Noor Salman is more "vulnerable" than the average person to giving a false confession to law enforcement, according to an expert who examined the widow of the Pulse gunman.
Salman, 31, is accused of aiding and abetting her husband Omar Mateen in his plans to murder 49 people at the gay nightclub Pulse in 2016 and lying to FBI agents during their investigation. During the last day of trial testimony Tuesday, the defense presented Dr. Bruce Frumkin
, a forensic and clinical psychologist who specializes in false confessions to law enforcement.
Frumkin evaluated Salman for 11 hours over two separate days last summer while she was being held at the Sumter County jail. After a series of psychological tests and interviews, Frumkin determined she had an IQ of 84 and was "very vulnerable and at higher risk than the average person to give false statements."
"[She's] really extreme, particularly under pressure, in yielding to misleading information," Frumkin told the jury. "She's not the brightest. She comes across as really immature, and immaturity really doesn't help the matter when it comes to law enforcement."
Federal prosecutors have relied heavily upon an alleged written confession Salman gave to FBI agents in the hours after Mateen started a massacre at Pulse. During an 11-hour interview, Salman allegedly told agents she and her husband drove around Pulse in the days before the massacre and he asked her, "How upset are people going to be when it gets attacked?" An FBI agent testified during trial that Salman told him Mateen had shown her the Pulse website and said "This is my target." Cellphone location data and web browsing history proved it was "highly unlikely" that the couple ever scouted Pulse. Salman's attorneys have maintained her statements to the FBI were coerced.
Frumkin also testified that sleep deprivation and the length of an interrogation can be "problematic" and contribute to a person's susceptibility to giving a false confession. That susceptibility becomes "very problematic" for a person with mental disorder. Frumkin said he found Salman was extremely anxious, depressed and submissive, among other things.
Frumkin also clarified that just because certain people are highly suggestible to false confessions doesn't mean that they can't give true confessions.
The defense rested their case Tuesday without Salman taking the stand to testify at her trial. Both parties will give closing arguments on Wednesday, and then jurors should begin deliberating the case. If convicted, Salman could face life in prison.
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