A Florida jury found Noor Salman, the wife of the Orlando nightclub gunman Omar Mateen, not guilty of aiding and abetting her husband, who pledged allegiance to ISIS, and not guilty of obstructing justice in connection to one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern US history.
Forty nine people were killed and 58 were injured after Mateen, a 29-year-old US citizen, opened fire at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016. Mateen, who was armed with a handgun and AR-15-type rifle, was killed at the scene after a SWAT team stormed the club. He pledged his allegiance to ISIS during the shooting.
Salman, 31, was charged with aiding and abetting Mateen’s efforts to provide material support to ISIS and with the obstruction of justice for misleading law enforcement authorities in their investigation of the massacre. She faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted on all counts. She was arrested last January, nearly seven months after the shooting.
Prosecutors have argued that Salman “didn't pull the trigger that night, but she did serve as a green light for her husband.” Her lawyers have said that she was not aware of Mateen's plans and that the the only mistake she made was that “she married a monster” who abused her and cheated on her.
A rendering shows Noor Salman in court on Thursday.
After three weeks of testimony, a 12-person jury began their deliberations on Wednesday. Salman did not testify in the trial. Last week, the judge denied the defense's motion to declare a mistrial based on the prosecution's delay in disclosing information that Mateen's father was an FBI informant between January 2005 and June 2016 and that he was under a criminal investigation.
At the center of Salman's trial is the validity of claims contained in a statement that Noor submitted to the FBI after Mateen's arrest.
In the statement — written by an FBI agent — Salman said she would “often worry” that Mateen was going to “commit an act of violence or terrorism” because of his behavior over two years which included watching a lot of “jihad videos on the computer” and talking about Muslims “not being able to retaliate against Americans.”
Chris O’meara / AP
Her statement also said that she knew Mateen was going to attack Pulse, when he told her “this is my target” after she saw him looking at the club's website on his computer.
“I am sorry for what happened and I wish I'd go back and tell his family and the police what he was going to do,” she wrote in the statement that was shown to the court.
However, her defense lawyers argued that the confession was coerced and that some of the claims contained in her statement were contradicted by evidence.
Dr. Bruce Frumkin, a forensic and clinical psychologist who evaluated Salman last year, testified on Tuesday that she is “really extreme, particularly under pressure, in yielding to misleading information,” the Orlando Sentinel reported. He added that sleep deprivation could also make a person more susceptible to giving a false confession.
“She's certainly not a really bright person,” Frumkin told the court.
More than 100 advocacy groups have signed a letter supporting Salman and calling an end to the prosecution “rooted in gendered Islamophobia and patriarchy.”
“She is being prosecuted under the guise of guilt by association as a Muslim woman married to a Muslim man who committed mass violence,” the letter states.
The organizations have also accused the government of disregarding “the history of domestic abuse, rape, and threats that Ms. Salman endured during her marriage to Mateen and the impact of intimate partner violence on her and her child's life.”