Charles Swift is director of the Dallas-based Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America. He led the defense team in the month-long Orlando trial of Noor Salman, the widow of Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen.
Swift has an enviable record of success in securing justice for unpopular clients. As a Navy judge advocate general, Swift was a member of the defense bar at Guantánamo Bay, where his advocacy won freedom for a Yemeni detainee in a precedent-setting Supreme Court ruling.
Following the Pulse shooting, Salman was charged with aiding and abetting, and obstruction of justice. In his conversation about the trial with Peter B. Collins, Swift details major misconduct by the FBI and prosecutors, who introduced into the record Salman’s “confession” which they knew was riddled with falsehoods.
Swift says that the prosecution strategy was to put Mateen on trial posthumously, in the effort to prove that his wife helped him scope out targets for his deadly intentions. But this led to major revisions in the “official” narrative: contrary to reports published immediately after the shooting, Mateen was never a patron of Pulse; in fact, he had never been to that location until the night of June 12, 2016.
Swift explains how Salman’s cell phone data cast doubt on the government’s claim that she was at the club; this was one of many false claims included in the “confession” produced after hours of interrogation that the prosecution submitted at trial. Swift was able to disprove almost half of the statements in the prosecution document.
Just as the defense was about to rest, prosecutors notified the Swift team that Seddique Khan, father of the shooter, had been a paid FBI informant for over 11 years. Swift says that his investigation and trial tactics would’ve been different if the government had properly shared this information, and that it’s a likely “Brady” violation. (From Supreme Court ruling in Brady v. Maryland: “suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to a defendant who has requested it violates due process.”)
Swift deplores the obvious double standard: no penalties for egregious government misconduct, but when the defense was delayed in delivering a psychological evaluation of Salman, it faced sanctions from the court.