The Republic of Lies

The US Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Brett Kavanaugh’s suitability to be a judge on the Supreme Court–a lifetime position–reinforces the perception that the United States of America is now a republic of lies. The entire government, Republicans and Democrats, is compromised; the hearings put fully on display the moral vacuum that America has devolved into. Of course, the lying begins at the apex of the pyramid, the Father of Lies, the number one creep, the president of the United States.

Lying succeeds in a worldly sense. It is used to further one’s ambitions and to shed personal responsibility. In the case of Kavanuagh, a commentator on CNN talked about the “elephant in the room”, Mark Judge, who allegedly witnessed the sexual assault on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. The committee did not deign to hear Judge’s testimony. I believe the elephant in the room was more obvious than that: Kavanaugh is a liar. His handlers told him to come out on the offensive without criticizing Dr. Ford directly. He compounded the charade by portraying himself as a victim and the Senate Democrats as the victimizers. In my view, the judge was greedily ambitious, so much lusting after this hallowed appointment, that lying was his only option. How do Kavanaugh and the Republicans justify their support of Trump and Kavanugh? What is going on in their minds?

While most of them might disapprove of sexual assault, Kavanaugh’s appointment itself justifies any means used to gain that end. 1. Because he is opposed to abortion rights or “Choice”, as it is called. To them, saving unborn children is a higher good, however bad sexual assault might be.

2. Because he is opposed to indicting a president. Most Republicans in the legislature are mealy mouthed supporters of the morally bankrupt individual who has gained the respect of benighted US citizens.

3. Because he committed the offense (and no sane person can honestly believe that Dr. Ford would subject herself to public hell for no reason) while he was a young person sowing his wild oats. It’s still okay for male prep school, high school or college students to attack coeds when their sexual urges overwhelm them. “Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.” So why ruin a distinguished law career when everyone does the same thing and everyone, including the president, lies about it? And, in all fairness, everyone also knows that the majority of men of both parties who compose the Senate Judiciary Committee (and the Congress), believe the same thing. If their candidate was accused of such things, as was Bill Clinton, they would be out there defending his behavior for similar reasons.

Which brings me to the final and most important point. The Law itself is a great pretender. Laws are passed by congress, acted upon by the executive and judged by the courts–in an ideal democracy.  Government is all about law. But the law is divorced from the higher principle: the Truth. Anything goes in the name of the law: the corruption of the wealthy and the privileged and the oppression of the poor and dispossessed. Court proceedings end up with a “verdict”, which, from the Latin, means “to speak truth”. Witnesses swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God”. Yes, and somehow we get wrongful convictions. At best, no witness can tell the whole truth because no witness knows the whole truth. He or she can only tell the truth to the best of her or his ability. The law, as I am saying, is a pretender. When the Truth goes begging, the institutions of a republic will die a slow death. That is now happening and will continue to happen in the USA.

I mean once Kavanaugh was sworn in to the hearing, one lie more wouldn’t matter. So he invoked his wife, children and God while insisting on his non-existent innocence.  He will sit on the higher court and make rulings over other people that will come from–no doubt–abstract and cool-headed legal principles. Not a hint of vindictiveness will there be in his rulings! He is a man of law, after all, as long as law is not confused with truth.

The law itself and legal practitioners allow for lying in the name of argumentation. The government is composed primarily of lawyers, for whom truth is relative and not absolute. No more George Washington owning up to chopping down the cherry tree (“I cannot tell a lie”). The founding myth, learned by all grade one students when I was in school, no longer carries the power of myth. Disgrace and mendacity are now displayed with pride.

Words of Victor Frankl regarding the Rafay/Burns case.

One of the main arguments against Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns by the Washington appeal courts centers on the demeanor of Sebastian Burns while he is supposedly confessing to the RCMP gangsters. He doesn’t appear to be fearful or distressed; therefore his lawyers must be wrong about him being coerced through fear into making the confessions. I have already made the argument that you can’t judge a book by its cover, i.e. you can’t know what is inside a person’s head by the way she or he behaves on the surface. You can only guess. For that reason alone, the arguments against the appeal are worse than suspect, they are invalid. They are a legal disgrace.

Another argument against the two teens (as they were at the time) is their inappropriate behavior in general after the killings of the Rafay family. Rather than a legal argument, it was the perception of their behavior in the media at the memorial for Rafay’s family. It appeared infantile at best. Nor were they models of decorum–neighbors found them “obnoxious”–when they moved into a shared residence with friends in West Vancouver. But here is a quote that I found upon rereading Victor Frankl’s great work, “Man’s search For Meaning”.

ABNORMAL REACTIONS TO AN ABNORMAL SITUATION IS NORMAL BEHAVIOR.

Frankl was referring to the behavior of oppressed people in concentration camps who are in the category of wrongly convicted persons. They did things they never would have done had they not been starving to death and constantly beaten. They were not bad people but people in dire circumstances. I think people might also give Atif and Sebastian the benefit of the doubt when it comes to surface behavior. They had witnessed the aftermath of a bloodbath which would be bad enough if they didn’t know the victims. This was, however, the family of Atif Rafay! Their abnormal behavior, under the circumstances, is completely understandable.

It irks me when I hear people talk about their behavior as the clinching argument for their guilt. Anything but! If they had been purely calculating, they never would have behaved in that way. That is why, on The Confession Tapes, I described them as “two goofballs in a state of shock”. How do any of us act in violent and completely abnormal situations? Why do soldiers suffer from PTSD? Does anyone really know what a soldier goes through after enduring sights that the rest of us never have to see, like bodies blown to pieces in a marketplace? What would YOU do if you came upon your family bludgeoned to death? You don’t know until it happens and God forbid it ever does.

Miyoshi: An RCMP Interrogation at the Vancouver Fringe Festival

Innocence International presents Miyoshi: An RCMP Interrogation at the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival. The play is a re-enactment of the actual 1995 interrogation of Jimmy Miyoshi, friend of Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns who were both wrongly convicted in 2005 of the murders of the Rafay family. It reveals the ineptitude and the tunnel vision of the interrogators that lies at the center of this tragic injustice.

The play runs at the Havana Theatre, 1212 Commercial Drive, from September 6-15. Schedule available on Vancouver Fringe website.

PRESS RELEASE

 Miyoshi: An RCMP Interrogation

“You don’t need to accept everything as true, you only have to accept it as necessary.” (The Trial, Franz Kafka)

“Miyoshi: An RCMP Interrogation” is based on never-before-revealed transcripts from the RCMP interrogation of Jimmy Miyoshi, a key witness in the 1995 Burns-Rafay murder trial.

In May of 1995, Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay were charged with the brutal murder of Rafay’s family in Bellevue Washington, based largely upon evidence from the RCMP sting operation called “Mr. Big” (a law enforcement technique prohibited in the U.S.). Posing as underworld crime figures, the RCMP exacted confessions from Burns and Rafay, both 18 at the time of the murder.

Almost 10 years later, Burns and Rafay were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The testimony of key witness and close friend of the boys, Jimmy Miyoshi, was instrumental in their conviction, but … did Jimmy give false evidence? Was he unduly pressured to give to false testimony on the stand? Are Burns and Rafay innocent? – Three Innocence Projects now believe so, and “Miyoshi, An RCMP Interrogation” reveals new evidence which suggests they were wrongfully convicted. We invite you to come see the play and decide for yourself!

Miyoshi: An RCMP Interrogation, will premiere at the Vancouver Fringe Festival this September (the 6th to the 15th at the Havana Theatre).

Produced by:  Ken Klonsky and Innocence International

Directed by: Blake Melnick, CKO of the Knowledge Management Institute of Canada

Characters & Cast

Jimmy Miyoshi: Kai Bradbury

Staff Sargent Rinn: Cheryl Mullen

Constable Comrie: Rodney Decroo

Media and Communications

Poster Design: Erin Mugford

Social Media: Rowan Melnick

Communications and Press: Parker Melnick

 

BOX OFFICE GENERAL INFORMATION

The Fringe Box Office opens on September 4 at 4pm
1398 Cartwright Street on Granville Island (next to Waterfront Theatre)
Hours: 4pm-9pm weekdays and 12pm-9pm weekends

We accept cash, Visa, and MasterCard at the Fringe Box Office. This year at the venues we are only able to accept cash. Sorry, no Visa Debit!

Purchasing your tickets
Tickets are available at the door or in advance. You can buy memberships at the box office or at any venue.
Advance tickets are available online starting August 8 or at the Fringe Box Office only! If you are having trouble purchasing tickets, you can contact the Box Office Manager by email at boxoffice@vancouverfringe.com or at 604.762.5294. Please note there are no phone sales.

Important info:
With almost 700 performances happening over 11 days, we need to start every performance on time! We recommend arriving at least 20 minutes early to avoid disappointment. Some tickets will be sold at a FOH location 2 minutes from the venue. Patrons arriving after the performance has begun are not admitted under any circumstance. No Latecomers. No Refunds. No Exchanges. No Exceptions.

 

 

Liberty Award speech at BCCLA gala

Thank you, BCCLA, for this recognition. The last award I won was in the summer of 1957 for Most Improved Camper, so getting this Liberty Award, for Excellence in the Arts, from Canada’s foremost legal advocacy organization, is an honour indeed.

I stand here on the massive shoulders of a short man: Dr. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, with whom I made friends when he agreed to visit my high school English class in Toronto. Who could guess that my next 16 years of literary work and otherwise would revolve almost exclusively around wrongful convictions?

Dr. Carter taught me most of what I know about the law and all of what I didn’t want to know, especially the intractable appeals system. He taught me that a miracle was needed to overturn a jury’s verdict. He would tell a client: “The law put you in prison; the law is keeping you in prison; the law all by itself will not get you out of prison.” For him, a miracle was “Higher laws acting on a lower level.”

You see, the law can only pretend to truth. A verdict means spoken truth, a witness is sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but nothing could be further from the truth, else there would be no wrongful convictions. I learned that without empathy, without compassion, the law is nothing but a cold, blunt instrument. Necessary to run a society but as flawed as the people who administer it. Not so with the truth, not so with goodness, not so with compassion. Those like the BCCLA, who stand up for justice in the face of state intransigence and cruelty, represent the positive side of advocacy work. How lucky I am to have met so many good people!

What place do the arts have in the law? Writers and filmmakers make us feel outrage at injustice and compassion for those who suffer through the most nightmarish of circumstances. Those like Mahar Arar, Omar Khadr, Hassan Diab, Leonard Peltier, David McCallum, Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay. Artists motivate people to stand up and correct the inevitable wrongs of the system.

At the end of a road that on average requires a decade to travel, we discover that goodness is still there; the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. “That’s the miracle, my brother!” As Rubin said over and over again. “To see just one of those people walk out the prison doors with a smile on their face. That’s the higher law acting on the lower level.”

 

 

Award from the BCCLA

The following letter was sent to me by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the leading legal advocacy group in Canada. I am extremely proud to get this award, but I stand on the wide shoulders of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who taught me everything I needed to know about justice.

Also thanks to Oscar Michelen, Steve Drizin, and Laura Cohen who hung in with me for years to free David McCallum.

March 28, 2018

Re: BC Civil Liberties Association Liberty Award

Dear Ken,

On behalf of the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), I am pleased to let you know that you have been selected as our 2018 winner of the Excellence in the Arts Award.

The Liberty Awards honour exceptional contributions to the fields of human rights and civil liberties in Canada. Through a nomination process open to our entire membership, your name was put forward, and selected by our Board of Directors.

Your artistic works call readers to action to defend civil liberties and improve our justice system for all. Your art and advocacy on the behalf of those who have been wrongfully convicted have contributed greatly to the advancement of human rights in Canada and internationally.

In recognition of your accomplishments, I am delighted to invite you as a guests of honour to the Liberty Award Gala on Thursday, May 17th at the Villa Amato in Vancouver, BC. Full information about the gala is available here.

The BCCLA Liberty Awards happen once every two years and bring together some of Canada’s preeminent social justice champions to celebrate excellence in legal advocacy, journalism, the arts and youth and community activism. It is an evening of inspiration and celebration. In addition to a three course meal, entertainment and the awards ceremony, the evening will feature an incredible musical performance.

We would be so pleased if you and your guest could join us for this evening of celebration.

Please feel free to contact me at 604.630.9752 or at josh@bccla.org if you have any questions. RSVP by contacting Director of Community Engagement, Mark Hosak at Mark@bccla.org or 604.630.9745. Congratulations on being selected, and we hope you can join us!

Sincerely,

Josh Paterson Executive Director

Tina Fontaine/Raymond Cormier, Sebastian Burns/Atif Rafay

The murder of Tina Fontaine and the subsequent acquittal of Raymond Cormier points to many things that need fixing in Canada. Some of those things, like the uncaring treatment and neglect of youthful indigenous people, have been going on without remedy for more than one hundred years.

I want to focus on one aspect of the case because it has bearing on the wrongful convictions of Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns. Mr. Cormier certainly had contact with this child and was a logical suspect. The problem with the case, as I see it, was the absence of forensic evidence tying Cormier to the crime. The jury saw it likewise. The RCMP failed to come up with anything other than anecdotal evidence. So, what did they do? They launched a Mr. Big sting. Sound familiar? Nothing he said in that sting was an admission of guilt, but, even if he had confessed to them, the trial would have been polluted by Mr. Big. I thought that the Supreme Court of Canada had ruled out Mr. Big stings in the absence of forensic or other convincing evidence but I guess not.

Cormier was found not guilty. The case was not ready to go to trial. If Rafay and Burns were to be tried now in a Canadian court (it’s illegal to use such stings in the USA), they would also be acquitted. People are more likely now to view Mr. Big outcomes with a raised eyebrow or plain cynicism. No forensic evidence ever implicated Rafay and Burns in the bloody murders of the Rafay family. The confessions should have been worthless, given their airtight alibis. But the State of Washington holds on to these convictions; they think they have the right guys. They may think so but the Tina Fontaine case shows that convictions should not be the result of coercion and intimidation of witnesses.

Maybe Raymond Cormier did murder Tina Fontaine. Her death is an unmitigated tragedy, whoever was responsible. But a wrongful conviction (and finding Cormier guilty despite the lack of evidence would have been a wrongful conviction) only adds to the tragedy by destroying another innocent life. Cormier may have done reprehensible things but justice is not served unless evidence other than self-incrimination is unearthed.

Nuttall, Korody and the RCMP

There are times I begin to wonder if the RCMP is more about publicity than justice. The arrests of John Nuttall and Amanda Korody after a Mr. Big sting operation were clearly the result of entrapment. BC Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bruce’s ruling to stay the terrorism charges  against the gullible couple was eminently fair and clear sighted. That the Crown is now pursuing an appeal of that ruling is an abuse of taxpayer funds and the judicial process.

Once again, we are faced with the profound limitations of the Mr. Big sting operation and the unusual myopia of the Canadian judicial system that has allowed it, albeit with some restrictions. First of all, in my view, the entire operation in this case was used to burnish the RCMP’s reputation in counter-terrorism. They chose a pair of unwitting targets to set off a dud bomb in a public space during a holiday celebration and gave them what appeared to be the equipment to do it. Could Nuttall and Korody have done this on their own? Would they have done this on their own? Justice Bruce’s decision strongly implied that the answer to both questions is “NO”.  The sting feeds on ignorance. The police officers masquerade as either gangsters or international criminals, causing the targets to fear retribution if they fail to confess to a crime or follow through on nefarious plans. It’s a simple as that.

Now, the RCMP will make great claims about the success of the sting, but wrongly convicted people are, unless released, considered to be a part of this great success. That the Crown is appealing the judgment has nothing to do with protecting the public from terrorism and everything to do with protecting the  RCMP from ongoing criticism.

Where is the RCMP when it comes to solving the murders of aboriginal women; when it comes to arresting radical religious elements and drug dealers responsible for “targeted” shootings cross the lower mainland? The public is far more endangered by this spree of murders than by crypto-terrorists ensnared by Mr. Big. Just this weekend (January 13), two innocent people were wounded, one critically (a fifteen year old boy) in a targeted shooting on Broadway and Ontario St. in Vancouver.

Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay continue to sit in a Washington State prison, the result of this very flawed sting operation.  Consideration given to real suspects was superficial at best. The RCMP seems too comfortable when its officers are not wearing the garb of police. I sincerely hope that the appeals court rules to uphold Justice Bruce’s wise decision.

New Year

A recent spate of discoveries in the Burns/Rafay case has come about through a platoon of volunteers coming forward because they’ve seen “The Confession Tapes”. These people are legal professionals and researchers motivated to do pro bono work to right what has now become an apparent injustice. People at Innocence International are extremely grateful for this work. Not one piece of so-called evidence from the trial has held up to scrutiny nor, as is always the case in a wrongful conviction, has any information arisen to confirm the convictions. This development bodes well for the progress of the case in 2018.

Why is it that so many murder victims in Canada, especially BC, are “known to police” but we, the citizens, never learn the names of the victims and the perpetrators? Who is being killed by whom? Why are there over a thousand missing and murdered BC women, whose cases are still unsolved? Why are so many sexual assault cases labeled “unfounded”? Why does the RCMP seem so inept at solving serious crime? These are questions that we must be prepared to confront rather sit back and believe that all Canadians are being well served by our national police force. As I’ve said previously, individual RCMP officers are as good or bad as any other profession in society. But the force is dominated by a culture that needs scrutiny. Their responsibility for the wrongful convictions in Burns/Rafay has to be examined in the light of that culture.

 

TVO interview by Steve Paikin with David McCallum and Ken Klonsky: Freeing David McCallum plus link to book

This interview was done October 23rd in Toronto in conjunction with the launch of “Freeing David McCallum: The Last Miracle of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter

https://tvo.org/video/programs/the-agenda-with-steve-paikin/life-after-wrongful-conviction

Link to Buying the Book

https://www.amazon.ca/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Freeing+David+McCallum