Mr. Big invalidated once again

The case of John Nuttall and Amanda Korody, a pair of would-be terrorists who were entrapped and enticed by a Mr. Big sting to plant a fake bomb at the BC legislature, points, once again, to the flawed methodology of Mr. Big itself. Some are calling this case a “one-off” because of the gullible nature of the defendants and the unlikelihood that they would ever have committed this ‘crime’ had they not been given the full means to do so by the RCMP. I must praise BC Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bruce for throwing out their conviction. However, I would question the assessment that this case is a one-off.

What is similar in all Mr. Big stings is the key to why it succeeds in getting confessions and in drawing people into criminal acts. It uses the threat of violence and implied violence: BOTH. In the case against Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns, the pair were directly threatened by the fake mob boss with loss of life if they were to be arrested and taken into custody. The boss said he was afraid that, if taken into custody, they would give evidence against the gang itself. Hence they had to confess to Mr. Big to make the charges go away because Mr. Big would rather see them killed than to have the gang compromised. The RCMP itself has admitted to such threats in this case.

The two cases, while different in almost every aspect (one being an investigation, the other an inducement), nevertheless possess the same key to success. If a person fears for his or her life, they are liable to do things that will compromise them. Just look to the behavior of people in concentration camps who are/were coerced to kill others because their own lives were threatened. Fear of death is a great motivator.

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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."

3 thoughts on “Mr. Big invalidated once again

  1. I reviewed the infamous Central Park Five case again the other day. Although it wasn’t a Mr. Big sting, it falls in the same general category of wrongful convictions: where law enforcement is “out of control” often in a near panic to convict someone of a horrific crime, no longer fairly/objectively looking for the truth, and in the process they coerce or manipulate false confessions.

    A BIG PROBLEM in nearly all of these false confession cases is that law enforcement/prosecutors get away with only showing parts of the conversation and/or the process to the jury. THAT IS JUST WRONG. In nearly all such cases if the jury saw the entirety of the operation and/or the whole conversations – it would be obvious that the “confessions” were coerced or manipulations – and that the defendants had indeed not really confessed at all. The “confessions” in both the Central Park Five and the Burns-Rafay case were both similar in that the defendants were “play-acting” for the police after concerted coercion and/or manipulation.

    And way too often, the court system allows a “confession” of this type to be the most substantial proof of guilt – when there is only feeble or no other evidence. For example, in the Central Park Five rape case – all five were convicted of the rape – yet the court and public knew there was plenty of rape relevant DNA … and it didn’t match ANY of them!

    In the Rafay-Burns case, not only were the confessions received under outrageous, manipulated conditions – THE JUDGE ruled against allowing the defense to bring in an expert witness about the inherent and well recorded problems with false confessions. And furthermore, the judge ruled this way despite such “confessions” being illegal to obtain in his jurisdiction (Mr. Big Stings are illegal in the entire USA). Preposterous!

    • While I do agree with Jack here about videotaping interrogations, I read recently (and can’t remember where) that police actually have grown to like videotaping. I hadn’t realized that it is even more advantageous, in some cases, to produce a false confession during taped interrogations. The manipulations are more subtle, far more subtle, than slapping someone or holding a chair over his head, yet they can still be manipulations that produce falsehoods. For example, there is the pernicious use of language, especially yes or no answers, to implicate the suspect no matter how he answers the questions. The police like the taping because they are less likely to get called on their tactics or be accused of violence. Still, I think videotaping is better than having a suspect confess behind closed doors and then come out to give a videotaped statement. Often that suspect thinks he’s going home as long as he ‘tells the truth’.
      In light of Jack’s comments, I agree with him that my response here is off-topic. He’s talking about extended operations or situations where the confession has been edited to include only moments favorable to the state (or prosecutors). The full picture is needed to understand the circumstances in which the confession took place. In the case of Mr. Big, we found that the tapes of the complete transaction have been destroyed; all that is left is the ‘confession’ itself. My response was focused on the intimidation factor that we never see.

      • Well, in both cases discussed (Burns-Rafay and Central Park Five) the confessions are videotape confessions. My main point in that regard is that they needed to show all of the interviews and videotaping, not just portions(as in the Central Park Five). And in Burns-Rafay they needed to show all tapes and also explain the whole process of manipulation (with intimidation) that sets the true context of any confession. THEN, let the jury decide.

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