Trial Begins For Widow Of Orlando Pulse Nightclub Shooter

A jury will have to figure out if Noor Salman aided and abetted Omar Mateen before he took the lives of 49 people at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

The federal trial for Noor Salman, the widow of Pulse Nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, began Thursday. A jury will deliberate as to whether Salman had aided Mateen in the murder of 49 people in the summer of 2016.

Salman is the only person being tried in connection with Mateen's crimes (Mateen was killed in crossfire with police during the massacre), according to Reuters. She potentially faces up to life in prison if found guilty.

Salman was not present during the shooting. She was at home taking care of her three-year-old son the night of June 26.

Prosecutors claim that Salman was aware of her husband's plans but did not stop him.

Demonstrators gathered at the Orlando courthouse on Thursday in the hopes of encouraging a guilty verdict. Some were hoping she receives the death penalty.

The trial was a melancholy reunion for about 15 of the survivors of the massacre, who were in attendance for the proceedings.

“I just felt I had to come. I had to make my presence known for the survivors, for the families,” said India Godman, a survivor who wore a Pulse shirt in court, according to The Orlando Sentinal. “We all embraced one another. We’re all here to support one another.”

Court officers said the trial may last as long as a month.

Barbara Poma, the owner of Pulse Nightclub, was also present at the trial. 

Potential jurors were interviewed, with four of ten being dismissed. The jury selection process continues on March 2.

Legal experts have noted the challenges this particular case presents.

"It is going to be amazingly difficult to seat a jury in this case because not only do the potential jurors live in central Florida, but we have had an enormous backlash against terrorist acts in the past 17 years since 2001, and this case, like the Boston Marathon case, will be felt as an opportunity to right those wrongs," said CNN legal analyst Mark O'Mara.

Salman had originally denied knowledge of Mateen's plans, but later admitted she was aware of his increasing predilection towards radicalization. She stated that she knew he had been watching videos on the Islamic State and Iraq and knew that he had purchased assault rifles. She also acknowledged that he had scouted locations with the purpose of planning an attack. 

Court documents indicate that Salman's inaction and deception played a role in the crimes.

“The defendant aided and abetted her husband in this mass-murder and repeatedly lied to law enforcement,” investigators said in a court filing.

Defense attorneys say that the United States government could not establish solid evidence to suggest Mateen had been radicalized by the Islamic State. (Mateen had claimed allegiance to the Islamic State while holding hostages during a shootout.) They say no evidence has been provided that Salman aided Mateen.

“It was Mateen, not Noor, who decided to attack the Pulse Night Club, Mateen who chose to drive to the club, Mateen who purchased the weapon and ammunition, and Mateen who alone carried out the attack,” the defense wrote in court filings.

The defense has previously attempted to characterize Salman as a victim.

"Noor has told her story of abuse at his hands. We believe it is misguided and wrong to prosecute her and that it dishonors the memories of the victims to punish an innocent person," attorneys wrote in a statement shortly after her arrest, according to CNN.

The charges Salman has specifically been indicted on are: obstruction of justice for alleged false statements to federal investigators, and aiding and abetting Mateen. Salman has pleaded not guilty to both charges, according to CNN.

[Photo: Facebook]

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