Or the tragedy continues. Appeals courts rule not on questions of guilt or innocence but on constitutional issues. The lower appeal court ruling, which was not overturned by the Supreme Court of Washington, allowed evidence that was obtained through means that are illegal when used in the United States. Their confessions, as such, were violations of the 5th Amendment that guarantees the right of suspects not to incriminate themselves. Through incredibly twisted reasoning, three courts have determined that Burns’ and Rafay’s confessions to RCMP agents posing as gangsters were valid. It seems as if they cannot comprehend the degree of coercion involved in these confessions; they all refer to how Burns looked when giving his statement, drinking a beer with his feet up on the couch. Of course, expert witnesses on false confessions and sting operations were not allowed to testify at the trial, thereby making it impossible for the jury to have all the necessary information needed to come to a guilty verdict. Nor did the jury get a chance to hear about Sebastian’s ‘bravado’ or ‘fronting’, a way of appearing cool in tight circumstances where one needs to make an impression.
Here’s how the Supreme Court of Washington works. Five judges get to vote on the case in question. If even one judge feels the case should be reviewed by the entire court, the appeal goes on to the other four judges, now nine in total. A majority then determines if the court will take up the case. For the first time, at least one judge, maybe two, ruled in their favor, forcing the decision on to the full nine judges. The court then turned the case down with no explanation. That is not a statement about guilt or innocence, but about constitutional and court procedural issues.
The only chance now for Burns and Rafay is in federal court. They have no legal representation as the case has effectively left the state of Washington. To say they are in dire straits is an understatement. Perhaps a private investigator can discover another group of suspects. Perhaps the unknown DNA hit can be compared to a more sophisticated database. Without that, two innocent lives have been destroyed by the RCMP and the justice system in Washington. I don’t believe that the law enforcement people have done this deliberately, but it’s a tragedy. One day we might find out the truth.