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Intersection: Noor Salman Trial Update

Noor Salman (L) and counsel Linda Moreno (R). Photo: Charles Treadwell
Noor Salman (L) and counsel Linda Moreno (R). Photo: Charles Treadwell

Peddie:  Jury selection has been going on all this week in the case of Noor Salman – she’s being charged with aiding and abetting her husband Omar Mateen in the Pulse shooting and obstruction of justice. 90.7’s Brendan Byrne has been at jury selection this week and joins us now. Brendan, what’s the process been like?

Byrne: U.S. District Judge Paul Byron is interviewing about 18 jurors a day, one at a time. He wants about 50 or 60 potential jurors in a pool, and then pick the final 12 jurors and 6 alternates. The potential jurors filled out a questionnaire last year, and now he’s really drilling down on some of the answers. He’s asking them about how much media coverage they’ve consumed, their feelings on Islam, and if they knew anyone in the recent Parkland shooting.

Peddie: The judge also asked if they’ve been a victim of a terrorist attack, why?

Byrne: The government’s case against Salman alleges she aided and abetted her husband Omar Mateen by offering material support to a terrorist organization. So the government needs to prove that during the trial. Also, Noor Salman is Muslim. The judge has been asking the potential jurors if they know any Muslims, their feelings on Islam and whether or not they feel the government treats immigrants from Musim-majority countries unfairly. Here’s Stetson Law Professor Charlie Rose explaining why that’s important:

“The court is trying to identify bias against Muslim immigrants, based either on a perception about how the United States government treats them, or whether the war on terror has created an unfair treatment of Muslims within the United States. What they're trying to do is identify for the government and for the defense, those jurors who have a perception on these issues that might prevent them from deciding the case impartially based on the evidence.”

Byrne: It should be noted that both Omar Matteen and Noor Salman were born in the U.S. and are U.S. citizens. Some jurors have been dismissed because of their responses to these questions. One potential juror felt the rise in violence in this country was from immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, another felt Islam condoned violence and fear. And another dismissed juror said it would be difficult to ignore the news reports he has seen of Muslim extremists.

Peddie:  And you reported yesterday another juror was dismissed for thinking the Pulse gunman targeted the LGBTQ community

Byrne: That’s right. Juror number 211 said she have a close family member that identified as someone in the LGBTQ community and that she couldn’t remain impartial if seated on the jury. The judge said prosecutors aren’t planning on making that argument… instead that Mateen was motivated by terrorism… in fact the defense filed a motion this week arguing that case. It says Mateen scouted other targets before going to Pulse – that includes Disney Springs and a downtown bar. Regardless, the judge dismissed the juror.

Peddie: So what’s next?

Byrne: Like I said, jury selection will continue until the judge has about 50 or 60 potential jurors in the pool. That should continue today and into Monday. Once the final jury is set, opening arguments will begin – that’s looking like sometime next week. And the trial should last about three weeks.

Peddie: 90.7’s Brendan Byrne, thanks for speaking with us.

Byrne: Anytime.