The acquittal of Noor Salman in Orlando, Florida, sparked such widespread public outrage that one anonymous juror felt compelled to try to explain it to the Orlando Sentinel. Salman is the widow of the ISIS sympathizer/gunman who murdered 49 people and wounded 58 more at the gay nightclub Pulse in 2016 before he was killed by police. She faced a potential life sentence for obstruction and aiding and abetting for trying to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Survivors are protesting that the “not guilty” verdict is a devastating denial of justice. Oddly enough, the jury foreman seems somewhat to agree.
The juror said that, in fact, the jury was convinced that Salman did know what her husband was planning to do - maybe not in detail, “but she knew.” He expressed sympathy to the victims and their families, but said the jury wasn’t tasked with determining whether she knew of an impending attack but whether she was guilty of obstruction and aiding and abetting. He said there were significant inconsistencies in the written summaries of her statements, and the FBI didn’t record its interviews with her, so there was no way to determine guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. He claimed that based on the letter of the law and detailed instructions given to the jury on how to apply the law, they had no option other than to vote not guilty.
This is an extremely frustrating verdict, and my heart goes out to the victims and their families who feel they were denied justice on a technicality. Ben Franklin defended due process rights by arguing that “it’s better 100 guilty persons should escape than that one innocent person should suffer.” But that’s hard to swallow when the defendant seems obviously guilty and over 100 innocents suffered. Citizens will only accept such seemingly unjust acquittals if they are legitimate results of due process and lack of solid evidence, not legal authorities failing to do their jobs properly.
If anything good is to come out of this, let’s pray that the FBI has learned its lesson and starts recording important interrogations. In an age when every cell phone contains a voice recorder, it is beyond me why so many recent high-profile FBI investigations have hinged on suspects being allowed to walk away scot-free because nobody took out a recorder – or in some cases, even a pencil.