Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Defense Witnesses in the Noor Salman Case

There is some sensitive content and disturbing details included within. If you feel you may be affected, please do not read this post.

 After the prosecution rested its case, the defense had a day in which they presented witnesses in the N case. The first witness was Omar Mateen's friend Nemo. I did a rather good sketch of him but unfortunately Judge Byron insisted that the sketch must not be published to protect the witnesses identity. Omar would use Nemo as an excuse when he went out to meet older women with whom he had affairs. On June 11, 2016, the evening of the attack, Omar's mom became concerned since her son had promised to stop by her house and he never showed up. Noor texted Omar that he should use the excuse that he was with Nemo. Omar's mom however ended up meeting Nemo's mom at the mosque that night and the mom explained that her son Nemo was away at a medical college in the Caribbean. Omar's mom kept trying to reach her son on the night of the attack. Nemo would work out with Omar at the gym where Omar would brag about the affairs he was having.

Two women took the stand in short order. I sketched both but later had to surrender the sketches to a U.S. Marshal. The first woman knew Omar for a year and a half. She said she didn't know Omar was married but did know that he had a child. When asked if she had a romantic relationship with him she paused. The defense showed her Internet messages between herself and Omar and she then admitted that she did make out with him once in her car near his guard booth.The second woman met Omar on the dating site, Plenty of Fish. She invited Omar to her apartment and seemed more open about the fact that she had a relationship with him. The relationship ended when Omar told her that he could not be with her because she was Jewish. His family would not approve. There was high tension in the courtroom because the women had to admit their romantic affairs right in from of Noor who was seated about five yards away.

Dali Achmed started to cry when she saw her friend Noor at the defense table. She wore a hijab. She talked to Noor on June 11, 2016 on the phone. Noor was excited about her planned trip to California. She would always talk about her child. The two women grown up together but had grown apart as they grew older. Of course loving on opposite coasts made staying close harder.

Laurie Jaber was a friend of Noor's. She had been a brides maid at her wedding to Omar Mateen. They last spoke on June 8, 2016 the day that Noor was approved to get her Florida drivers license. She spoke about how Noor took a job at a grocery store as a cashier. She didn't like having to deal with the constant math of handing back change so she asked for a transfer. She started working on the docks with inventory working much harder for less pay.

Officer Steve Brown was considered by Omar to be a mentor and a bit of a brother figure. He knew Omar to be a rather conservative in his ways, but was a member of the Democratic party because Democrats could accept his religion. Omar joked around that he liked the homosexual community because they were like pit bulls who stood up for themselves. Defense attorney Charles Swift began asking questions bout Steve's own views about homosexuals. He towed the line, but then Charles produced Internet messages between Steve and Omar. The officer read the messages and didn't remember making those statement but they were right there on paper. It was clear that his comments were derogatory. The testimony was probably intended to show that Omar didn't not attach the Pulse nightclub because he hated homosexuals. Knowing that officers were joking with a mass murderer before the massacre isn't very reassuring. Attacking the homophobic officer didn't really help the case, but it was quite dramatic.

Local media seemed to deliver a single homologous caricatured view of the proceedings from inside the courtroom. After the Casey Anthony case they banded together to settle on a single viewpoint when a case gets big. This single mindedness has the obvious drawback of limiting options when covering a story. A very conservative blogger sat next to me for a few minutes in the media room and was escorted out of the building by a US Marshal. The day before she harassed relative of Noor as they walked back to their cars. Judge Byron wrote a media release stating that she could not return to the courthouse. She came back the next day anyway and had to be escorted from the building. Since I was not permitted in the courtroom, I identified with her Facebook Live broadcasts in which she claimed her first amendment rights were being violated. However I needed to stick to every demand of the court so I  could best document the case from as close as I could get. Even closed doors can be a creative challenge.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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