Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns, an American/Canadian tragedy

Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;/ Some shall be pardoned, and some punished;/ For never was a story of more woe


The sheer terror of a wrongful conviction is only possible to understand through imagination and empathy. Far easier to turn away and forget the suffering of the wrongly convicted, or, easier still, to accept the verdict of a misinformed jury. This need for closure is a powerful motivator for the victim’s family, the public and the legal officers of the court, police, lawyers, judges. But just, for a moment, think of what it must be like to have done no crime and hear the iron doors close behind you for ‘life without the possibility of parole’.

When speaking of the innocence of Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns, the first reaction of many people in the public, especially in Vancouver, was, until recently, hostile disbelief. These two, who at the time of the crime (1994) were teenagers, must be despicable murderers. Case closed. Much time, effort and resources went into the 2004 convictions in the state of Washington, including a long extradition battle in Canada to protect Sebastian and Atif from facing the death penalty. There is more than a hint of complicity amongst the press and the legal systems of two countries, especially the use of the often discredited RCMP sting operation, ‘Mr. Big’. Never mind that three innocence projects agree that no forensic evidence ties the pair to the crime. Never mind that the two were seen at a movie theater while the crime took place, alibi evidence that the prosecution went through gyrations to discredit. Never mind that the crime was the hideous bludgeoning of Rafay’s parents and sister and that the motive given for this savagery was the desire to make a film with the family inheritance. That such a motive could be applied to such a crime, when no hint of familial abuse or previous criminal activity can be found, is perverse in the extreme. And yet it was applied and was successful, if success can be measured by getting a wrongful conviction. Were Sebastian Burns to have carried through on such a thing, he would have been insane (not financially motivated), but clearly he was not. We strongly believe that this case was decided on extorted evidence and prejudice rather than concrete forensic evidence. The convictions of Burns and Rafay are a textbook example of tunnel vision; other suspects and theories to account for this hideous crime were never seriously investigated.

We make the following speculative assertion while recognizing that it also entails prejudice. The style or method of killing is more in keeping with either psychosis or religious fundamentalism. The fact that Tariq Rafay, Atif’s father, was the head of the Canadian Pakistani Association before he moved to Bellevue,Washington for employment, cannot be divorced from this crime, even though it was at the trial. The family had moved there in 1993 but had not been living at that address for even a year when the killing took place. Was Mr. Rafay considered an apostate Muslim when, as a civil engineer, he discovered that Canada’s mosques were not facing Mecca? Were there groups within Bellevue that did not want the Rafay family to live in that community? Five days following the Rafay murders, an FBI informant, Douglas Muhammad, gave information about the weapon used in the crime and the motivation mentioned above, i.e. Islamic fundamentalism. Another reliable informant in Canada told the RCMP about a possible hit on a Canadian-Pakistani family that had just moved to Bellevue, Washington. These possibilities are dealt with on the rafayburnsappeal.com website; I will not address them any further except to say that they were disallowed in the courtroom as prejudicial and that the failure to follow up on the leads was an example of tunnel vision.

The most recent (November 2012) amicus brief for this case was presented by the Innocence Network, a large and prestigious group of innocence projects both in the United States and Canada. The brief, sent to the Washington State Supreme Court, deals with the right of a defendant to use expert witnesses. Burns and Rafay sought to have Richard Leo and Michael Levine speak to the jury about the issue of false confessions (Leo) and the dangers of sting operations such as Mr. Big (Levine). Both were disallowed in the courtroom. Since the case hinged so strongly on the confessions, the two defendants were denied the ability to defend themselves fully.

The appeal court for the State of Washington ruled earlier this year against Rafay and Burns. Without question, their ruling was as perverse as the trial itself, although it would have been unusual for a lower appeal court to overturn a conviction in such a high profile case. Along with agreeing with the judge that the jury would be perfectly competent to decide between truth and lies while viewing confessions extracted through a sting operation, they also supported the contention that outside experts should not have been allowed to testify.  These two rulings are, in effect, Siamese twins. Since the methodology of obtaining the confessions could not be challenged or explained, the confessions had to be accepted at face value. The question then becomes: How does a juror know that a confession is true simply by the way the confessor is behaving?

Another aspect of the ruling was the use of the sting itself. The court held that the confession was not made to people “in authority” (i.e. police interrogators) but to police masquerading as gangsters. For some reason, it was believed that gangsters were less likely to produce false confessions, even if those RCMP gangsters made it clear that Burns would be in for physical harm and legal danger if he didn’t confess. In fact, Burns was under increasing pressure as the sting, which went on for three months, progressed. (A recent appeal ruling in Newfoundland (Nelson Hart) held that the Mr. Big sting produced more coercion and pressure to confess than a regular police interrogation. Mr. Hart was  therefore granted another trial.)

One ruse they used was to show him a fake news report from Washington that indicated hard evidence of his guilt. They told Burns that he was about to be charged with the killings unless he confessed to Mr. Big. If he told Mr. Big that he was responsible for killing the Rafay family, and thereby prove that he was ‘solid, they would make the charges go away. Using such methodology is actually illegal in the United States, and for very good reason. A confession cannot be valid if it is extorted or coerced in any way, because such coercion is a violation of the 5th Amendment, the guarantee against involuntary self-incrimination.

Finally, the appeal court agreed with the defendants that the prosecutor used legally unacceptable and clearly prejudicial language in describing the crime during his summation. They also agreed that the use of grisly photos taken from news reports on Muslim fundamentalists was completely improper. However, they said that the offensive statements and the grisly photos only constituted a small part of the entire summation and ‘it was arguable’ that they made no appreciable difference in the verdict. When we say the ruling was perverse, along with prejudicial, this particular aspect of the ruling best exemplifies those words. What Prosecutor Konat said and the photos he employed may have prejudiced the jury, they held, but only, we guess, if he had acted improperly for a longer time.

At some level, be it state or federal, we believe that Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay will be granted another trial. They should be granted another trial! They are innocent. Their incarceration is an unmitigated tragedy. Rafay has lost his entire family and his freedom for a lifetime. Burns, presupposed to be the one who actually bludgeoned the Rafay family,  has suffered a far worse fate. Living in solitary confinement for the past 8 years, one of tens of thousands of such prisoners in the USA, he has developed psychological problems that may be beyond cure. I ask any reader of this blog to use his/her imagination and, just for a moment, entertain the possibility that the two are wrongly convicted. It’s an inconvenient truth, no? No one wants to believe such a thing, especially when guilt has been presupposed by so many. But think of the suffering if innocence is the issue. Think of Rafay; think of Sebastian Burns; think of Sebastian’s family. And then, know that what I am saying here is TRUE! Three innocence projects (Innocence International, Idaho Innocence Project at Boise State University, and Pacific Northwest Innocence Project at the University of Washington) are 100% certain that the two of them are innocent. Now try to live with that as fact and see if you don’t feel like us; see if you don’t feel the pressing weight of injustice and the culpability of the RCMP who launched a sting without any hard evidence to back up the contention that Burns and Rafay killed the Rafay family. See if you still support a sting operation that can easily manufacture false confessions through inducement and coercion.

LATEST COURT DECISION ON OBNOXIOUS MR. BIG STING

Man acquitted in neighbour’s 1974 killing after judge throws out evidence from ‘Mr. Big’ sting

After 40 years, two murder cases, one failed undercover operation and now an acquittal thanks to Charter violations, Durham Region’s oldest murder case remains unresolved

By:Wendy GillisNews reporter, Published on Mon Jul 28 2014

After nearly 40 years, two murder trials, one elaborate undercover operation and now an acquittal, Durham Regional Police’s oldest murder case remains unsolved.

Dealing the final blow to the first-degree murder case, Justice Bruce Glass acquitted Alan Smith of the 1974 slaying of Beverly Smith in an Oshawa courtroom Monday.

Glass effectively undid the case last month, when he threw out all evidence gathered in an intricate, year-long police sting known as a “Mr. Big” operation.

The undercover investigation — which convinced Smith he was enmeshed in a murderous crime ring, and culminated with the dumping of a fake corpse off a cliff — had violated Smith’s Charter rights and was an abuse of process, Glass ruled in June.

Without the evidence gathered during the sting, namely two widely varying murder confessions, Crown Attorney Frederick Stephens conceded there was little prospect of conviction.

“There is no reasonable alternative but to discontinue the prosecution,” he told court Monday.

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About ken

I am a former Toronto teacher and writer now living in Vancouver. I work with Dr. Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, with whom I published Eye of the Hurricane: My path from Darkness to Freedom (Chicago review Press, 2011), as Director of Media Relations and as an advocate for wrongly convicted prisoners. Other publication credits include Songs of Aging Children (Arsenal Pulp Press, 1992) a book of short stories about troubled youth, and Taking Steam, a play co-authored with the late Brian Shein, staged at New York's Jewish Repertory Theatre and Toronto in 1983. Life Without (Quattro Books, 2012) is a novella about a New York cab driver wrongly convicted of killing his pregnant wife. Gary Geddes (Lt. Governor's Award for Literary Excellence) described it as "one of the most brilliant and harrowing short novels I've read since I went on a John Hawkes binge."

154 thoughts on “Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns, an American/Canadian tragedy

    • Solitary confinement, which Sebastian has endured for nine years, produces its own symptoms. Obviously, the first is the inability to sustain a normal conversation. But, almost always, the absence of social contacts means that a prisoner lives in an environment where he cannot possibly learn anything further about himself. He turns inward and, much like a starving man, finds no sustenance. Sebastian exhibits all the classical symptoms of solitary, staring out blankly, circling his cage (as zoo animals tend to do). He is permanently withdrawn. This does not mean that he can’t carry on a short conversation (he recently met with this parents), but that he is damaged beyond repair as a social being. The brain disintegrates, the mind goes blank.
      See “Hellhole” in the New Yorker, March 30th, 2009, by Atul Gawande. The USA has tens of thousands of prisoners, many of them adolescents in solitary. By international standards, this is torture.
      Thanks for your inquiry.
      Ken

      • I do not think the cops did a good job at investigating this crime, they just jumped on the two dumb kids, and did not listen to anything the the FBI had to say. Needs to be re-investigated. The stupid Mr. Big sting, was just that, stupid.

      • Wow, that is so sad. His summation of the evidence (on youtube) was nothing short of brilliant. However, because he had just been convicted, all the embarrassed court could see and say was that he was arrogant and sociopathic. He was truly more brilliant than any of the lawyers in the courtroom .. and they just couldn’t handle it. Cognitive dissonance and people’s reputations over rule justice in our system. This case has saddened me for the past few years. What do we expect, though, when prosecutors and police dept. receive SO much immunity from wrongdoing? We live in a police state … way too often you are guilty until proven innocent.

        • Thanks for the reply, Jake. I’m not 100% certain whose summation you are referring to. Sebastian’s? It is true, and you can see that from comments on this website, that people will often see what they want to see, especially when their minds are made up in advance. The Burns/Rafay case is a perfect example of that kind of prejudice and most definitely affected the jury. Unfortunately, it also affected the police, the RCMP and the judge. If you believed they were guilty, then their arrogant behavior, as perceived, confirmed it. Atif is an intellectual; for most people, especially young people, that means he’s arrogant. But I know he’s not.
          Ken

          • Im sorry, but I am going to have to say both of their arrogant attitudes have put me on the jury’s side of guilty. In the murder case of the Memphis 3 in 1994, the teenagers got convicted (then eventually released )mostly because of the their bad attitudes and arrogance which lead to a witch hunt . The police even got one shotty conviction out of those teenagers through intense screening and coercing. Those kids were innocent unlike these, mostly due to the “Mr Big confessions” in this case . Ya, I under stand the arguments for “entrapment” and coercing of confession for fear of the life. But when I seen the undercover footage myself.. and seen these two ” young intelligent innocent guys” be drawn to criminal/gang life so seamlessly and easily, I was sold. When you hear Atif talking to Mr Big, ” It needed to be done so I could achieve what I wanted to in life” with no timid emotion or sign of fear , looking like he was talking to a long lost cousin or something…not a coerced confession . %99 of hits involve guns or knifes, not a baseball bat.. and rarely involve petty theft of a few $50 dollar items. The staged crime scene was just another sign of arrogance , especially the brutality… to make it look like it couldn’t of been an inside job. Case closed

          • You’re sorry? Case closed? Why be sorry if you’re so certain? Your analysis relies on appearances–Atif’s control over his emotions–rather than forensics. Eliminate the sting, and you have a case based on nothing but speculation. Your type of speculation, Brando. You cannot know what is inside another person’s head.

          • There was no reply option for the last thread so I will reply here. “You’re sorry? Case closed? Why be sorry if you’re so certain”

            Im sorry because I would like to believe in innocence. Just because I believe they are guilty doesn’t mean that this still isn’t a sad verdict. Its sad to think this is a reality and similar homicides happen all the time because of greed.

            I cannot know what is in another persons head, and that is not why I believe what I do. However I can make a decision based upon what was presented (ie. alleged murder script/talk at school, eccentric behavior to be noticed for an alibi, weird sense of remorse/missing funerals , use of finances/lifestyle , being drawn into underground criminal organization, confessions, 3rd friend confession ). All this circumstantial evidence is enough for me to my make my personal choice.

            Maybe in a perfect CSI world there would be sufficient forensic evidence at every crime scene so no other evidence or motives were needed. In this case from what I can recall there was little forensics to link them there, but little forensics to link anyone else there.

            Ken, its looks like you like being on the side of the minority , and as I have seen many times before, its more of choice based on internal feelings and originality then a choice based on actual interpretation and evidence presented

          • Ken, you say you cannot know what is inside a persons head! That is exactly right, therefore you cannot be sure of their innocence. They did not look the least bit forced or uneasy when making their confession. Laughing, joking. What kind of person would make a confession in jest?!?! They were judged by a jury of their peers. My hats off to Mr. Big, job well done.

          • Would you be convinced of their innocence if they had appeared serious? Young people often show bravado in threatening situations. They want to look tough and in control. By the same token, if they had attended the Rafay funeral and wept and looked sad, you would say that they were just acting. If you think they’re guilty, no amount of evidence to the contrary will convince you. But, once again, where is the actual evidence that they committed the bloody crime? Find that. No one else ever did.

          • Yes, I was referring to Sebastian’s summation. It was brilliant and the best summary of the non-evidence in this barbaric miscarriage of justice for two young men.

            Some of you folks commenting here have not looked at the lack of forensic evidence pointing to Glen and Atif … and also have NOT been following the news and info about how MANY confessions are false – and have directly led to false convictions.

            So you are comfortable convicting two young men of murdering one of their families based on them “confessing” to mobsters (people posing as) when they thought their lives were in danger if they didn’t confess?? Give me a break and go study better.

  1. Oh, boo hoo. Thanks to Canada they didn’t get the death penalty that they so richly deserved. They both should have thought of the consequences before they slaughtered an innocent family. They are guilty as sin.

    • @Ruebene—you took the words right from my mouth. I’m not going to pretend these idiots didn’t murder that family, because I have a brain in my head and studied the facts….They admitted everything with as much ease as a sociopath!!
      I’m Canadian, but I believe an eye for an eye!

      • Hi Krissy,
        I’d be interested to know what facts you have studied that makes you so certain; the louder you shout the less convincing you are. If you know something so well, then give me the evidence so I can turn away from this case. Give me the forensic evidence that you have. Tell me how you know they are idiots beyond the foolishness of late adolescent male youth. The people who committed this crime may have been psychopaths, but what makes you so sure that Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns are psychopaths? Do you know them? Have you spoken to them? Do you have a degree in psychology? What you are responding to is the portrait painted by prosecutors, police, and the media. If they did commit the crime, their portraits had to be made to fit the crime.
        LOGIC: Only a sick or seriously fanatical person could have committed the crime; Rafay and Burns were convicted (wrongly); therefore, Rafay and Burns must be sick or seriously fanatical. Why then did the prosecutors make money as the motive for the crime, as if anyone wanting money to make a film would crush the skulls of his own family? Use your common sense.

        • What facts have you studied that makes you certain of their innocence? Because you don’t like how they were caught? What kind of evidence is left behind when you commit a crime naked, then shower? And in a house that you have been in countless times before, where your fingerprints etc are a given to be there. People have killed for a lot less, to teenagers hundreds of thousands of dollars sounds pretty good.

          • No evidence. With a crime as bloody as that–blood spatter all over the walls–it is extremely difficult to remove all evidence of blood in hair follicles. I could go on, Lynn. But remember that they were pressured to make up a story that the ‘gangsters’ would believe. The RCMP gangsters asked Burns how he was able to protect his clothing from the blood. What would anyone answer if they were afraid of being killed? I’d say that I did it in the nude and that’s exactly what happened: whoever killed the Rafays did it undressed. What else is there to say? You heard the RCMP threaten them with the same fate as others they had killed. That they had evidence, shown from a phony news report from Washington, that implicated them. That they would get rid of that evidence if they confessed. Are you so clever and brave that you wouldn’t have believed that?
            There was a pubic hair in Tariq Rafay’s bed that belonged to no one in the house. The prosecution insisted it was a “stray”, as if people are shedding pubic hairs around the city that somehow wind up in another person’s bed. As I said, the real killers did the crime in the nude. When the prosecutors found the pubic hair, they were sure that it would be the nail in the coffin for Burns. Lo and behold, it belonged to an outsider, ergo it didn’t matter. The investigation suffered from tunnel vision; the trial was a fraud and the appeal decision was outrageous. No justice has been done. You can believe me or not.

        • FACTS: The two had MOTIVE: Artif would inherit enough money for the two to make their movie…which they beLIEved would make them millions and gain them fame. The two had OPPORTUNITY: slipping out the back door of the movie theatre, committing the murder naked and returning undetected is brilliant and Burn’s almost got away with a fraud case using a movie as his alibi but he was caught because he didn’t actually have any proof he was at the movie because he wasn’t….this time he had it covered because he did have proof. The two had the MEANS: they were at the house previously which would explain their DNA being there and so they only had to account for any blood evidence from the victims being on their clothing, hair, body…. committing the murders naked with a baseball bat from the house and showering after the crime then slipping back into the theatre via the back door undetected solved that problem.. And who is going to believe that these two, clean cut, brilliant teens with unlimited potential for the future would risk it all for an ‘early’ inheritance? It was The Perfect Crime as our System of Justice is designed to allow the guilty to go free at the sake of convicting the innocent.

          I think its telling that after all these years, the defense, advocates, activists and their investigators could find no other suspects to pin this crime on….because these two are the only ones who had the motive, opportunity and means to do it and where any of their DNA explained away since they were staying at the home prior to the murders except any of the victims’ blood found on them and their clothing and why they committed this crime naked and showered after just as Burn’s explained on his taped confession. Take the tape confession away and there is still enough evidence to convict the two as no other suspects have been found and the crime scene doesn’t fit a random killing.

          • Tanya, I will only deal with one aspect of your analysis. The rest has been repeated before and depends upon what you want to believe, i.e. tunnel vision. You are repeating a false scenario created by prosecutors that was swallowed by the jury and the public.It’s a story. It’s not the truth.
            However, there ARE other suspects–we have a list of them–and they were suspects at the time but not a single one of them was checked out because the police “knew” that Burns and Rafay were the real killers. Classic tunnel vision. An FBI informant gave evidence to the Bellevue police that was disregarded. The police admitted he was an informant but then tried to label him as a head case.

          • The Burns family was wealthier, so these money-obsessed teens killed the poorer family? That doesn’t make sense to me.

    • Have you thought that the method of killing may indicate fanaticism or insanity? Do you know how difficult it is for soldiers to see even one casualty?
      I respect your right to feel the way you do and to think the way you do, but you should be more analytical, as innocence projects try to be.

      • Ken – I have a really hard time with this case. Many years ago donated to the appeal of Guy Paul Morin. I was convinced he was innocent. I am not at all sure in this case but I do not know whether my doubt is reasonable or unreasonable. There does not need to be forensic evidence if there sufficient circumstantial evidence. Were this not true, then in the past most murderers would have gone free. On the other hand, circumstantial evidence must be sufficient to erase reasonable doubt. This is where I get hung up. You keep saying 3 Innocence projects have found no forensic evidence. Could you please address for me some of the circumstantial evidence?

  2. Justice confirmed by the Washington Appeal Court!
    A sincere “Well done” to the US Justice system and to the US courts.
    “Well done” to the RCMP who gathered so much incriminating evidence.

    No sympathy to these two murderers who both exhibited the classic behaviour of sociopaths and psychopaths while attending West Vancouver Secondary School in Canada.

    • Stubique: It’s understandable that you might feel this way, but it’s a slippery slope to condemn people as murderers because of the way you perceive their past behavior. According to forensic analysis, hard evidence is absent in this case. Such a bloody murder would have produced some residue on their bodies or in their scalps. You might also want to consider why they would kill Rafay’s family for the money (the prosecutor’s theory) when the Burns family had a whole lot more and Canada did not have the death penalty.
      But I wouldn’t want to disrupt your certainty; it obviously makes you comfortable with things as they are.

      • In that case the Burns family should be thanking their lucky stars their warped kid didn’t target them for their ‘more money’ and that they managed to raise him to be persuasive enough to talk his idiot friend Atif Rafay into letting him bludgeon his parents instead…

        • You have an anger problem, my friend, and an obsession with this case that’s impossible, for anyone who doesn’t know you, to understand.

          • No Ken, I don’t have an anger problem, but you definitely have a stupidity problem. Not to mention blog-comment-cowardice….

          • Y’know what Ken, you’re right, I DO have an anger problem. I am angry, and you are making me angry, so therefore you are the problem. Who in their right mind WOULDN’T be angry upon seeing a guy go through mental gymnastics in order to portray murderers as innocents?

        • I think they are as guilty as sin and they should stay in prison for the rest of their lives.They showed no compassion so the judge gave them the right sentence.

        • I think its so telling that peopke refuse to look at the fact that these boys and i do say boys were scapegoats. The prosecutor in this case was sickening to me and so determined to convict. Its a tragedy that teenage youth can be completely damned and thrown away so that the politics of the case and thats all it was is settled. Tbey did not have a fair trial. So sad

  3. I am not prejudging them based on past behaviour. I amsimply pointing out that their behaviour in high school in West Vancouver (according to many of their peers) was clearly sociopathic and perhaps psychopathic. The events in Bellevue are a continuation of a pattern that was very clear to many people in the years before the murders. Their documented and anecdotal behaviour in high school indicates that these two were definitely not normal. Oh, by the way, the RCMP collected DNA evidence (saliva) that absolutely linked them to the crime scene evidence collected by Bellevue police. You should perhaps do some additional research.

    • Dear Thor,
      I appreciate your reply. With respect, there’s a line from Mark Twain that applies especially to the law: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
      First, Sebastian’s and Atif’s contemporaries were not qualified to diagnose psychological ailments, especially extreme conditions that you describe and that they most certainly did not suffer from.
      Second, DNA evidence at the crime scene implicated some other unidentifiable source. We will be submitting this sample to a more sophisticated database.
      If you are interested in finding out more about the forensic testing in this case, I would urge you to contact Dr. Greg Hampikian, Idaho Innocence Project. (greghampikian@boisestate.edu.)
      Again, with all respect, few people have researched this case more than I.

  4. If they are innocent, they would not have confessed to the crime. Even if they were told they have hard evidence against them, they would have been much more confident in themselves (as indicated by their arrogance) and said something along the lines of ‘We aren’t worried about hearsay evidence because we didn’t do it’ rather than admitting to it. Also, who thinks to mix themselves with gangsters following the death of their family ? Only a pair of murderers. Sebastian Burns’ own high school yearbook entry says he is going to try to take advantage of the weak with clenched fist. The crime scene showed no forced entry. And do you really think these 2 pompous college level kids really cared to see a showing of ‘The Lion King’ ? It was all part of their plan. What evidence is there to show they didn’t commit the crime ?

    • You make some good points, Jay. The first point, however, “If they are innocent, they would not have confessed…” is belied by an enormous amount of data and case histories. See Central Park 5 (film), West of Memphis (film) and look up the hundreds of cases of false confession that were overturned by DNA evidence. A five hundred page book by Rob Warden abd Steve Drizin (Northwestern U Press) documents an almost endless array of false confession cases. Believe me or not, most seasoned interrogators can get adolescents and even adults to admit to crimes they haven’t committed.
      “Who thinks to mix themselves with gangsters…”: Mr. Big has had several false confessions. Their methodology is compelling and while they have gotten it right, they can also get it wrong. In the case of Burns and Rafay, there was insufficient forensic evidence to justify its use.
      As to the business about the Lion King, I saw the Lion King and I’m an adult. They were seen at the theatre at the time of the killing. The prosecutors went to great lengths to disprove their alibi but they never really did. The neighbors heard the killing while Burns and Rafay were at the film. I know you don’t believe it, but maybe you don’t want to believe it because you describe them as pompous. Maybe they were pompous and maybe they were arrogant; I think that is why they were convicted. Not for the evidence.
      Thank you for your response which I find thoughtful.

      • You can look at the memphis three as a case in point. Im in memphis and i will tell u many people thought damien echols was guilty based on his appearance. Its the classic peinciples before personalities. The judge disliked sebastian burns and tbought he was a smartass therefore he muddied the waters. These boys are innocent. Study the case and u will agree

  5. Ken, you clearly believe them to be innocent. However there is very convincing circumstantial evidence that they are 2 of the worst psychopathic murders in recent Canadian history. You cling to the ‘no DNA’ story and no ‘hard evidence’ like it is the only important issue in the case. The truth is there is a mountain of circumstantial evidence (not including the confession) that is all perfectly acceptable in a court of law. You don’t talk about it at all in your post sadly. That evidence alone may very well have been enough to convict in this case. The court allowed the RCMP sting evidence for many good reasons. That evidence was also limited in some ways and the court took that into account. Evidence isn’t always completely thrown out because of some difficulties you may have with it. “Mr. Big” stings do have flaws, but they are not completely useless. Amazingly enough some people that confess really did do it! Experts aren’t always needed to confuse juries either because the state would have had several experts supporting the confessions to counter the defenses experts.

    A Careful review has been done and the conviction still stands. Personally I doubt any future success to overturn the decision. I think the push to appeal this has much more to do with accepting ‘Mr. Big’ confessions than these 2 guys guilt or innocence. I wish you would focus on the issues you have with the trial and it’s process while leaving judgement of guilt or innocence to a jury. I think you significantly weaken your cause to overturn injustice when you become jury. It should be enough to say a person did not get a fair trial and that is what you fight for. I personally find the evidence, while circumstantial and limited, supporting their guilt from my review of the case. My opinion however isn’t worth anything because I wasn’t on the jury. Yours isn’t worth anything either. We have both been subjected to a multitude of bias inducing information. The purpose of using a courtroom is to limit that problem. Stick to fighting for a fair trial and leave the decisions up to a jury.

    What has happened to Sebastian Burns in jail is terrible or course. That is a whole other and sad issue.

    • James,
      Thank you for your response; I’d like to answer some of the issues you raised, maybe not to your satisfaction, but as best as I can. The purpose of an innocence project is to look beyond the jury’s decision, not to accept it, if the people in the project conclude that a miscarriage of justice has been committed. The word ‘innocence’ is paramount to the workings of the law. In other words, we feel that truth is a higher principle, whatever the jury has decided. Juries, as you know, have been mistaken in thousands of cases. Please understand as well that these cases are not taken up lightly or heroically. An innocence project cannot afford to be wrong–ever. Our credibility would be destroyed with even one mistake so we have to be 99% certain. Nor do we have to believe that an appeal court is the word of God.

      Neither of our opinions is worthless. Yours may be supported by your research; mine is supported by ours, especially the work of a forensic scientist. I have heard the expression “a mountain of circumstantial evidence”, from the prosecutors of this case. This contention is untrue. The circumstantial evidence should have led to a not guilty verdict. In my view, the conviction was more a result of prejudice against two wise ass kids; their guilt was predetermined and the facts of the case distorted to fit with that. I must also say that we have assessed Atif Rafay over a five year period and found nothing to persuade us that he is anything but a bright and sensitive individual who admittedly was a somewhat arrogant and foolish adolescent. Because we work with Rafay, we cannot work with Sebastian Burns.

      Finally, our work with this case has been in tune with the legal process to get them a new trial. Because the courts were and still will be ruling on the case, we have been involved in trying to get them a new trial. My opinions here are simply that, as you say: opinions. But they are well founded.

      • So what about the friend at their school who they told their murder plans to BEFORE the murder happened? The friend that was forced to testify against them in court. I guess that’s your version of ‘arrogant’ and ‘foolish’ 18 year old’s right? In my world that’s just a tad beyond arrogant or foolish. The only reason that friend isn’t in jail now is because it is not a legal crime to sit and do nothing. You see, actually listing some of the very strong evidence against them might actually help people see the real facts of the case and not just your very selective version of the Mr. Big issue. The truth is that the legal system of both Canada and the US have picked through the evidence in this case very carefully…multiple times. Both Rafay and Burns are still in jail.

        I’ve lost a ton of respect for Mr. Carter for backing their ‘innocence’ in this case. Many others have as well. At most he should have fought for a fair trial if he is so much against Mr. Big evidence.

        • Hi again, James
          Miyoshi’s testimony is the most troubling aspect of the case, but not for the reason you might think. What James Miyoshi did with respect to his testimony, no one should ever condemn. He faced becoming an accessory to the crime and would have faced a very large prison sentence. If you check out what he actually said, it’s essentially a ramble with little substance. You or I could have made up the same things. I’m sure you will admit that by any standard his testimony was coerced. He, like 99% of all people, would have been justified in saying: “They confessed; why should I go to prison?”
          As to Rubin Carter, the same situation happened in his case. From the very start and for fifteen years thereafter, John Artis was asked to testify against Carter in return for his freedom. Heroically, he never did, because his family taught him to prize the truth. Every year, they would bring him home just before Christmas and every year they promised he could stay there if he gave evidence against Carter. Never would he do it.
          James Miyoshi was not a hero, but how many people are? The “truth” is that his life was also ruined by this case albeit less than his friends’ lives. I truly feel sorry for him.

        • FYI

          Edmonton judge tosses Mr. Big sting evidence in youth’s murder trial

          EDMONTON – A judge has ruled that evidence gathered in a police sting is…

          by The Canadian Press on Friday, May 10, 2013 1:16pm

          EDMONTON – A judge has ruled that evidence gathered in a police sting is not admissible in the double-murder trial of a youth.

          The bodies of Barry Boenke, 68, and his friend Susan Trudel, 50, were found bludgeoned and shot to death east of Edmonton in June 2009.

          The youth made a confession to undercover officers in a “Mr. Big” sting, believing they were part of a criminal gang. But the boy recanted in court, saying he was just trying to fit in and gain respect.

          Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Brian Burrows said police took a troubled teen, who was a ward of the state, and offered him privileges such as hockey tickets, rock concerts and access to a condo.

          Burrows said he was satisfied that the boy “was coerced by expectations and hopes of future significant benefits and advantages.”

          The judge, who is hearing the case without a jury, also said the statements the teenager made to police varied and contradicted the evidence.

          Burrows expressed concerned about using such a sting at all on a teenager.

          “In my view, permitting the use of statements … made to Mr. Big would give rise to a real and serious possibility of abuse of conduct by the state.”

          The day before Boenke and Trudel were killed, the accused and another boy — both 14 at the time — had run away from the Strathcona County Ranch, a youth treatment facility run by Bosco Homes. The boys had been sent to the home for allegedly vandalizing a school.

          The two were arrested after they were found driving Boenke’s stolen truck. The accused confessed to police, but during pretrial hearings a judge ruled the statement inadmissible. Without that key piece of evidence, the Crown stayed murder charges.

          There was no forensic evidence linking the boys to the killings. Their DNA was not found at the scene and there was no blood or gunshot residue on their clothes. The gun that killed Boenke and Trudel has not been recovered.

          RCMP later targeted both boys separately in undercover stings. Last May, the Crown reactivated the case against the teen now before the judge and charged him with two counts of second-degree murder.

          The suspect is being tried as a youth and cannot be identified.

          His lawyer had argued that Mounties wasted time and money targeting a vulnerable youth in a poorly planned sting when they should have been looking for the real killer.

          Mona Duckett said RCMP made a quick arrest and, when the case fell apart against the teen and a co-accused, officers forged ahead with an undercover charade that took advantage of the youth’s vulnerabilities.

          The Crown responded by saying police didn’t coerce or intimidate the boy into a confession.

          Prosecutor William Wister told court that social services miserably failed the accused teen as he was growing up, but Wister added that the child-welfare system was not on trial. He said the teen might have low intelligence, but was able to do math in his head, carried on conversations with undercover police and always had a choice to leave, Wister said.

          • I have another question Ken. Has the particular use of Mr. Big in Rafay’s case ever been judged by Canada’s Supreme Court or any Canadian court to assess its particular appropriateness? Thanks.

          • Thanks for your thoughtful inquiries, Carol. Just to say that the innocence project involvement is indicative of “certainty” on the part of those involved. We may all be deluded but, for us, the notion of doubt is not at issue. Even reasonable doubt is not at issue. To be wrong here is to be completely discredited. As to circumstantial evidence and confessions, if investigators cannot confirm the commission of a crime with an analysis of scientifically gathered evidence, I do not think that a person should be convicted. That is not to say that an innocence project would get itself involved with a case because it lacked scientific evidence; the standard for such involvement is higher than that.
            The amount of circumstantial evidence in thew Burns/Rafay case is copious. We see the problem with it as a matter of interpretation. Every element used to convict them could have been used in the polar opposite way.
            But for us, the key to their innocence is predicated on the following: 1) the massive amount of bloodshed would have made it impossible for anyone to escape detection, especially two young men who were thoroughly examined for almost a full week, immediately following the crime. 2) the methodology used to kill the Rafay family would have been impossible for Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns. The characteristics attributed to them were “after the fact”; they were described as vicious, amoral individuals because people believed or needed to believe that they had done this crime. 3) The prejudicial trial and the equally prejudicial appeal ruling were unjust; the defendants were not given an opportunity to defend themselves. Just how or why does a judge not allow testimony in the trial about false confessions? The conviction was predicated on those confessions. 4) Finally, their movie theater alibi checks out while the scenario put forward by the state, leaving the theater and so forth, was a desperate attempt to impugn the alibi, rather than an attempt to arrive at truth. The prosecution “won” because of the perceived personal failings of the two defendants.

          • In an earlier ruling, Mr. Big was allowed by the court in an odd ruling that hinged on whether the Canadian public would be shocked or outraged by the methodology. Subsequent rulings by lower and upper courts, especially in the Nelson Hart case (Newfoundland), have taken a dim view of Mr. Big. I’m not happy, though, with the implication in the Hart case that the subject of the sting needs to have some intellectual deficiency in order to rule out its use. I will admit that Mr. Big had a high rate of success, but the danger of false confessions now outweighs whatever efficacy it may have had. We can’t treat false confessions and wrongful convictions as collateral damage. They are tragedies that have destroyed numerous lives. The sting itself plays into the negative stereotypes, sexism, violence against women, thuggery, deceit, that now characterize the operations and personal problems of the RCMP. Did the popularity of this method (well over 500 stings costing nearly half a billion dollars) arise from the predispositions of various commanding officers? Evidence suggests as much. What happened to scientific evidence gathering?

          • Thanks for your responses Ken. I have been reading more since I asked those questions. I was appalled to note that Mr. Big uses alcohol to get confessions up to and including drunk driving!! The willingness to endanger lives in order to lock up a so-called dangerous person is disingenuous. I would hope that in the event of a fatal accident the RCMP would be charged with criminal negligence causing death but I doubt it.
            I seem to remember that a court ruling decades ago had thrown out the testimony of an undercover officer in a police cell because the guy did not want to talk to police without his lawyer present. The court stated that you could not get police testimony by such deception. I don’t understand why this would not apply to a Mr. Big sting unless it was over-turned.
            Why are the two men not being allowed to serve their sentences in Canada?

          • Carol,
            Your question about the alcohol is not something I’ve thought of but should have. It fits with the recklessness of the entire scheme. The question about Canada is really interesting for a couple of reasons. On the one hand, since the crime was committed in the US, they have jurisdiction. In fact, Allan Rock, then Minister of Justice, wanted them to face the death penalty in the US. However, some of Canada’s premiere lawyers argued successfully to the Supreme Court that a Canadian should not be extradited to face the death penalty. It was a landmark decision. Rafay was offered a deal where he could have served his sentence in Canada if he testified against Sebastian Burns. That way he’d have been eligible for parole (parole does not exist in Washington!). He refused to do it because he’s not that kind of person, and he also felt sure that, in a sane world, he’d be acquitted or exonerated. Turns out the law is not a sane world.
            To add another point: the Supreme Court just ruled that the right to phone a lawyer is absolute. If a person is in police custody, he or she can seek representation and need not talk to police or endure interrogation. The biggest mistake made by youth (or adults) is talking to the police in the first place. They think that their innocence will protect them. Burns and Rafay had no legal representation when they were interrogated in Bellevue and, of course, when they faced Mr. Big. Look on line for the video “Why you should never talk to the police.” Even the police agree with that advice!
            Ken

  6. Thank goodness the USA has a real JUSTICE SYSTEM. Those two are locked away where they can’t do any more harm.

  7. Wow. I have been studying this case for about a week. As is too often the case, once a “rabid” detective and/or prosecutor put an X on your back, you are in deep trouble. The physical evidence points strongly to others, and is consistent with the religious fundamentalists doing it – yet the “justice system” goes with coerced confessions. When someone is being coerced or bribed their testimony should NOT be allowed. This same scenario happened with the Memphis 3 (and many others). In some ways it is also very similar to Jeffrey MacDonald’s case. I wish you the best in your efforts, and I hope Sebastian finds ways to make his life meaningful and worthwhile. Maybe he could become a writer since he can’t become a film maker.

  8. How can you all be so dogmatic and arrogant, To be sentanced for a crime when there is even a possibility of innocence must be seen as a horrific nightmare that I could not even comprehend.
    And you say thank god your in the US.
    Are you really safe when this can and does go on, what if it was you or a loved one.
    mmmmm Ben Hudson Australia

    • Thank you for your response, Ben. You have put your finger on the main problem: the public and the legal systems, for different reasons, lack empathy. They don’t want to consider that an error has been committed because it would upset the false balance of their lives.

      • I believe the lower courts erred in allowing the illegally obtained taped confession as evidence and the two should be granted a new trial but having said that, I do believe they are guilty and will be found guilty even without the taped confession. Time has proven that no one else benefited from the murders nor does the crime scene suggest this was a random killing.

  9. Ken, one thing you don’t address (unless I missed it) was Rafay’s failure to aid his sister. What could be attributed to a lack of action on the part of either boy ?

    • You are right, Becello. I don’t address it. But it’s not as if we (Rubin Carter and I) didn’t ask Atif these kinds of questions. If he had a ready answer, we’d have been less inclined to believe him. Think about what anyone, even yourself, might do when walking into such a grisly scene. You can’t predict your reactions, especially if you are afraid that the killer(s) might still be in the house. Atif is physically ‘slight’ to say the least; self-preservation may have been instinctive. As best he could remember by 2006, he was completely overwhelmed by a nightmare and went out in the street where his friend phoned 911. Nothing he did was thought out or rational.
      I’d like to elaborate a bit more. Your question evokes the entire case against the two: how they acted has little or nothing to do with hard evidence. They were convicted for the very things that you have brought out, for example the failure to attend Tariq’s funeral. It looks bad, yes, but it’s hard to draw concrete conclusions, such as this behavior is the behavior of a murderer.
      One thing you may be interested in. I visit Atif once a month and have done so for all these years; in fact I led a book club with ‘lifers’ for a while. The motive attributed to Atif and Sebastian was greed, the desire to get his parents’ money to make a film. Do you think he would show elements of greed in all these years? Just the opposite. He hates to ask for things because he’s afraid I can’t afford them. He gave me the money he won from the Pen Writers in Prison award. The behavior of BOTH speaks to a wrongful conviction. Sorry to go on so long but your question was well meant and I wanted to address it.

      • Thanks for your reply, Ken.
        I’m not sure that human behaviour is necessarily on a continuum. Atif may not want to take your money, but you are not his parents and he is no longer 18 with the promise of a full life in front of him. Whether he was responsible for it or not, he has suffered the incredible loss of his entire family and the trauma of being handed a life sentence.
        When Mr Big asks Atif, “why” (did you do it), he says something to the effect that he wanted to live the kind of life he desired. Presumedly, this involves money but it also occurred to me that it might involved something else … namely his sexual identity. I’m sure I’m not the first one to suggest this, with the Rafays being Muslim. And I believe one can ask if this was a factor in Atif’s response to Mr Big even without presuming his innocence or guilt.
        Thanks.

      • Funny how you dismiss the boys’ behavior as irrelevant when it suggests guilt, but relevant when it’s behavior you think suggests innocence…

        Actually Ken, I apologize for previously suggesting that you are stupid. There is no way you would’ve passed the bar exam if you were as stupid as you pretend to be here. Which means you are not stupid, just incredibly dishonest, which is not exactly an uncommon trait among lawyers, is it…

          • You seem to know this case backwards and forwards, Jinkies, from your own perspective. But why would you be angry at me since they are in prison and in no position to defend themselves. You have what you want, right? Three life sentences for each crime, right? So you’re angry at me because I defend them, and because not everyone believes in your reasoning. That makes you into a kind of petty despot, no? Or maybe you know someone who helped get them convicted and want to defend your acquaintance?

      • Atif in the midst of his , not helping his sister cuz he wasn’t in a certain state of mind, incredibly notices his walkman missing.

        • If I can guess what Christ is referring to here, I think he wonders why Atif, during his interrogation, referred to items in the house that had been stolen or moved. After all, his sister was gravely injured and his parents were dead. But it wasn’t as if the two things were happening simultaneously. He was being questioned by police after having called 911; the police came upon the scene at least half an hour later. The police and the press tried to portray him as a cold-blooded killer because he failed to show the ‘proper’ emotions.
          Like many people, Atif spoke to the police because he thought the truth would protect him. He didn’t understand that the police don’t talk to you unless you are a suspect. He focused on the stolen items because, I think, he was avoiding the trauma of having seen his family decimated. Whatever the case here, one thing is certain: no one knows how he or she would react in such circumstances. Ask yourself: what would you do if you faced an overwhelming catastrophe? You don’t know without being there.

  10. The prosecution didn’t have to go through any “gyrations” to discredit their alibi. The discrediting came out of their own mouths. They admitted they snuck out of the theatre to commit the murders.

        • Ken obviously wants to ignore the taped confession because in his eyes it was obtained illegally by US laws where the two were convicted. I have to admit that without that taped confession, I would have my doubts as to their guilt because I don’t want to believe that these two brilliant, witty, clean cut teens that any parent would be proud of could have committed such a heinous crime without remorse. It goes against the grain of what we in a civilized society perceive as good and evil.

  11. I am an attorney in the US and have always been drawn towards innocence project initiatives–but this case just doesn’t tingle my injustice meter for a few reasons.

    1. The fact that both defendants turned to an illicit organization to make money in the aftermath of the brutal slayings is perplexing. Both are impossibly bright and had the support of friends and family that would make their whole interaction with Mr. Big completely unnecessary.

    2. Putting their relaxed demeanor in the tapes aside, their effortless explanations of how they left the movie theater, systematically bludgeoned the family in a certain order, and were naked while committing the murders and showered afterwards perfectly explains away the alibi and lack of physical evidence. If they were just showing off false bravado to impress Mr. Big, why did Atif say he didn’t participate in murder…why not show that you are just as merciless as Burns?

    3. Burns had done the whole movie-theater-as-an-alibi defense for a fraudulent insurance claim complete with tampering of evidence before so he was no rookie to it. Fraud and murder are not the same…but this is evidence that shows a common pattern.

    4. Why would Muslim extremists, if we were to assume the alternative defendant’s theory of the crime, bother with taking a VCR and a Walkman? And how the extremists leave so little physical evidence? If they were such masters of crime, why did they not wait for Atif to be home to kill the whole family? And how, in the midst of a horrific murder scene, did they notice the two things missing so quickly…with nothing else taken?

    5. My last point is soft and has more to do with appearance. Both Sebastian and Atif come off arrogant and overly showy of their intelligence. If they were really smart they would realize that their demeanor doesn’t play well with most folks.

    Burns having sex with his first attorney shows a colossal lapse in judgment that would undermine his own liberty.

    Atif and Sebastian writing a fictional movie almost immediately after an ordeal that would ordinarily traumatize a person beyond comprehension for a long while is just downright obscene. His mother’s blood was barely dry and he’s writing some self serving film about it.

    Again, I’m a person that leans towards defendant’s rights and my heart is heavy for folks wrongfully convicted…but this just doesn’t make me question a whole lot. I appreciate your passion and applaud your efforts for the greater cause…but I’m not convinced that this specific case applies.

    God Bless…

    • I truly appreciate your non-abusive, thoughtful reply. The level of anger that this case engenders amazes me. I mean these two people are in prison for life, so why do you think others get so nasty about my support of them? Which is why your response is so refreshing. I’d like to take on a few of the issues you raised.
      1. Both defendants did not turn to an illicit organization to make money. Sebastian was chosen by the RCMP as an easy sting target because of his personal quirks (which I have interpreted as Aspergers). Burns did not understand how people saw him and he had difficulty reading other people. They tempted him with money and a sense of self-importance until he got in too deep. Plenty of adults have been trapped by Mr. Big, most guilty but a substantial number innocent. He was also vulnerable because many people in West Vancouver thought he was guilty and let him know it. The RCMP left Atif alone until the end because they thought he was too perceptive to fall for their ruse. As to support of friends and family, Rafay had no family after the killing and no relationship with his extended family. I’ve often wondered if the father (Tariq Rafay) had some argument or disagreement with the rest of his family. Atif was unaware of such, but I wonder why his father had no real contact with relatives outside of his own family. I do know that the elder Rafay, a civil engineer, made no friends in his own community when he showed that the mosques in Canada were not facing Mecca.
      You say they were “impossibly bright”. We all know from our own lives and from our children that, at eighteen or nineteen or even in your twenties, you can be smart but still do dumb things. Atif is very bright, but Sebastian was not in his league. I think Sebastian looked up to Atif and even imitated his intellectual proclivities, e.g. Nietzsche.
      Neither young man was particularly wealthy, especially the Rafays. They were sending Atif to Cornell. Their house was mortgaged. The Burnses had more, although not by the standards of where they lived. The motive given was money; they supposedly killed the Rafays for the insurance that would allow them to make a film. But why not kill the Burns family instead since they had so much more and Canada did not have the death penalty? The hideousness of the crime itself mitigates against anything but extreme hatred, insanity or fanaticism. That’s my view anyway.
      I’ll try to deal later with some of your remaining observations. I will admit that not everything is explicable but anyone who knows Atif, including people from our project, his friends, and his fellow prisoners, also knows that he was wrongly convicted.

    • As to your second set of observations, I have some commentary. Both of them had a stake in sounding as real as possible because Sebastian believed that the ‘gangsters’ could kill his family or dispose of him. Their threats were credible and Sebastian was skilled at fabrication. False confessions are generally the result of trying to convince the interrogator of your truthfulness so that the threat will be removed. The RCMP gangsters showed Sebastian a doctored newspaper report, indicating that the Washington police had DNA evidence against him and were preparing to charge both of them with the murder. If he was ‘solid’ and told them what they wanted to hear, they would make the charges go away. So they accounted for the facts of the case for self-preservation.
      Only Burns showed false bravado. Rafay adopted a nonchalance. (You could see why the police and public despised them.) Atif was there to save his friend but the situation was so unreal, since he had never had contact with these gangsters before. Foolishly, he couldn’t see how anyone would believe he participated in killing his whole family. I don’t see where Atif showing false bravado or not has any relevance.
      The scenario they used to explain away the murders (as you would have it) is actually patently absurd. Nor does it fit with the neighbors’ recollections of when the sounds of the murder were heard. Seidel, one of the neighbors, came back to his original story, i.e. the murders occurred at the same time Atif and Sebastian were seen at the theater, after the trial. The key to the case, aside from the lack of physical evidence, is the movie theater alibi, which is more likely than sneaking out and driving back to commit the murder. Ironically, they explained away their innocence to protect themselves.
      That is why it is dangerous to allow evidence that has been obtained without regard to the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Burns and Rafay, in their minds, were confessing to gangsters who obviously did not read them their Miranda rights. They had no reason to confess otherwise, because they were innocent.

    • Number 3:
      Movie as alibi? Yes, he had a car accident and didn’t want to own up to it at home. I admit that it shows a propensity to invent or deceive. Would it be fair to say that this is not an unusual trait in adolescents, boys or girls? The coincidence provides nothing in the way of hard evidence; it’s just a behavior trait that feeds into belief that may be true or false. Out of curiosity, are you familiar with the Amanda Knox case? The similarities are striking in that both cases resulted in convictions based on distasteful behavior (Knox and her boyfriend seemed uncaring and flippant to the police.)
      If we argued previous fabrications and obnoxious behavior as signs of guilt, many young people would be convicted if they are in reasonable proximity of a crime and happened to be picked up for questioning. This is the kind of ‘evidence’ that may pass muster in a courtroom but it didn’t convince me.

    • .4. Why would Muslim extremists, if we were to assume the alternative defendant’s theory of the crime, bother with taking a VCR and a Walkman? And how the extremists leave so little physical evidence? If they were such masters of crime, why did they not wait for Atif to be home to kill the whole family? And how, in the midst of a horrific murder scene, did they notice the two things missing so quickly…with nothing else taken?

      All reasonable questions. The VCR and the Walkman are odd unless you consider that in many a crime, the criminal, to hide the motive, may want the investigator to see it as a robbery. That could be true of Burns and Rafay but it could also be true of other people who wanted to kill them. If you walked into your own home and a VCR had been taken, would you notice it or not? What relevance does this bear on the case?
      How did Burns and Rafay leave so little evidence of the crime? There was a pubic hair in the parents’ bed that, after DNA testing, showed no relationship to anyone in the house. If one were to presume innocence, and in this case such a presumption is a joke for day one, the pubic hair might have belonged to one of the true killers. But no, the police and prosecutors said that it was a “stray”, brought in on someone’s clothing, as if people are shedding pubic hairs all over Washington and one just happens to wind up in the bed where a murder took place.
      As to Atif not being home, your query lacks the presumption of innocence. What if these killers were casing the house and waited for the two of them to leave? If their goal was to kill Tariq Rafay, and I believe it was, why would they want to have two late adolescents in the house who could mess up their plans? Like much of the evidence in this case, it can be interpreted as a sign of guilt or a sign of innocence. Why not the latter?

    • . My last point is soft and has more to do with appearance. Both Sebastian and Atif come off arrogant and overly showy of their intelligence. If they were really smart they would realize that their demeanor doesn’t play well with most folks.

      Burns having sex with his first attorney shows a colossal lapse in judgment that would undermine his own liberty.

      Atif and Sebastian writing a fictional movie almost immediately after an ordeal that would ordinarily traumatize a person beyond comprehension for a long while is just downright obscene. His mother’s blood was barely dry and he’s writing some self serving film about it.

      Again, I’m a person that leans towards defendant’s rights and my heart is heavy for folks wrongfully convicted…but this just doesn’t make me question a whole lot. I appreciate your passion and applaud your efforts for the greater cause…but I’m not convinced that this specific case applies.

      All good points if you presume guilt. And, of course, you are saying that all these things together don’t look good for the defendants. You are right about that, for sure. That’s why they were convicted. Even the school play where Sebastian substituted a baseball bat for a rope as the murder weapon. But let’s look closely.

      They were arrogant. Yes, I agree. If they were really smart, they wouldn’t have behaved that way. If they were smart, they would have gone to the funeral and wrung their hands at the graveside and you might have called them hypocrites. But Atif had no relationship with his relatives or with their religious beliefs. They had also been subjected to a week of questioning and forensic analysis. This stuff was very convincing to the public and the jury but, once again, no hard evidence.

      Burns having sex with his attorney shows colossal lack of judgment. You bet it does, and lack of judgment on the part of his attorney. Is it a sign of guilt or a person with an inability to see how his behavior appears to other people? But who is really way more to blame? The attorney. He had been in prison for over ten years in Canada, awaiting extradition. Could it be that he was horny and she was turned on to him?

      The movie issue is one I won’t attempt to counter. No matter how their behavior strikes an outsider, it does not indicate that they were horrific murderers. Atif’s not appearing devastated on the outside does not necessarily mean that he was unaffected by the killing of his family. Some of us hide our feelings, some of us repress them. If you saw Atif functioning in prison, you could see how his emotional control has been the key to his survival. Just the opposite for Sebastian who insisted on his innocence and made an open rebellion. He was justifiably angry but the prison knows what to do with anger.

      So, I may be wrong on some or all of these issues, but, if argued from scratch, the reasonable doubt appears overwhelming to me, especially given that they were prevented from mounting a full defense in the courtroom.

  12. Ken,
    I’ve read these posts carefully, my only comment is, Sebastian was not targeted by the RCMP sting squad because of his “personal quirks”, rather it was his propensity to commit crimes believing he was “too smart” to be convicted. He wasn’t. he is where he belongs ……….

    • I hope you’re wrong. Of course, certainty is not possible for either of us, and yet we’re both convinced of our own rightness. One of us has to be wrong, of course; that’s the only certainty.

  13. I saw this case on tv, when I heard that 911 call by Burns I thought to myself “that is someone acting” I have a pretty good fake-radar and that sounded really fake, the fake “hesitations” the tone of voice..not someone who has found their friend’s family brutally murdered. The fact that the killer(s) showered in the house, the lack of forced entry and the fact the mother was either attacked by surprise or knew the killer, the fact neither of them tried to help the sister (there really is no credible explanation for that) the fact Atif said he didn’t go to the funeral because she was “gross” and never really liked her much. The school play, the willing involvement with the fake mafia…Those are guilty, anyone who think they are innocent is seriously deluded or has very little insight into human psychology and criminal mind in general.

    • Your points are well taken although the word ‘fact’ can be elusive. Let’s take their scenario as true for a second: Do you know how you would act if you came into your family’s house and people had been murdered Would you stay inside if you thought the murderer might still be there? The ‘fact’ is that you don’t know what you would do because you’ve never been faced with it, and I sincerely hope you never will. Much of what you say does not point to guilt for the crime: e.g. the willing involvement with the fake mafia. Where does your knowledge of “human psychology” come from? Are you trained or do you just know?

      • The sister was still alive and moaning by the time the EMT’s arrived which suggests that she was still alive and moaning when Sebastian and Atif came home. The sister was severely autistic and Atif knew she was still in the house even if he didn’t see or hear her and if he truly was afraid the perps were in the house, he would have ran to the neighbors vs waiting outside the house for the police to arrive. The truth is, the Motive was the inheritance and the sister needed to die too.

  14. Ken why did they confess to the murder? Lets keep the argument of whether the sting operation was ethical or unethical. Also, the details of the crime were very incriminating. Then Sebastian admitted that he killed them naked and took a shower after killing leaving behind his hair with the victims blood. I am against the psychological torture of any one and that shouldn`t happen to any living being but you can’t deny the fact that both these boys were certainly guilty and deserved the sentences they got.

    • You make a lot of assumptions here, Bilal, most of which I do not agree with. The confessions, as you call them, were false confessions, done to placate the gangsters who Sebastian feared. The detials of the crime were not incriminating. If they were, we would never have supported them. According to our forensic expert, not a single piece of FORENSIC evidence exists that ties them to the bludgeoning of the Rafay family. As to the shower story, Sebastian had every reason to create a believable scenario; the gangsters told him that they would destroy (non-existent) DNA evidence, but only if he told them the truth, i.e. the truth they wanted to hear. He had spent months denying involvement in the crime. The confession tape is selective. Sebastian had been living in the house for days, hence his hair was in the shower. How often do you clean the hair out of your shower?
      I think you need to take a fresh look at the case and not be too concerned if your initial beliefs might possibly be wrong.

      • Why was there no other hairs mixed with the blood in the shower from an unidentified DNA source? or was there ?

        • A partial answer to Simon’s inquiry.
          According to a detailed evidence list, there were hair samples in the shower and on the drain that “did not have sufficient DNA material”. Some hairs were connected to Sebastian Burns, no great surprise since he’d been a visitor for several days. While Tariq Rafay’s blood was positively identified in the shower, other blood is labeled “not tested?” Work is now being done to locate and test these samples. There is also evidence “consistent with” (and how they drew this conclusion I do not know) a weapon being wiped off in the shower. “Not tested” appears a score of times in the evidence list, especially blood, hair and fingerprints.
          Frankly, the work on the case appears slipshod. That may well be the result of police “knowing” that Atif and Sebastian were guilty, i.e. tunnel vision.

  15. Burns did not fear the “gangsters”. In fact, quite the opposite. The only fear he had was that they might NOT be gangsters. For he was never 100% sure they weren’t undercover cops.

    But he was between a rock and hard place. So he rolled and dice…and lost.

    • “The only fear”. Why not both? He was, as you say, uncertain who they were, but would you yourself take a chance to find out if they were gangsters or not? Actually, Adam, I’m not sure what your statement implies. Are you saying that Sebastian is guilty because of the choice he made or because he was a homicidal maniac?

  16. Dr. Greg Hampikian, Idaho Innocence Project. (greghampikian@boisestate.edu.)

    Ken,
    says its not a valid address.

    • Hi Cindy,
      I’ve found out recently that they closed down the Idaho Innocence Project, no doubt for financial reasons. It’s a great loss. That’s why the e-mail no longer works.
      Ken

      • There you go ‘speculating’ again.. You don’t know why the Idaho Innocence Project headed by Dr. Greg Hampikian closed its doors whilst other chapters are still in operation. Most other ‘successful’ chapters limit their cases to DNA cases and since Sebastian and Atif’s DNA were found at the scene and all other DNA ruled out, this wouldn’t be a case that most ‘innocent project’ chapters would take on. BTW that lone pubic hair is minus the pulp for DNA testing and minus any sexual assault despite two of the victims being female, a staged robbery scene…and the only one that benefited from the murders that has come to light after all these years is Atif. Also, their alibi is not solid as they could have slipped out the back, committed the murders and slipped back into the movie theatre undetected by cameras or staff and none of the other patrons would have paid any attention to patrons leaving their seats and returning during the movie as movie goers often do to visit the snack bar or restrooms.

  17. Hi Ken I just today watched the 48 hours episode. I am very curious about this case. Why is Sebastian in confinement?I am struggling with this because I sort of believe atif but Sebastian not at all. Which makes me rethink a lot of this. How can I believe one and not the other?

    I am a fraud investigator so no where near an expert at murder investigations but am struggling with this

    I want to look into this more can you point me in the directions to why they are innocent?

    Of they left the movie theater why did investigators not get witnesses to say they left? What movie did they see? Surely they were not the only ones there . Someone would have seen them leave if they did. Was no credit card or debit used for purchase?

    Thanks

    Lisa

    • Hi Lisa,
      I appreciate your response. For some reason, the interest in this case appears to be reviving although it’s impossible to know whether this interest is coming from north or south of the border. Because the pair are imprisoned in the USA, I hope that people there begin to see the rank injustice. However, I’ll acknowledge that the responses split four ways: 1) hostility toward them and me, 2) genuine curiosity (which yours appears to be), 3) puzzlement as to how I could be so gullible to support them and 4) support for their innocence.
      I’ll try to answer your questions in order.
      First, the 48 HOURS piece and the accompanying book is maddening. While attempting to appear objective, they indulge in some demonizing, i.e. they can’t help but give in to the temptation of lurid journalism.
      Sebastian is in solitary for what appears to be a couple of reasons. He can’t fit in to the prison “society” and he has resisted his conviction from the start. He even tried a hunger strike for a while but the prison can deal with overt resistance. Rubin Carter discovered this early on and learned passive resistance that allowed him to preserve his dignity and sense of self. Sebastian. like Rubin, could not accept being called an offender, but he has to date not found a satisfactory response, unless being thought of as incorrigible and preferring to be alone can be called a response.
      If you don’t believe in Sebastian’s innocence, then you can’t believe in Atif’s. They were together.
      Why do I think they are innocent? As I’ve written in these responses and in the blog, there is no forensic evidence tying them to an impossibly bloody crime, there is evidence of a clearly prejudicial trial and their alibi is unimpeachable. Which brings us to your final point: the movie theater. They saw the Lion King that night. They were seen in the theater. No one saw them leave but then no one they asked saw them in the theater after the film. (Do you remember seeing people you know when you leave a movie theater?) This set of circumstances caused the police to concoct a ridiculous scenario wherein they deliberately made themselves noticed by complaining that the scrim was still covering the movie screen, left the theater when the movie began, drove home, murdered the Rafays and then went out on the town, returning home to discover the bodies they had murdered. I never believed that, especially when such a murder would induce a lifetime of PTSD. I also believed the neighbors who heard the thuds and the noises at nearly the same time that Rafay and Burns were seen at the theater. My question has always revolved around reasonable doubt. If that is the legal standard, why was the bizarre scenario believed when the more reasonable one (i.e. they were innocent) was rejected? I think it speaks to how they were perceived and not the evidence.
      The credit card question doesn’t seem relevant to me.

      • I asked about credit card for witnesses I am sure they never talked to everyone that night and it just seems they never really tried to.

        I am Canadian.

  18. I am very sad to read the latest about Sebastien,,, I used to live at Vancouver and he was a close friend of mine. Most of you commenting do not even know him. yes he has the mind to write a movie or a book but he can never kill a soul. he is a very soft guy from deep within and no amount of money will make him do such horrible thing. as a matter of fact Sebastian was calling me when he was on this trip and he did call me the night of the crime and he refused to tell the police at the time about his calls to me so he does not involve me in such a mess so it does not upset my family. I’m not writting this to convince anyone anything but I just felt to express my feelings after all these years and simply say I miss u seb.

    • Hi Julia,
      Your e-mail comes as a welcome note since our team of people met yesterday to discuss the situation in light of the latest court ruling on Mr. Big. I too am pained every day when I think of what he and his parents have gone through. The media created two monsters to fit the terrible crime in which neither of them had a part. It’s a tragedy of the worst order, so bad and evil on every level that it’s incomprehensible. The reports on him are discouraging to say the least but I am going to relay your note; it might make him feel a bit better and that’s worth a lot.
      Thank you. I know that others suffer from this case as well.
      Ken

  19. Thank you ken
    I hope it does make any difference however I believe whatever Sebastian has been through with the right help he will come around , I mean he’s very intelligent and his mind won’t fail him. I can’t begin to imagine what his family has been through. it’s terrible but I’m sure they will not give up or loose faith. I hope he will remember me, call me a fool I believe he will, and I just hope he can get back on track, behind bars or not this is not how Sebastien was meant to live or to leave this world, this is not what we all use to see for his future and definitely not what he had in mind. I pray he will get back his strength.

    • Julia,
      You never know, of course. But it’s discouraging to deal with a legal system that forces you to take so much time. They have all the weapons to delay the process and all the means to preserve their conviction. It takes a miracle to break through, but miracles happen; Rubin Carter was a perfect example. If you haven’t seen “Hurricane” with Denzel Washington, I would suggest you rent it. It’s the story of a man (Rubin Carter) who rose from the lowest level of existence and was reborn into a world of infinite possibility. He died this year but his spirit lingers. If Sebastian is able to find himself in there, to somehow awaken, that would be the first miracle.

  20. I’ve been following this case for a while – the brutality of the crime, the unlikely suspects, the bizarre behavior of these boys (now men) make the case very intriguing for those of us not directly involved. I hold contradictory opinions on the case: I actually believe they’re guilty. On the other hand, I’m not comfortable with the Mr. Big set-up, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable for them to be retried.

    I think what bothers me more than the sting, though, are the witnesses who heard the murders at the same time Rafay and Burns were known to be in the theater. If it was one witness, I could pass it off as an inaccurate recollection. But there were two…this is the only puzzle piece that doesn’t fit, in my opinion.

    • Hi Gina,
      There is much in this case that doesn’t pass the smell test, does not compute, or, as you say, does not fit. I would say that an outsider’s opinion is shaped by various media sources; their reporting is filtered through their opinion of the case. The opinion comes from editorial staff or whomever. They are seen as guilty; therefore any piece of the puzzle that does not fit is explained away. DNA was found in the house that did not belong to anyone living there, including Sebastian Burns. Okay, since they must be guilty, it’s obvious that the DNA is stray DNA, brought in on the Rafay’s clothing. The better explanation is that there were other people in the house doing the murder. Or the neighbors saying that they heard the killings at 10 p.m. Since Atif and Sebastian must be guilty, the neighbors must have had the time wrong. I actually put together a chart of items: one side is presumed innocent, the other presumed guilty. The problem is that a defendant should be presumed innocent; they were not.
      The insider’s view, the one I have because I know Atif personally and know people who were close to Sebastian, is that they were incapable of either committing or participating in such a crime as the bludgeoning of human beings. It’s common sense that someone who has never committed a violent crime could possibly kill in the most violent way. The trial was a travesty because the judge was prejudiced against them. And the police saw them as a pair of wise guys–which maybe they were back then. But killers? No. The crime was done either by maniacs or by fanatics, which in my opinion is much the same thing. Look around the world and see what fanatical people do to each other.
      Ken

  21. Sorry but you are using opinions as facts. You say people who knew them “know” they couldn’t commit this crime, but you’re not really making any type of valid point with that argument because just because you “think” you know someone doesn’t mean you actually do. Lots of proven first time murderers were able to pull the wool over the eyes of their loved ones before the definitive evidence came to light.
    Unfortunately, the amout of credibility you give to the “opinions” of people who knew or know Atif and Sebastian, rather than the actual facts of the case, leads me to question the credibility of the rest of your arguments, and whether or not you are seeing this entire case through a bias lense.

    I have been following this case since I read the book 6 years ago, at first I was convinced of their innocence, but upon revisiting the case over the last year or so I am starting to wonder if they might have actually done it. That being said, I really haven’t been able to come to an ultimate conclusion on their guilt or innocence. I would really like to see other possible suspects further investiaged, which I haven’t been able to find much information about in my research online.

    • Dellafonte,
      If the comment about the people who knew them were all that has been said on this site, I would completely agree with you. The context, however, is that people say Burns and Rafay are guilty because of the way they behaved after the crime, or that they are sociopaths, psychopaths and the like. All I’m saying is that others who knew them personally had a completely different view of their characters, not that they are innocent because of this.
      In your research, did you come across the religious fundamentalist angle? I am going to post a pre-trial cross examination of the lead detective that may make you question the degree to which other suspects were followed. It may also lead you to question the fairness of the trial.

    • Jeff Robinson (Burns’ lawyer) I want to move to a different topic now. Do you recall several days after the homicides being approached by and interviewing a man named Douglas Mohammed?
      Detective Thompson (Bellevue Police): Yes.
      Q: I can show you a report to help with the dates. I’m going to show you this, which is a copy from Detective Gomes’ police reports. July 18 is the date at the top of that page. Is that right?
      A: Yes, it is.
      Q: And then if you turn to the next page, is there an indication that along about 2:45 in the afternoon you and
      Q: Detective Gomes interviewed Douglas Mohammed?
      A: Yes.
      Q: And Mr. Mohammed gave you an address and phone number to contact him, didn’t he?
      A: Yes.
      Q: And he told you that he was Egyptian?
      A: Yes.
      Q: And he told you that he was affiliated with some FBI agents?
      A: Yes.
      Q: He then described a concern he had about, that might relate to the Rafay homicides. Is that right?
      A: Yes.
      Q: And he told you that there were different factions in the Muslim community?
      A: Yes.
      Q: Both in Seattle and in Vancouver, British Columbia?
      A: Yes.
      Q: And he told you that one of these factions was headed by a particular man, whose name and address he gave you. Is that right?
      A: Yes.
      Q: And he told you that this man preached that those that did not accept his translation of the Koran should be killed?
      A: Yes.
      Q: And he told you that this man’s interpretation of the Koran was an extremely violent one?
      A: Yes.
      Q: He told you that this man owned a gas station and he gave you the location of that gas station?
      A: Yes.
      Q: And he told you about several other people that were in this man’s group let’s call it?
      A: Yes, he did.
      Q: And he told you that on the Friday after the homicides, one of these men that was in this group came to his house and appeared to be very nervous and frightened?
      A: Yes.
      Q: And he indicated that this man who was nervous and frightened was asking whether he, Mr. Mohammed, remembered a baseball bat that had been carried around by group members in a car. Do you recall that?
      A: Can you give me a second just to read through this on the baseball bat issue?
      Q: Yes, absolutely.
      A: Yes, I do recall that.
      Q: And he was saying that he thought the baseball bat could have been the murder weapon?
      A: Yes.
      Q: On August 2,——
      COURT: Go over that again. He told of this baseball bat being where? I lost that.
      A: He had come to the police department and said there’s some people he knew that carried a, basically carried a baseball bat in their car.
      (BY MR. ROBINSON)
      Q: And that the man who came to his house that was a member of the group we’ve described was nervous and frightened and was asking him, Mr. Mohammed, like hey, do you remember that baseball bat we were carrying around?
      A: Yes.
      Q: So a person in the group that Mr. Mohammed suspected might be involved in the homicides was asking Mr. Mohammed about a baseball bat?
      A: That’s correct.
      Q: And on August 2nd of 1994, on or about that date, do you recall applying for the return of search warrant to be sealed by a district court judge?
      A: I do recall having a search warrant sealed.
      Q: And it was after July 18, wasn’t it?
      A: I don’t remember. Well, yes, counselor, it would be after July 18.
      Q: And one of the things you said in the request to seal that search warrant is that there was evidence that was outlined in the warrant return that only the investigating detectives or the killers would know?
      A: Yes.
      Q: And one of the things you placed into that category only the investigating detectives or the killers would know was the fact that the murder weapon might have been a baseball bat?
      A: Yes.
      Q: And Douglas Mohammed was talking about a baseball bat before that information had ever been released to anybody in the public. Am I right?
      A: Yes.
      Q: And Mr. Mohammed went further and told you that this group leader had actually made a specific threatening statement about Mr. Tariq Rafay, didn’t he?
      A: Yes.
      Q: He said that this man had indicated that Tariq Rafay should be killed because of Mr. Tariq Rafay’s interpretation of the Koran?
      A: Yes.
      Q: Detective Gomes obviously prepared this report some time after July 18?
      A: Yes.
      Q: It was in your file when the RCMP came down in March and February of ’95?
      A: Yes.
      Q: And by the way, you did confirm that Douglas Mohammed was actually an informant for the FBI, didn’t you?
      A: Yes.

    • Erica,
      There is DNA from blood that didn’t belong to anyone living in the home at the time. But it would be dishonest of me to say that the absence of THEIR DNA would exonerate them. This aspect of the case is going to be re-examined.

  22. Ken,
    Yes it should be re-examined.. I just actually learned about the case 2 days ago.. I reshearched online since then and to me… I wasnt convinced they did it.. To me their police department didnt do the proper search they we’re suppose to do.

  23. Also there was a man who confessed to the police while in questioning to killing his 14yr old cousin which he also failed the polygraph test too.. He was charged and sentenced to DEATH. He sat 16 yrs in prison which 15yrs on death row. Police/everyone was convinced he done it.. well wouldnt you?? I mean he confessed and failed polygraph test.. He was innocent all along!!! Although he confessed/failed test forensics show otherwise. Due to poor investigating.They quickly released him. It was a false confession. So lets say they did execute him… shouldnt the law be subject to being convicted to murder since they killed a innocent man… people wake up there are way more wrongfully confessions then you think. At the times of these murders the boys were young and impressionable, so Sabastian thought he was in danger of being harmed if he didnt confess… I wouldbt put it past the sting “”Mr.Big” into forcing him what to say.. I think they be set free!

  24. Burns and Rafay are in prison for a reason. It is very obvious that they are guilty but for some of you defending them, a videotape of them committing this crime wouldn’t be enough to convince you. That’s okay. Spend the rest of your lives trying to get them out of prison. It won’t do you any good.

    • If it were obvious, no one would help them. If I saw them committing this crime on videotape, I wouldn’t be helping them. The problem is that the case against them is built on prejudice like yours and fantasy. If the current smell test for Mr. Big operations were in place then (as it is now), they would have been acquitted. Evidence from the sting is inherently inadmissible without substantial corroboration.
      What good does it do you to mock others’ efforts, James?

  25. So was this Atif fellow bankrolling their lifestyle together in Vancouver from the proceeds of his family’s murder? Just seems odd that they would continue to want to associate with one another for several years; almost like they were in a relationship.

    • Not sure what you mean by “several years”, Don? And they were friends, yes. Are you trying to suggest that they were gay, with the word “relationship”? They weren’t but is that relevant? Do you believe the story that they bludgeoned a family to death for money? What would you do, Don, if your family was murdered (although I hope that never happens)? Would you accept or turn down the insurance settlement? How would you feel if people said you must have done the killing because you accepted the money?
      What I’m suggesting here is that you indulged in the same kind of negative speculation that resulted in their conviction. They were presumed guilty and all else followed from there.

      • Ken, I think Don might be referring to the kind of things they did with the money, living a kind of high-life.
        I found it curious that Sebastian wouldn’t live at home with his supportive parents when he was broke and without job prospects.
        In fact, I found it odd that all three lived together at all, knowing they were under investigation.
        They weren’t exactly living under the radar either. Unmentioned in this video, all three behaved aggressively and antagonistically towards their neighbours on several occasions.
        But, you’d probably explain away all those things anyway, with the same “only kids” and “how were they supposed to behave” ?

  26. I was watching CBC 5th Estate a few minutes back and that’s how I learned about Sebastian’s and Atif’s. I truly feel their innocence now that I am more matured and better educated about the system to fully understand what they have gone through, but looking back when I was much younger and not versed of the system, I thought the were the culprits. I will be a juror in the next months (in a different case), I promised myself that I will do the best that I can to spare the innocents.

    • Hi Den,
      It’s nice to see someone make such a constructive statement. It’s not just about this case but about being a good citizen as well. Unfortunately, Den, you will probably not get chosen for a jury because prosecutors usually weed out open-minded people like yourself.

  27. Great little tidbit/look into the case there w/ the interview regarding Douglas Mohammed! I don’t understand why this angle hasn’t been further investigated by law enforcement or investigators for the defence. I would be a lot more inclined to believe in their innocence if there was another plausible suspect on the radar. As I said before, I did believe in their innocence for years until I revisited their body language in court on the 5th estate episode and now I’m really on the fence as to the circumstantial evidence in this case. What a crazy case!

    • I also have a police report that details a series of interviews and follow up phone numbers, leads that were neither pursued nor used in the courtroom. I will send it on to you.

      • Hi Ken, I am very interested in this angle as well. Could you send me the full police report? I am helping Loretta look into some things. Thank you!

        • Hi Margaret,
          I’m not sure what ‘angle’ you are referring to. Please clarify. Police reports? On which aspect of the case?
          Be happy to oblige when I know the specifics.
          Ken

    • Thanks, Ken!

      I am interested in the Mohammed tip. The report I am looking for is the one you mentioned above in this quote:

      “I also have a police report that details a series of interviews and follow up phone numbers, leads that were neither pursued nor used in the courtroom.”

      I am trying to figure out what might have made Dr. Rafay a target and so I would be interested in any documents you have that discuss specifics about this. I have read comments that Dr. Rafay wrote a paper and/or computer program involving the matter of which is the correct direction to face during prayer. But I cannot find any references to any publications by Dr. Rafay. In one of Mr. Robinson’s cross examinations of Detective Thompson, he asked Mr. Thompson if he was aware of a paper Dr. Rafay was writing. So perhaps it was never published. Was Douglas Mohammed the only source for the information re: the mecca controversy?

  28. To clarify – my point is not that Thompson couldn’t have known about the report because it wasn’t published – but why Robinson implied that Dr. Rafay was still writing it at the time of his death. Perhaps Robinson meant to say “wrote” instead of “writing”

  29. These guys confessed and their confessions was not under duress. They were relaxed and jovial discussing details of the murders not released to the public. Yes they saw the bodies but the fine details collected by forensic experts were not released yet these two criminals know about them.
    Guilty 100%.

    • These points that Sam makes are certainly of interest and need to be dealt with. I’d ask him how he knows that they were not under duress? How does anyone know what is going on inside another person by the way they appear on the surface? Has he ever played poker? Is it possible that Sebastian and Atif were displaying bravado? (The same problem arose in the Amanda Knox debacle when the authorities assumed, by the way Amanda and her boyfriend were interacting, that they must be cold and calculating criminals.) Forensic scientists agree that even with the most sophisticated scientific equipment developed over the past three years–brain scans–the ability to know whether someone is telling the truth is at best 70%. Before the current equipment was developed, the success of gauging a person’s truthfulness by surface appearance was no better than 50/50.
      Sam’s other point includes the fiction that the prosecutors continue to imply: i.e. forensic evidence exists that would have convicted them. By employing the RCMP sting, the police and prosecutors were actually implying that their forensic evidence was completely inadequate. In fact, I’d say that the forensic evidence was non-existent. “…the fine details collected by forensic experts were not released yet these two criminals kn(e)w about them.” I challenge Sam to come up with these ‘fine details’ or admit that he has no idea what he is talking about. There is a difference between forensic evidence and b.s. from false confessions that the suspect feels compelled to say in order to embellish his story. If Sam is referring to ‘holdback’ evidence, then he’d have to find corroboration. In light of the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the Hart case, Mr. Big could not have been utilized in this case.

  30. I can buy the Islamic extremist theory, but in that case I don’t see the perpetrator needing to shower after the murder. I can explain away a lot of things, but I have to believe that only someone who was very comfortable in the house would spend time showering in the home. And certainly it would explain why no blood was found on Atif and Sebastian’s clothes. Any thoughts on this? Thx

    • Blood was found on the bottom of Atif’s pants. It was an extremely bloody scene–I’ve seen photos–and if one’s family was splattered all over the walls, one might brush past or over some blood.
      Of course the killers would shower. They killed them for religious reasons but it doesn’t mean they wanted to go out and possibly be stopped with blood on their clothes and bodies.
      “Comfortable in the house”–the family was dead and they knew that Atif and Sebastian had gone out. Someone told me that they might revel in the fact that they took revenge on two generations.

  31. Hi Ken,

    I recently listened to your interview on Injustice Everywhere (hope I got the title right) and you make some persuasive arguments regarding the physical evidence and leads that were not explored by the police.

    I’m wondering if any DNA testing on the unknown blood and hair found in the Rafay’s home, similar in the way that people have done to determine their genetic ancestry. From what I understand through my own genealogical research, a general ancestral profile can be made. Would this not go a long way in either excluding or including Sebastian Burns ?

    Any further information or thoughts on this subject?

    • Hi Allyson,
      An excellent question, I am sure everyone would agree. I have no up-to-date information about the DNA testing that is taking place (or will take place) in this case. However, since you’ve asked, I will consult with an expert and get back to you about it. The pubic hair found in Tariq Rafay’s bed was supposed to be the smoking gun that would have confirmed Sebastian’s and Atif’s guilt. After all, Sebastian was supposed to have done the murders while wearing boxer shorts. When the profile was found not to fit anyone in the home, including Sebastian, the pubic hair, in a textbook case of tunnel vision, became a “stray” that had been brought in on someone’s clothing. If the sample still exists, it would be of great interest to know the ethnicity but I don’t know if such a thing is possible. I’ve never been given the information about the blood testing. As I say, I will get back about it.

    • I was able to get this answer from our DNA person:
      “Great point! Yes. We now have good tools if there is DNA available to test. We can’t from the old crime lab data.”
      So, in sum, you can even determine ethnicity from DNA. Hope that helps.
      Ken

      • Thanks for the answer, Ken. I already knew this was possible, as my family have had it done.

        So, there is no DNA from the case available anymore? I always thought samples were kept along time…that’s unfortunate.

  32. Aggressive police interrogation tactics do sometimes cause false confessions and wrongful convictions but not in this case. Rafay and Burns are guilty and are exactly where they should be.

    • Leonard,
      I’d be interested to know why you are so certain, because maybe, if you have facts that point undeniably to their guilt, I can stop working for their freedom. Innocence work is not easy, let me tell you. You’re in for a mile.
      I do agree, however, with the first part of your sentence. That alone should give you pause.

  33. I used to think Burns & Rafay were guilty as sin. Now, I don’t. Not so sure about their other former best friend for life, “Jimmy Miyoshi” who has declared his love for Al-Qaeda and Jihad from his new home in Japanistan…

    I would recommend anyone who is convinced that Burns & Rafay are guilty of murdering the Rafay family to do the following:

    1. Watch the 48 Hours documentary ‘Perfectly Executed’ (2005, updated 2007). You can find it on Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Knq7KuRg4xM It alone is NOT likely not going to change your mind, but it really helps to watch the whole documentary.

    2. If you can, get a copy of the book with the same name ‘Perfectly Executed’ by Peter Van Sant. It’s definitely worth reading.

    Pay attention to the explanation regarding Sebastian’s father Dave Burns; it might sound awfully trivial, but understanding Dave is British (originally from Liverpool but speaks apparently with received pronunciation) plus specific mannerisms especially before speaking or answering even simple questions particular to both Dave & his son, helps understand how Sebastian’s manner of speech likely comes across ALOT more arrogant than he intends to or realizes.

    When reading the book, it is clear that Dave Burns is no fan of Americans – and immediately from the start when he called Bellevue Police looking for his son, he raised the hackles of almost each cop he called – pissing them off (or him getting pissed off at their attitude – the first cop bristled at the US being referred to as a ‘foreign country’ and tried to lecture him on it ). I’m not saying you’ll end up looking at Burns (or Rafay) in a more sympathetic light (they still come across as highly unlikeable arrogant immature teens) BUT it helped me understand Burns (and to a degree, the Burns family in their approach during the trial) were continually unaware on how they came across not just as arrogant, but at many times, deceitful or hostile.

    But more importantly, spend time looking up the witness testimony of neighbors on both sides of the Rafay home – that placed loud muffled thumping noises from 2050 to 2230 in the Rafay residence. It’s important as it establishes when the murders likely took place… between 2050 and 2230.

    We have the following…multiple independent witnesses that place Burns & Rafay clearly elsewhere from 2045 -2130 at the Keg & 2150-2215 at the theater.

    a) claims by Burns & Rafay that they left the Rafay residence from 2030

    b) witnesses that indicate they saw Tariq Rafay and daughter Basma leave in a car shortly after 2030; no one sees them return but presumably they do.

    c) 2045 – 2130 Burns & Rafay arrival at the Keg restaurant confirmed by multiple witnesses, and their stay until 2130 confirmed by multiple witnesses.

    d) 2150-1015 Burns & Rafay purchase movie tickets and 1015 indicates the latest time their presence could be established by independent witnesses.

    If it’s clearly the case that Sultana Rafay was likely killed as she was praying on a prayer mat in the basement of the Rafay residence, then she would have been doing so before 2200 [ http://www.timeanddate.com/sun/usa/seattle?month=7&year=2000 indicates a ‘sunset’ of 2105 & a ‘civil twilight’ of 2144 ]

    Even if they had wanted to do it, it would appear physicially impossible for Burns & Rafay to have done it.

    Other possibilities? Let’s say their Mr. Big confessions weren’t completely bullshit in order to appease or impress the RCMP undercover “vaginal-fly traps”. In that case, their buddy James “Jimmy” Hiroshi Miyoshi aka James Hiroshi Kira travels down to Bellevue, WA separately – maybe with Robin Puga, do ‘their thing’ and then head back up to Vancouver … with Jimmy being the one who leaves behind the ‘coarse’ pubic hair on the bed. In that still highly unlikely scenario, dopey “Joeboy” really does become the criminal mastermind.

    Burns & Rafay might as well have confessed to the March 1995 poison gas attacks by doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo in Tokyo, Japan as part of their taped confessions but, again unless they had some magical teleportation device allowing them to be in two places at the same time, claiming it or saying it wouldn’t make it true.

    At the time of the murders and even at the time of the trials, hardly anyone in law enforcement in the US or Canada would have a clue on sectarian violence within the Muslim community between Sunni & Shia or even within the Sunni community attacking moderates like Tariq Rafay. Almost 20 years later, there seems to be a little more understanding — when not busy, detaining turbaned Sikhs for looking suspicious…

    • It is obvious that you’ve followed this case extensively and with an open mind. I hope the questions you raise are a source of discomfort (however small) to the people who keep them imprisoned by routinely denying their valid appeals. At the very least, their rights were violated. But then, if judges presume their guilt, it doesn’t matter to them that the US Constitution is flouted. That’s the horror of wrongful convictions; our supposed ‘inalienable’ rights no longer protect us, but do protect the police and prosecutors.

      • In my comment, I didn’t bother to address the validity of the Mr. Big confessions as I know from my own case, my initial gut reaction was of simple rationalization: “Hey, those two probably did it… look at the way they’re acting… so what if there’s supposed issues with that method? Here, the ends justify the means…”

        Moreover the multiple denials on camera from the RCMP undercover officers on how they maintained they did not coerce, threaten or lead their suspects to believe that their lives (and lives of their family) were truly at risk. They kept coyly indicating “well, if they chose to believe that…” (indicating it wasn’t their problem if suspects made those conclusions) — if someone chose to doxx them & their family online however, you can be sure they’d be crying bloody murder over it (including this statement which is NOT meant to incite such an act … but wait, for the fucking supeona which will only prove my point)

        In fact, when it comes to criminal extortion and threats, the most powerful ones (including ones that LEO takes seriously) are not overt blustering ones like “I’m gonna kill you!!” but it’s the implied threats that reference knowledge of the target’s residence, addresses of family and other loved ones that hit home. One creepy but counter-intuitively effective method used by Japanese organized crime is to send by home delivery an expensive present meant for the target’s children like a train set; it says to the target “I know where you f***ing live” and “I get you and your family anytime I like…” In this case, these Asian gangsters are more sincere than the RCMP as they will at least admit to the effectiveness of this extortion method.

        However, now when I review the comments from the Bellevue police, RCMP, King’s County Prosecutors … right down to the thousands of people who have followed & commented on this case, I’m taken aback at the glaring gaps in logical thinking and near-fanatical rationalization that drives them to their conclusions the two are guilty – and how their ‘Mr. Big’ confession method only extracts ‘the truth’. Witness the insistence by the RCMP undercover detective interviewed by Peter Van Sant on how his methods only extracted “the truth”.

        Reading Van Sant’s book also helps understand the back story to a lot of the hugely damning video evidence presented at trial and online.

        However, the thing that now gets me is how the jury managed to resolve the big question on how the two suspects, Burns & Rafay, could have magically been in two places at the same time… with their presence at the Keg restaurant (7 mins drive according to Google https://goo.gl/maps/DvwiVS9FSPM2 ) and the movie theater (8 mins drive according to Google https://goo.gl/maps/D3hDgW4jdp92) confirmed by multiple independent witness accounts from 2045 to 2130 & 2150-2215 respectively. The testimony from neighbors on both side of the Rafay residence indicate the beating sounds were from 2050 to 2230…

        For anyone commenting on “how Burns to them fits the classic profile of someone with narcissist personality disorder – and therefore he must be guilty” or some other similar commentary, I’d encourage them to review just the time/location testimony for evening of July 12th 1994 as per court transcripts, evidence presented by the Prosecution and as recounted in Van Sant’s book. They may try, as I have, to figure out whether someone speeding back & forth between the two locations and the Rafay residence might have been able to commit the murders during that time.

        Or, they may argue that the independent testimony of the neighbors was completely flawed & false as the State Prosecutors implied – and declare the murders were committed from 2222 (7 mins from their last confirmed sighting at the theater) until 2300 [the two were confirmed as having been at Steve’s Broiler in Seattle which would have taken a 20 min drive: https://goo.gl/maps/NnPaLKUVWtH2 ] … an alleged feat that still defies a logical explanation.

        My guess is that the jurists were defiinitely in part fatigued, distracted, and influenced by their distaste for Burns’ testimony & cross-examination by Prosecution. Definitely ‘dislikeable’ in many aspects, creepy & arrogant too – but still, not someone you consider capable of teleporting a la Star Trek for the sake of a multiple homicide.

        If Burns’ initial defense counsel, Teresa Olson, had not been caught having sex with him August 2002, it’s possible that the trial would have had a decidedly different outcome. She definitely had a better handle on the case (as far as defense counsel went) than anyone else.

        It was Teresa who initially traveled to Tokyo and located the elusive Jimmy Miyoshi working at Lehman Brothers investment bank in 2002 (this all in the Van Sant book plus details posted online). Jimmy’s comments indicated by Teresa Olson in the summer of 2002 seem to inidcate that something shifted significantly after Prosecutors reached out to him through Lehman Brothers Japan… the fact that he has been an angry disillusioned self-declared Al-Qaeda Jihadist since 2008 indicates that Jimmy probably wasn’t all there from the beginning.

        Good luck with your project. I know that one needs to address the legal, constitutional aspects of the Mr. Big issue first & foremost. From a general public point of view, even if one clearly articulates the issue of false confessions, many hear you, but unconsciously chose not to listen. The assumption of probable guilt of all or most suspects is so strong in so many people’s minds, they’ll gloss over those “minor inconsistencies” in a split second.

        One almost needs to dumb themselves down to identify ad articulate the clearest practical contradiction for the common man or woman to understand. If you need any cues on reaching this demographic, take a look at the current factors favoring the top political candidates for the US Presidency (or if you’re Canadian, I guess the past populist success of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is a weak substitute).

        • There is so much here to look at that I need to summarize. A lot of what you are suggesting falls under the umbrella of ‘tunnel vision’, a phenomenon that affects the public even more than the police and prosecutors (some of whom may just be cynical). They WANT Burns and Rafay to be guilty, therefore everything they find must lead to their guilt. They were seen in the movie theater, so they must have gone to The Lion King to establish an alibi and then sneaked out the side door. Every damning but false detail that Burns gave to the RCMP was gobbled up like manna. If I were to post something (or if there were a news story) that said: Burns and Rafay found innocent” a lot of people would be hoping that the story was a hoax. They don’t want to be wrong, especially when the stakes are so high.
          I’ve stated before that Jimmy Miyoshi was damaged by the process of having to falsely testify against his friends, although he did what 99% of people would have done in the circumstances. 1. He was under threat of being prosecuted for the crime as an accessory and faced life in prison and 2. Atif and Sebastian had confessed. My view is that he may have been a very decent person who valued truth and friendship but was forced to go against his better self. Then again, he may have had something wrong with him to begin with. Who knows?

  34. They are guilty. No doubt. Pretty sad to think they could get away with it. There are other legal ways to make money. But 18 year olds do stupid stuff.

    • Scot,
      “No doubt”, you write. That might be a problem in your thinking, as opposed to the many problems with their case. But “stupid stuff” hardly describes the bludgeoning of a family and making money does not figure as a motive for such brutal violence. What is ‘sad’ is that they were wrongly convicted. What is tragic is a series of unsolved murders in the Muslim community–and we believe that the Rafays were another of these–over a span of more than twenty years.

  35. I have followed this since the beginning, and have no doubt about their guilt.
    When I saw the news footage of them laughing and running to the car, jumping in and avoiding the funeral, I knew.
    Then, along with all the other evidence, there’s no doubt about it.

    But I have a question : Who inherited the Rafay’s estate?

    • You saw the news footage and they certainly looked like they didn’t care, but you don’t know what came before. I’d like to pose a question to you: If they had worn mourning suits and wiped away tears at the graveside, would it make them more or less guilty? Easier to be a hypocrite, no? What you saw proves nothing at all.

    • I have mixed feelings about this case. On the one hand I really have a problem with people who use the boys’ behaviour after the murder and around the time of the funeral as a sign of guilt. It’s completely irrelevant. I found the dead body of a friend many years ago. It was a very gruesome setting and I was incredibly shocked by what happened. I’m still quite upset today when I think about it. The important thing is you’ve no idea how you will react until you’re in that situation. I was also aware of the fact that the police were watching me quite closely and felt horribly self conscious about that too which then feeds into how you behave outwardly in all kinds of weird ways. I was also quite socially awkward when I was very young so that had an impact too. All I remember of that time is there were all these incredibly powerful emotions smashing into each other inside my head producing all kinds of weird results.

      Another big factor in their favour is the neighbours’s evidence which is compelling, particularly when considered alongside the informant’s evidence.

      I have no problem with the idea that Mr Big confessions shouldn’t be allowed in court. There is a huge risk that someone would make a false confession.

      On the other hand, the bit that I saw of the confession is really convincing. This is where I have real difficulty. They way the look at each other and the things that are said. It feels like an honest confession. I only saw a few seconds of the secret video so there may be a whole lot more there in the build up to that moment. But my gut reaction is to think they really might have done it. I can understand why people might think the end justifies the means although I don’t agree with that.

      • I appreciate AJ’s reference to his own awful experience. It is absolutely true that one’s reaction to a gruesome event is completely unpredictable. Simply to see such a thing might produce a lifetime of P.T.S.D.
        As to the confessions, I’d say two things. First, the RCMP was under no obligation to produce the months of denials that led up to the “confessions”. All you see are the moments that resulted in their convictions.
        Okay, so you are convinced by what you saw nonetheless. Objects of the Mr. Big sting operation are forced to act the part they are playing in order to convince Big Al that they are “solid”. Isn’t it possible (for me, likely) that what you are seeing is Sebastian’s acting ability. He needs to be convincing or else he will suffer the consequences of not being a solid member of the gang. That confession is inherently tainted because it was coerced, there were no Miranda warnings, and it was not made to the police in a controlled environment. It was made to police who were behaving like gangsters. My contention is that both sides were acting a part.

        • Thanks Ken. Actually I saw a different documentary last night which changed my mind again. Mr Big feels threatened by his association with the boys and their own legal issues and needs the boys to confess so that they’re on the level. That’s the set up. There is such a strong threat there if they don’t confess to him that they might end up in a ditch themselves. How on earth is a confession like that given any credibility.

          The thing I wanted to say yesterday but didn’t is you do such an awesome job. I wish I could do something even a hundredth as useful as this in my working life.

          • Thanks! Your conclusion, i.e. those confessions lack credibility–has been taken up by the Supremem Court of Canada. They placed many restrictions on the technique, especially utilizing it against challenged or youthful people and using it in the absence of forensic evidence. The Washington trial was also a violation of 5th Amendmend rights which apply to both US citizens and foreign nationals who are tried in US courts.
            Try getting an appeals court to confirm the obvious.

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