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Widow of Pulse nightclub gunman found not guilty

 Orlando police officers seen outside of Pulse nightclub after a fatal shooting and hostage situation on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.
Orlando police officers seen outside of Pulse nightclub after the deadly shooting. Photo: Gerardo Mora / Getty Images

A Florida jury found the widow of the Pulse nightclub gunman not guilty Friday of aiding and abetting her husband in carrying out one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history.

Details: It took the 12-member jury roughly 12 hours over three days to acquit Noor Salman, the 31-year-old wife of shooter Omar Mateen, who was charged with providing material support to the Islamic State and with lying to FBI investigators. She could have faced life in prison if convicted.

Court highlights

From the start, Salman maintained that she had nothing to do with her husband's June 12, 2016 terrorist attack on the Florida nightclub, which left 49 people dead and 53 others injured. She did not testify during the 10-day trial.

The confession

  • Prosecutors argued that a confession Salman gave F.B.I. agents, in which she admitted she had known that her husband had acquired weapons and discussed possible locations for the shooting with her, made her guilty, according to the New York Times. "I knew when he left the house he was going to Orlando to attack the Pulse nightclub," the statement said.
  • But defense lawyers claimed that the statement was a false confession, as it was obtained after more than 11 hours of questioning without a lawyer present. Investigators also found no evidence proving that either Mateen or Salman had visited Pulse nightclub prior to the attack, according to CNN.

The unusual amount of spending

  • Prosecutors said the couple went on an unusually expensive shopping spree, totaling more than $30,500, in the days leading up to the shooting and added Salman as a death beneficiary to Mateen's bank account.
  • But the defense painted Salman as "a naïve woman of limited intelligence, kept in the dark by a scheming husband who cheated on her, knew she did not share his radicalized views and did not need her assistance to carry out his deadly plot," writes NYT. "Her lawyers argued that Mr. Mateen had no reason to ask his wife for help — and Ms. Salman had no reason to provide it."

The last-minute change of location

  • At a hearing on Wednesday, prosecutors said Mateen had originally planned to carry out the attack at Disney World by hiding a gun in a stroller, but changed his target to Pulse after being rattled by heavy security.
  • “It’s a horrible, random, senseless killing by a monster. But it wasn’t preplanned. And if he didn’t know, she couldn’t know," said Salman's defense lawyer Charles Swift.
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