Noor Salman trial: As jury selection continues, new details about shooter emerges

By Julie Gargotta, Digital Media Producers, and Greg Angel, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Tuesday, March 06, 2018, 5:45 PM EST

Jury selection in the Noor Salman trial could be wrapped up as early as the end of this week, and both sides are preparing their opening statements. 

But a new question remains: What will they be allowed to say?

The court is awaiting a filed response from prosecutors, but the defense is taking issue with what prosecutors plan to tell the jurors. A newly filed defense motion gives a glimpse into arguments likely to come into play at trial.

Defense attorneys contend despite what she may have told the FBI, Noor Salman was never aware of her husband’s plan. They also argue the attack itself was not pre-planned nor an intentional attack on the gay community.

New details reveal that Pulse shooter Omar Mateen visited Disney Springs the night before the shooting. In a 13-page document filed Monday afternoon, Salman's attorneys asked the court to step in and stop the government from making "improper arguments" in their opening statement.

And the defense claims Mateen did not target Pulse because it was a gay club and wants to suppress the prosecution from mentioning that in court. The motion says Google searches and cell tower data on the evening of the attack showed Mateen was at Disney Springs and that he allegedly searched "downtown orlando nightclubs" and wound up at Eve Orlando before traveling south to Pulse.

The defense contends that Pulse was targeted simply because it had less security than Disney Springs and Eve nightclub.

The defense motion says the data, plus receipts and video footage, preclude the possibility that either Mateen or Salman scouted Pulse on June 8. In other words, the defense claims Salman did not aid the attack.

It was previously reported that Mateen visited Pulse before the attack, stopping at both the nightclub and Disney Springs between June 1 and June 6 of 2016. Those days coincide with Disney's Gay Days Celebrations.

And Salman's attorneys, Charles Swift and Linda Moreno, say that because this is a high-profile case, opening arguments are lasting to jurors.

Citing the case of Arizona v. Washington, "an improper opening statement unquestionably tends to frustrate the public interest in having a just judgment reached by an impartial tribunal."

And the motion wants to stop the government from suggesting the attack on Pulse was intended as an attack on the gay community.

It could be several days before Judge Byron makes a ruling.

During the attack that killed 49 customers and guests at Pulse, Mateen made several phone calls, including to Spectrum News 13, and pledged his allegiance to ISIS.

In court, Federal Judge Paul Byron repeatedly pointed out that religion is not on trial and that is a point some say they are watching closely.

"We need to make sure we honor the victims and the best way to honor the victims is to make sure they get justice and doing that is not to go after someone else and make them a victim if they have nothing to do with the crime," Ahmed Bedier, of the United Voices For America, said.

The judge is still working to build a jury pool of about 60 people. Attorneys will then narrow that down to 12.  

Salman is charged with aiding and abetting, as well as obstructing justice by lying to investigators. Salman's attorneys say she was not with her husband when he purchased various weapons between June 3 through June 9 of 2016.

They also mentioned that she simply deferred to her husband on June 1, as he added Salman and their son to his PNC payment-on-death beneficiaries.

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