ORLANDO, Fla. - A federal judge in Orlando denied Wednesday a request for a change of venue filed by Noor Salman in September.
Salman is charged with helping her husband plan and carry out the June 12, 2016, attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and had filed the motion to move her trial out of Orlando.
In the motion asking for change of venue, Salman’s attorneys argued that statements made by Orlando Police Chief John Mina have created a bias that “(has) infected this community sufficiently to prejudice a significant portion against Ms. Salman.”
“Ample evidence establishes the existence of negative pre-trial publicity in this case,” the filing said. “Specifically, Chief Mina made repeated disparaging statements and proclamations of Ms. Salman’s guilt, which received intense and widespread prejudicial publicity in the local press.
“Chief Mina’s statements concerning Ms. Salman create the very real danger of community saturation, to the point where it is impossible to seat an impartial jury in Orlando.”
Mina responded to the motion by issuing the following statement:
"I am aware of the motion filed for a change of venue in the case against Noor Salman. I respect the constitutional rights granted by law and recognize that a fair trial is paramount to the American justice system. I am confident should the motion be granted or denied, due process will be afforded."
The court ruled Wednesday that a Jan. 16 Facebook post by Mina was only liked by 520 people and was shared 112 times, which would account for only .023 percent of the population of the five-county area.
Likewise, a March 2 Twitter post by Mina was only shared by 117 people, or .005 percent of the Orlando District population, the court opinion said.
Mina's social media posts were not "sufficiently prejudicial to warrant a change in the venue for this trial," the opinion said.
Local, national and international media coverage of the Pulse nightclub attack, which left 49 people dead and dozens injured, was also unlikely to affect the jury pool, the court said.
"Events such as the Pulse nightclub shootings generate public interest, and media sources cover and comment upon many aspects of such events," the opinion said, noting the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case, Skilling vs. United States. "(Skilling states that) 'Prominence (of media coverage) does not necessarily produce prejudice, and juror impartiality does not require ignorance.'"
In short, the court found there was not enough evidence that pretrial publicity of Salman's case created a prejudice significant enough to prevent her from having a fair trial in Orlando.
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