Noor Salman trial: Some jurors share connection to Pulse attack

By Jerry Hume, Greg Angel, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Friday, March 02, 2018, 5:11 PM EST

Jury selection continues in the case against the widow of the Pulse Nightclub shooter. Prosecutors are finding some potential jurors have close connections to the 2016 attack.

Noor Salman is on trial accused of aiding her husband, Omar Mateen, with the his June 12, 2016 attack at Pulse nightclub that killed 49 people.

By the end of Friday, the second day of jury selection at a federal courthouse in downtown Orlando, a total of 24 people have been questioned. Of those, 13 are in the jury pool, 11 have been excused.

Their names were concealed in court, as they were referred only by juror numbers.

Juror 28 said his coworker at Universal Orlando Resort was one of the victims in the attack. 

Juror 46 is an orthopedic physician's assistant. He told Judge Paul Byron he was at work that night and helped treat 24 patients from the attack. He said conversations with victims focused on the nature of their injuries. 

Both were asked if they could watch graphic video during the trial, remove all biases and judge the case fairly. The Universal juror said he could, but the physician's assistant said his experience was have an impact on his bias. He was among seven potential jurors to be excused from the case Friday.

Other jurors admitted to having biases as it related to terrorism and Islam. The judge cautioned that the religion itself was not on trial.

Another juror was excused after expressing that she would not be able to view the “graphic” and “unpleasant” evidence and remain fair and impartial.

One woman told the judge a colleague survived the attack, and she knew people who knew someone killed. Another woman attends church with the family of a survivor. 

Juror 75 has a niece with a friend who died in the attack. He said he had to offer her some emotional comfort and support, and that it would be too much on his mind to deliberate fairly if put on the jury. He was also excused.

The close connections may be a challenge for a judge who has been tedious and thorough in his process of finding a jury of 12 that is fair and open-minded.

Judge Byron has cautioned each potential juror, as they’re questioned individually, what their role is and how they have to weigh all of the evidence equally from both sides.

He told the court Friday afternoon that he is expected to question 18 more potential jurors on Monday. Jury selection itself could last another week.

Judge Byron says he wants to narrow down a current field of potential jurors to a pool of approximately 56. After attorney deliberations, that will be whittled down to the final jury of 12, plus several alternates.

When the jury of 12 is eventually selected, they will have to determine if Salman helped her husband plan the attack at Pulse and lied to investigators after the shooting.

Attorney David Haas offered insights on the jury selection process.

"Finding jurors that don't have a personal impact in the community where it happens can be challenging and that’s why the judge is going through so many potential jurors to weed them out," Haas said.

Salman could face life in prison if convicted of providing material support to a terrorist organization. She also charged with obstruction of justice, punishable by 10 years in prison.

Her attorneys are expected to argue that she was a severely abused woman who feared for her life in her rocky relationship with her husband and had no idea he was planning the attack at Pulse.

Jury selection is expected to take seven to 10 days. The trial itself is scheduled to last three weeks.