Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Would you have been selected for the Noor Salman Jury?

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Today a jury will hear opening arguments in the Noor Salman trial in Orlando, Florida. Noor Salman is accused of aiding and abetting her husband Omar Mateen as he planned the horrific attack on the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people dead. Each prospective juror filed out a questionnaire which narrowed down the pool to start. I heard there were 600 questionnaires sent out. Each prospective juror was assigned a number and asked to come in individually for follow-up questions. Judge Paul G. Byron's first question was whether the person had served on a jury before, and more importantly had they been the foreman on that jury. The biggest concern is that someone might want to get on the jury and their mind is already made up prior to hearing any evidence of testimony. The roll of a juror is to keep an open mind and listen to both sides of every argument in court.

Next, Judge Byron wanted to get a feeling as to what media coverage each juror had been exposed to. Everyone in Orlando experienced the initial coverage just following the Pulse Nightclub massacre on June 12, 2016, but some people immediately return to life as usual. He specifically searched for what news coverage prospective jurors heard about Noor Salman herself. his primary concern is that each prospective juror be able to set aside the media coverage they had seen and only consider the evidence and testimony given in court.

The next line of questions had to do with religion. Do you have friends who are Muslim? What do you know about Islam? Would you assume Noor Salman is guilty just because she is Muslim? She was born in the United States and is a citizen. Do you feel the prosecution might have the same bias as the president? Everyone was effected by the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers on 9-11 in some way. Would you be able to set your feelings aside about that attack and judge the case based solely on facts presented in court? Have you been a victim of terrorism here or overseas? Do you know anyone who is directly effected by the 17 student and teacher murders at Parkland High School in south Florida?

Noor Salman is charged with an indictment. An indictment is not evidence, it is just a document that states what she is accused of. The indictment cannot be considered as proof of what Noor did, it is not evidence. Would you as a juror feel pressure from the community to find her guilty even if the evidence did not prove her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt? We are all presumed innocent in a court of law. We each walk in with a clean slate and it is the job of the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. We all have the right to remain silent. Mrs. Salman does not have to testify in this case. If she elects not to testify can you not hold that against her?

He asked about each prospective juror's deliberation process. Are you quick to form an opinion or do you need to weigh all the evidence before forming an opinion. Are you reluctant to change your mind once it is made up? Do you have negative feelings about people who use gun ranges for recreation? I most certainly wouldn't make it on the jury partly because of my intense involvement in trying to understand how Orlando had tried to heal since the horrific shooting, and because I can't stop myself from sketching. I am literally not allowed to enter courtroom 4B with a sketchbook. I would have my press privileges revoked and would be escorted form the building. A pencil is a dangerous weapon.

The case begins today at 9 AM at the Federal Courthouse (401 W Central Blvd Orlando Florida). The case begins exactly one month after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has called for a walkout in honor of that mass shooting. Students across the country are organizing similar walkouts. In an e-mail, he wrote, "Our community has been so inspired by the students at Stoneman Douglas, students here in Orlando and across the country that have pressed lawmakers to approve school safety and pass measures aimed at preventing gun violence. In solidarity with our students, and to honor the victims, join us for a walkout to the lawn of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (445 S. Magnolia Ave. Orlando, Florida.)" It seems that the mass shootings are happening closer and closer together. There have been 10 school shootings since 17 students were murdered in Parkland. The town officials are just now considering collecting memorabilia from the memorial site after religious leaders hold a ceremony on the evening of the one month mark. 

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