After three days of deliberations, an Orlando jury found the widow of the Pulse nightclub gunman not guilty on all charges Friday. The Noor Salman verdict came more than a year after she was accused of aiding her husband ahead of his shooting spree at the popular LGBTQ nightclub in the summer of 2016. She had been charged with obstruction of justice and providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Salman would have faced life in prison if she were convicted.
"We are so grateful to them, so grateful for their verdict," a spokeswoman for Salman's family said Friday in remarks made outside the court after the verdict was delivered, CNN reported. "She can go home now and try to pick up the pieces."
Members of Salman's defense team said Friday the jury's not guilty verdict had prevented Salman from being "the last victim" of the Pulse attack. "Twelve ordinary citizens were heroes today, the last heroes of Pulse," they said while speaking to reporters outside the courthouse, per local CBS News affiliate WKMG. Salman's defense team also said their client was very emotional and looking forward to going home and seeing her son, according to a WFTV reporter. The New York Times reported Salman had sobbed openly as the verdict was read.
During the trial, prosecutors had argued Salman had accompanied her husband as he scouted potential locations to target. They had also argued she knew he was buying a firearm and ammunition and watching jihadi videos online. Indeed, in a statement to FBI investigators, Salman said she'd known her husband was planning something violent but that she'd been too scared to act.
"I wish I had done the right thing, but my fear held me back," Salman wrote in a statement shown to jurors during the trial. "I wish I had been more truthful."
But none of Salman's statements to FBI investigators were recorded and only a part of one was even written by her own hand, the New York Times reported. During the trial, authorities claimed the statements had been dictated to an investigator and then initialed by Salman.
According to CNN, Salman's defense attorneys argued she was not an Islamic extremist but "a simple-minded victim" trapped in an abusive marriage to an unfaithful husband. They said Salman could not have had knowledge of her husband's plans to attack Pulse as he the chose the nightclub at the last minute after being spooked by security at his initial target, Disney Springs. "If he didn't know, she couldn't know," defense attorney Charles Swift said in his closing argument, per the Los Angeles Times.
Salman's defense attorneys also argued that her submissive personality and lower than average intelligence — her IQ was reported to be 84 at the trial — made her more suggestible and led her to give a false confession to police after more than 10 hours of questioning, according to the Huffington Post.
In a statement of support for Salman, more than 100 organizations centered on LGBTQ rights, gender and reproductive justice, racial and economic justice, disability justice, and civil rights argued that the case against her was "rooted in gendered Islamophobia" and that she was "being prosecuted under the guise of guilt by association as a Muslim woman married to a Muslim man who committed mass violence."
A total of 49 people were killed and more than 50 others were injured when Salman's husband opened fire at Pulse, a popular Orlando nightclub, on June 12, 2016. The gunman was killed at the scene by responding authorities. Salman was arrested the following January.