March 29, 2018 / 10:21 AM / 22 days ago

Jury yet to decide if Orlando gunman's widow had role in Pulse attack

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - Jurors in the trial of the woman whose husband killed dozens at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub in 2016 ended their second day of deliberations on Thursday with no decision about whether she helped him plan the rampage and then misled authorities.

FILE PHOTO: Police lock down Orange Avenue around Pulse nightclub, where people were killed by a gunman in a shooting rampage in Orlando, Florida June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Kolczynski/File Photo

Noor Salman, 31, the widow of gunman Omar Mateen, could face up to life in prison if convicted of federal charges that she did nothing to stop her husband from killing 49 people at the Pulse nightclub.

Salman, the only person charged in connection with the attack, is accused of obstruction of justice and aiding Mateen in providing support to the Islamic State militant group. Mateen, who had claimed allegiance to an Islamic State leader, died in an exchange of gunfire with police at the nightclub.

Jurors will resume deliberations on Friday morning in U.S. District Court in Orlando. Since getting the case on Wednesday, they have weighed the evidence for nearly 11 hours.

On Thursday, they asked the trial judge to provide an example of an act of aiding and abetting. U.S. District Judge Paul Byron declined.

In response to another question, Byron said in order for Salman’s actions to be considered “willful,” it had to be proven that she provided support for and participated in something she wished would succeed.

Defense lawyers have accused FBI agents of adding words that they say Salman never used to her statements, made during questioning, that she helped Mateen scout targets.

Salman also could not have known he would attack Pulse, a gay nightspot, on June 12, 2016, the lawyers said. The government said during its closing argument that Mateen originally planned to target the Disney Springs entertainment and shopping complex when he left home that night.

“Even Omar didn’t know he was going to attack the Pulse nightclub,” defense attorney Charles Swift said. “If he doesn’t know, she can’t know.”

Salman’s family was hopeful the jurors’ questions suggested they were carefully weighing the evidence, her spokeswoman Susan Clary said.

“The jury has been asking questions, that shows that they want to know more about the law,” she told reporters outside the courthouse. “More questions is better than no questions.”

But prosecutors argued that Salman had helped her husband check out potential sites and sought to mislead investigators about what she knew.

They said she first told investigators that Mateen had acted without her knowledge but later admitted knowing he had left home with a gun and had watched jihadist videos online.

Reporting by Joey Roulette ; writing by Ian Simpson; editing by Colleen Jenkins and Tom Brown

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