to be fair and impartial given the high profile of the massacre at the time, it was the worst mass shooting to occur in the United States.
The defense plans to argue that Salman was abused by her husband and afraid to defy him.
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. It took a half hour Thursday morning to the question of the first potential juror; each person named had previously filled out a long questionnaire about their backgrounds, opinions, and knowledge of the case.
The judge said that the trial could last five weeks or more times in the twelve jury members are chosen — a process that will probably take a few days. He asked the potential jurors about whether they could be impartial in the wake of the Park, Florida, school shooting, and also asked if they believe that the war on terror targets Muslims. Potential jurors were also asked whether they know that survivors or victims of a terrorist attack.
Four jurors were questioned in the morning session; two were held in the potential pool, while the other two were rejected.
Salman, 31, is charged with the complicity of her husband, Omar Mateen, in the planning of the June 16, 2016 attack. She has also been charged with obstruction of justice and faces life in prison if convicted.
On Thursday morning prior to the procedure, a man stood on the opposite side of the street from the courthouse with a sign that read, ” ‘FRY’ HER UNTIL SHE HAS NO PULSE’.” There were no other visible protesters, but the security in the federal courthouse was tight. Some Wrist next-of-kin in attendance.
Barbara Poma, the owner of the Pulse nightclub, walked out of the courtroom during the lunch break as well as the mother of a man who died in the attack. Both refused to speak to the media.
Leaders of the community said the process could bring difficult emotions to the surface for many people.
“We are aware of each other, and ready to provide support and compassion for all people in need,” said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.
The Governor of Florida, Rick Scott added, “While the horrific terror in the Pulse left a solemn impact on our state, Floridians have demonstrated incredible resilience, courage, and love in the face of this extreme loss.”
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said the trial may bring difficult emotions to the surface that are still grieving. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said it was “incomprehensible” that the incident took place at an LGBT nightclub in the city.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement that Floridians have showed resilience, courage, and love in the face of loss.
The federal courthouse is 2.5 miles (4 km) of the Pulse, that was an LGBT nightclub.
Today, the house is surrounded by green fencing and signs to explain that an interim memorial is built and is under construction until April 2018. Banners on the screens are signed by members of the community. Someone wrote in pen: “Not a day goes by where I don’t think of you. Missed always remembered always.”
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 they stayed with family, and was in prison since.
From various documents of the court of auditors, it is expected that the defense will say Salman was afraid for her husband and not able to question him about the attack. Her lawyers also claim that they are not given proper Miranda warnings from the authorities before they make statements.
On Wednesday, the court unsealed some documents in the case which were filed by the defense. A nurse and a psychologist which is a review of Salman said that she was physically abused by her husband, and was afraid to have him about the attack.
“Noor Salman is a severely battered woman who was in realistic fear for her life from her violent husband,” said Jacquelyn Campbell, a nurse who defense lawyers have been offering an expert on domestic violence and post-traumatic stress disorder. “Her behavior was entirely consistent with severely abused women who are completely controlled by a very abusive male partner.”