Man who knew Pulse victim admitted to jury pool in trial of shooter's widow

Credit: Gerardo Mora

Credit: Gerardo Mora

Jury selection continued Friday in the trial of woman whose husband fatally shot 49 people and injured dozens more in an attack at a Florida nightclub in 2016.

It was the second day of jury selection in the trial of Noor Salman, the widow of shooter Omar Mateen.

The case hinges on whether Salman knowingly helped Mateen plan the June 12, 2016, attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. She faces charges of aiding the support of a foreign terrorist organization resulting in death and obstruction of justice. The attack left 49 people dead and 58 wounded in what, at the time, was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Of 16 people who were questioned Friday, one woman and six men were admitted to the jury pool, bringing the total to 13 people -- six women and seven men.

Many of the people who were dismissed Friday said they knew too much about the massacre -- either through news coverage or through personally knowing victims or survivors -- to render an impartial verdict.

A Windermere man said he worked at the Universal Orlando Resort with a woman who died in the mass shooting.

U.S. District Judge Paul G. Byron asked the man if he could remain impartial after seeing graphic footage that might show his friend and he said he could. He was admitted to the jury pool.

"There's benefit to the prosecution," WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said. "But there's certainly no benefit to the defense to have someone closely associated with this Pulse shooting."

Salman, who wore her hair pulled back, wore a black-and-white dress and a black blazer. She took notes throughout the morning.

In the afternoon, she appeared upset and spoke to her attorney, Linda Moreno, when a potential juror said he thought he had remembered hearing that she had driven Mateen to the nightclub the night of the attack.

During a break, Salman was seen laughing and bumping fists with Moreno.

"We appreciate the candor and the civic duty of the good people of Orlando," Moreno said. "Noor Salman really appreciates it. All of us appreciate it."

One man told the judge his daughter was classmates with one of the victims, but he said he would be able to make a fair decision if selected to serve as a juror.

It's likely that those with loose connections to victims will be excused before the jury is finalized, Sheaffer said.

Byron decided Friday that he wants 56 people instead of 60 people to be admitted to the jury pool before selecting the 12 jurors and six alternates.

He said he plans to question at least 18 people Monday, when jury selection is scheduled to resume.

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