ORLANDO (CBSMiami/AP) — The trial for a woman accused of aiding her husband’s terrorist attack against an Orlando nightclub has ended with an acquittal and then a letter from the jury foreman to explain why they thought she still knew about her husband’s plans.
Noor Salman, 31, began sobbing with joy when she was found not guilty of charges of obstruction and providing material support to a terrorist organization. She faced life in prison if convicted.
But just hours after the verdict was read and she was released from custody, the jury foreman contacted several Orlando media organizations including the Orlando Sentinel explaining why the jury came up with a not guilty verdict.
The foreman, who asked to remain anonymous, said jurors believed Salman knew her husband, Omar Mateen, was planning the attack but prosecutors “didn’t provide sufficient proof.”
Below is his statement in its entirety as printed by the Orlando Sentinel.
“As foreperson of the jury in the Noor Salman trial I felt it important that I present a juror’s perspective of the verdicts. I am giving you my perspective, and not speaking for the entire jury. My initial inclination was not to communicate with the news media at all, however once I returned home a watched the news coverage of the reactions to the verdicts I felt compelled to at least clarify several misconceptions.
First, I want to express my deepest sympathy to family and friends of the victims of this senseless tragedy. I understand the desire to hold someone accountable for this heinous act of violence. Omar Mateen is dead. He cannot be punished. It is only logical the world would look next to Noor Salman.
These past few days have been very difficult. We listened carefully to opening arguments, testimonies from both prosecution and defense witnesses, viewed many exhibits and heard closing statements. We received many pages of documentation from the court outlining very specific instructions related to the charges and how we should apply the law. We used these detailed instructions, our courtroom notes, and all evidence presented by both sides in our deliberations.
Having said that, I want to make several things very clear. A verdict of not guilty did NOT mean that we thought Noor Salman was unaware of what Omar Mateen was planning to do. On the contrary we were convinced she did know. She may not have known what day, or what location, but she knew. However, we were not tasked with deciding if she was aware of a potential attack. The charges were aiding and abetting and obstruction of justice. I felt the both the prosecution and the defense did an excellent job presenting their case. I wish that the FBI had recorded their interviews with Ms. Salman as there were several significant inconsistencies with the written summaries of her statements. The bottom line is that, based on the letter of the law, and the detailed instructions provided by the court, we were presented with no option but to return a verdict of not guilty.”
Salman was married to Omar Mateen when he murdered 49 people in the Pulse nightclub in June 2016.
Prosecutors said Salman and her husband scouted out potential targets together — including Disney World’s shopping and entertainment complex — and she knew he was buying ammunition for his AR-15 in preparation for a jihadi attack.
She knew that he had a sick fascination with violent jihadi videos and an affinity for Islamic State group websites and gave him a “green light to commit terrorism,” prosecutors said.
Defense attorneys described Salman as a simple woman with a low IQ who was abused by her husband, and who didn’t know of his plans because he concealed much of his life from her.
They say she wasn’t an Islamic extremist.
Attorney Charles Swift argued there was no way Salman knew that Mateen would attack the Pulse nightclub because even he didn’t know he would attack it until moments before the shooting.
His intended target was the Disney Springs complex, prosecutors said.
“It’s a horrible, random, senseless killing by a monster,” Swift said during closing arguments. “But it wasn’t preplanned. The importance to this case is that if he didn’t know, she couldn’t know.”
Salman’s statement to the FBI in the hours after the attack appeared to play a key role in the case. In the statement, Salman said over “the last two years, Omar talked to me about jihad.”
She claimed her husband didn’t use the internet in their home, but he did, prosecutors said. She told investigators that Mateen had deactivated his Facebook account in 2013, but they found that he had an account up until the month of the shooting — and was friends with his wife. She said her husband only had one gun when he had three, and that he wasn’t radicalized, they said.
Mateen had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group before he was killed.
Salman also advised Mateen to lie to his mother when she inquired about his whereabouts on the night of the shooting, prosecutors said.
Defense attorneys said the FBI coerced Salman’s statement and she signed it because she was tired after extensive questioning and feared losing her young son. They fought to have it thrown out.
Jurors asked to review the statement more closely a couple of hours into their deliberations and the judge obliged, printing off copies for them.
During the trial, prosecutors said Mateen, who was born in New York to Afghan immigrants, intended to attack Disney World’s shopping and entertainment complex by hiding a gun in a stroller but became spooked by police and instead chose the gay club as his target.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Sweeney showed surveillance video of the Disney Springs complex that captured Mateen walking near the House of Blues club in the hours before the Pulse attack. In it, he looks behind him at police officers standing nearby before deciding to leave.
“He had to choose a new target,” she said.
Salman’s attorney took the jury through the hours of her life before the attack. She called a friend and her uncle in California, saying that she was coming to visit and that Mateen would be joining them.
She talked with her in-laws, ate at Applebee’s and texted Mateen. He didn’t respond. She later went on Facebook, read a book and then texted Mateen again.
“You know you work tomorrow,” she wrote.
He responded: “You know what happened?”
She wrote, “What happened?”
Then he sent his last text: “I love you babe.”
Salman did not testify in her defense.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)