Salman, the widow of Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in June of 2016, on Friday was found not guilty on charges of aiding and abetting the killer and obstructing justice. The acquittal is remarkable because federal prosecutors almost never lose terrorism cases against Muslim defendants. But the case against Salman was always suspect since it heavily relied on interviews the FBI did while holding her for 17 hours after the massacre. The FBI did not read Salman her Miranda rights or let her speak to a lawyer.
One of the strongest points that the defense made was that Salman was not an accomplice but the victim of domestic abuse. According to a statement by a nurse that Salman’s attorneys entered as evidence, “Her behavior was entirely consistent with severely abused women who are completely controlled by a highly abusive male partner.” In the opening statements, one of Salman’s lawyers said, “Omar Mateen is a monster. Noor Salman is a mother, not a monster. Her only sin is she married a monster.”
With Salman’s acquittal, it is easier to see the Pulse massacre as part of a larger pattern in cases of mass shootings and terrorism. There’s an emerging consensus that domestic violence often precedes mass shootings and terrorism, which suggests that one way to tackle these problems is to have stronger programs to combat domestic violence. By finding Salman not guilty, the jury refused to blame the victim.