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Orlando Nightclub Gunman's Widow Acquitted

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We're following news in Orlando this morning. A jury has cleared Noor Salman of all charges related to the 2016 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. She is the widow of Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people when he opened fire at the gay club. Amy Green of member station WMFE has been in the courtroom. She is just outside there now and joins us. Hi, Amy.

AMY GREEN, BYLINE: Hi there.

GREENE: So give us a little bit of the background. What exactly was Noor Salman charged with?

GREEN: Right. So Noor Salman was charged with providing material support to a terrorist organization and obstruction of justice. She's accused of knowing about and supporting her husband's plans for this massacre that left 49 people dead in 2016. In the hours after the attack, she gave three statements to FBI agents, and in them, she confessed to knowing what her husband was planning. She said that she knew her husband was on Jihadist websites and that she worried that he might be violent. She said the gunman, Omar Mateen, showed her the Pulse website and told her, that's my target. Defense attorneys argued that the statements were coerced and were false.

GREENE: The defense was arguing that those statements were coerced by the authorities?

GREEN: That's right. They argued that her interrogation - it lasted 11 to 12 hours. And they argued or they suggested that interrogation was just much longer than the average interrogation. They showed that she had trouble holding down a job at Kmart and obtaining a driver's license. And they also showed that she shows symptoms - an array of symptoms for mental illness. And so they argued that her confession was false.

GREENE: What - was this verdict a surprise?

GREEN: Well, clearly, Noor Salman was very anxious in the moments before the verdict was read. Her hands were shaking. And her attorney held her hands and rubbed her shoulder. She had a book in front of her. We couldn't see what the book was. Clearly, she was very anxious before that verdict was read.

GREENE: OK. So she was not necessarily guaranteed of getting the news that she wanted. Amy, how do you think the city is going to react to this? I mean, is this an important moment as Orlando continues to try and move on and heal?

GREEN: Well, this trial comes nearly two years after this attack that just devastated the community here in Orlando. A lot of people who were touched directly by this tragedy were watching this trial for many different reasons. Some people, you know, were watching the trial in hopes of obtaining some answers as to why, you know, Omar Mateen did this and why this happened. One family member, whose cousin was killed in the attack, told me that she had asked the prosecutors for the opportunity to testify. She said she wanted to see Noor Salman and look her in the eye and talk to her about what kind of impact this tragedy has had on people like her family.

GREENE: OK. Again, the news this morning - Omar Mateen, he was the killer at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016. His widow has been cleared of charges related to that massacre. Amy Green from member station WMFE updating us. Amy, thanks.

GREEN: It's nice talking with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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