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Pulse nightclub trial for Noor Salman begins: What to know about the Orlando shooter's widow

Fox News 2018-03-14 04:37:23

Nearly two years since 49 people were slaughtered inside the nightclub by her husband, Omar Mateen, the widow’s trial will be the only criminal prosecution for what was, at the time, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.  (Handout)

At one point, it was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Now, two years after 49 people were massacred inside a crowded nightclub in Orlando, the wife of the gunman responsible is going to trial -- and families of the victims are looking for justice.

Omar Mateen opened fire with a Sig Saur semi-automatic rifle on June 12, 2016, killing dozens of people before he was fatally shot hours later by police. The trial of his widow, Noor Salman, will be the only criminal prosecution for the incident.

Testimony may begin this week in a trial that's expected to last at least three weeks. Salman faces up to life in prison if convicted. Here's what you need to know.

What is she being accused of?

Salman has pleaded not guilty to charges of aiding and abetting Mateen's allegiance to the Islamic State. She's also being charged with obstruction of justice, as FBI agents say she lied to them during questioning hours after the attack.

FBI agents interviewed Salmon three times. They said she was aware Mateen was planning to do something and that texts to her husband prove it.

"She knew he was going to conduct the attack," federal prosecutor Roger Handberg told a judge during a hearing in Oakland on Jan. 17, 2017.

One text recovered from Salmon’s phone reads, “If ur mom calls say nimo invited you out and noor wants to stay home.” Another reads, “She asked where you were xoxo. Love you.”

“Nimo,” or Nemo, is the name of one of Mateen’s friends, whom defense attorneys said Mateen often used to cover his tracks when he went out to cheat on his wife.

She shopped with her husband at Walmart the night before the attack when he bought five containers of ammunition, a source close to the investigation previously told Fox News.

A law enforcement source also told Fox she had driven her husband to Pulse nightclub at least once before the deadly shooting.

What is her defense?

The family and Salmon’s lawyers deny she had anything to do with Mateen’s plot.

In a November 2016 interview with The New York Times, Salman apologized for her husband's act and claimed she was unaware of his plan.

"I don't condone what he has done," she told the newspaper. "I am very sorry for what has happened. He has hurt a lot of people."

From various court documents, it is expected that the defense will say Salman was abused by her husband and feared for her life. Her attorneys also claim she wasn't given proper Miranda warnings, which tell suspects they have a right to remain silent and have an attorney present, before she made statements.

“I knew when he left the house he was going to Orlando to attack the Pulse Night Club,” Salman confirmed in a signed statement written by an FBI agent, according to documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.

Defense attorneys are likely to argue this confession was coerced and, therefore, should not be admissible in court.

What about her family?

FBI agents arrested Salman in January 2017 inside her California home, where she had been living with her young son, whom she shared with Mateen. 

The now 5-year-old boy, who lives with his maternal grandmother in California, has since learned about his father's act and hasn't had any contact with Mateen's side of the family, Susan Clary, spokeswoman for Salman’s family, told the Orlando Sentinel.

Salman reportedly calls the boy daily.

"They talk about what he learned in his kindergarten class that day and what his favorite toys are," according to the Florida newspaper.

What do we know about her trial so far?

U.S. District Judge Paul G. Byron, federal prosecutors and defense attorneys picked 12 jury members and six alternates on March 12.

Opening statements will start in federal court Wednesday in downtown Orlando.

Fox News' Phil Keating and The Associated Press contributed to this report.