You have undoubtedly heard about the horrifyingly tragic and monstrous mass murder which took place at Pulse in Orlando, Florida. Omar Mateen, now deceased, committed the deed, leaving behind 49 people dead and 53 injured.
There seems to be no doubt as to either the despicable act or the identity of the shooter.
Mr. Mateen, however is dead and so beyond the government’s ability to punish him further.
And so eyes turn to his wife, 30-year-old Noor Zahi Salmon.
She is of Palestinian dissent, but grew up in California. The couple have a three-year-old child. Boston Herald says that authorities believe Mateen’s wife knew about the plot ahead of time, said an official who was briefed on the progress of the case but insisted on anonymity to discuss a continuing investigation. The official said investigators are reluctant to charge her only on the basis of possible advance knowledge of her husband’s plans.
By way of update, today’s radio news tells me that they have discovered that she texted “I love you” to her husband as he was murdering people. More troubling, of course, are reports that she purchased ammunition with him.
Attorney Sam’s Take On Guilt By Association Through Marriage.
Guilt by association is generally not a legal concept that is given much credence.
Guilt by some kind of conspiracy, however, is given tremendous credence.
While reports of the couple purchasing ammunition together are concerning, there does not seem to be any allegations that the pair planned or conducted the mass murder together.
We have seen a number of recent prosecutions of folks not directly the target of evil deeds. The girlfriend of Whitey Bulger and the friends of the Massachusetts marathon bomber come to mind for example.
While there certainly may be a moral obligation to prevent horrible deeds like that in Orlando, there is generally no legal obligation to do so. Further, in states like the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, there are actually laws against forcing a spouse to give evidence against the other spouse. Massachusetts, by the way, goes even further. To protect the sanctity of marital communications, there is actually a “disqualification” that is supposed to prevent one spouse reported on personal conversations between the two. An exception to that law is in cases in which the purported victim is a child.
Unless the killer’s wife reveals private conversations, I don’t see how they can be any evidence that she knew about the plot. On the other hand, this did not happen in Massachusetts. The suspicion against her alone is likely to bring enough pressure to get her to talk to law enforcement.
In fact, according to the news, she is said to be cooperating with law-enforcement.
“But Sam, if I tell my therapist that I intend to go home and use the gun I bought last week to shoot and kill my wife, doesn’t the therapist have an obligation to call the police?”
Yes. But that is a different situation.
“What if I suspect that my neighbor is in sane and plans to blow up our block?”
Again, while there is a moral question, I do not believe that there is a legal obligation for you to call the police with your suspicions. Again, there is a drive to get people to “see something, say something”, but that is not the same thing as making it a criminal offense if you do not.
“It seems like there is a lot of wiggle room here.”
There usually is in this type of situation. Laws get changed or simply “e forced” in a brand new way to fit the circumstances. That is, to fit the circumstances as law-enforcement sees it
“So, how am I supposed to know the difference when it comes to my situations?”
The best bet is to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney and get their opinion.
On a sidenote... I noticed the debate about whether tougher immigration, or no immigration as per the Republican presumptive candidate suggests would have prevented the massacre itself although the killer was a US citizen.
I am wondering, if we had the Donald Trump philosophy in place, whether foreign families of the dead would be allowed into the country to mourn or bury their family members.
Have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!