Jury selection begins in Pulse nightclub shooting trial

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Facts About Noor Salman

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Nearly two years after a gunman fatally shot 49 people and injured dozens more in an attack on a Florida nightclub, his widow was in court, charged with helping her husband plan the attack.

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Jury selection began Thursday in Orlando, Florida, in the trial of Noor Salman, widow of Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen.

The case hinges on whether Salman knowingly helped Mateen plan the attack. She faces charges of aiding the support of a foreign terrorist organization resulting in death and obstruction of justice.

Ten of the 600 people in the jury pool were interviewed Thursday, four of whom were dismissed and six of whom were kept on. Of the six people who remain in the jury pool, five are women and one is a man.

Wearing a black and white outfit and her hair in a ponytail, Salman sat beside her attorney Thursday and listened to U.S. District Judge Paul G. Byron question potential jurors about their knowledge of the rampage and whether they know anyone connected to the incident or the case.

Byron asked the potential jurors if they or anyone they know has been affected by terrorism and if they would be able to set aside any personal feelings about 9/11 or other terror attacks should they be selected to serve on the jury.

Byron also asked them about the mass shooting two weeks ago at Parkland, Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and if they had opinions about people who shoot guns at ranges.

"These are the questions we anticipated," WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said. "It goes to the heart of whether or not a juror can be fair and impartial in this case."

Survivors and victims' relatives were in the courtroom Thursday as was Barbara Poma, the nightclub's owner.

"We know the emotional days are coming, but as long as we are together, we will get through it," Poma said. "We want justice to be served. We just don't know what that is yet until we hear all the facts."

A lone demonstrator stood outside the federal courthouse Thursday, holding a sign that read, "Fry her till she has no pulse."

Salman's attorney requested that Byron ask potential jurors if they have been affected by demonstrators outside the courthouse.

"We are hoping for a fair jury out of all the good people in Orlando," defense attorney Linda Moreno said.

Byron is expected to call in 14 more potential jurors for questioning Friday, and he aims to narrow the jury pool to 60 people by day's end.

"Of those 60, the court will have 18 serve as jurors -- 12 jurors, six alternates," Sheaffer said.

Jury selection, which is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Friday, is expected to last at least one week. The trial could last five weeks, Byron said.

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