Why we believe in the innocence of Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns: six reasons

Why we believe in the innocence of Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns

SIX REASONS WHY WE BELIEVE THAT SEBASTIAN BURNS AND ATIF RAFAY ARE INNOCENT

REASON ONE: No hard or scientifically gathered evidence ties them to the crime.

A bludgeoning is an extremely bloody way to kill. It goes, almost without saying, that for one to bludgeon three different people to death and leave no trace of blood in the scalp or anywhere else on his face is unlikely. Showering would not be sufficient. They agreed to undergo forensic testing for five days without legal representation, because they thought their innocence would protect them. No one, neither prosecutors nor police, say they found hard evidence linking Burns and Rafay to the crime.

Lacking a solid case, they referred (and still do) to “a mountain of circumstantial evidence”, evidence that turns out to be negligible evidence, a molehill of evidence. Lacking a solid case, they turned to the RCMP:

REASON TWO: Their confessions to the RCMP mobsters took many months of heavy handed interviews to obtain. No juror was shown video evidence of Sebastian’s constant denials that he had anything to do with the crime, while the RCMP has disposed of almost the entire taped interrogation. What remains are the sessions that implicate Burns and Rafay.

The so-called confessions were manufactured from Sebastian Burns’s knowledge of the case gained in newspaper accounts available at the time.

REASON THREE: James Miyoshi, the chief witness against them, was threatened with being charged as an accessory, a crime punishable by life in prison, making his testimony less than reliable. What he said was always vague and sometimes even fanciful. Reliance upon such testimony is a sign of a faulty case, but they thought they needed it to seal the deal. In truth, Miyoshi tried to protect himself from prison while not betraying his friends. This proved to be an impossibility.

REASON FOUR: The RCMP never looked to any other suspects, despite being told by sources that a hit was being planned against a Pakistani family newly moved to Bellevue, WA. Nor were leads followed after the killings that may have implicated an extremist religious group, despite the Bellevue police having a factually reliable tip from a confirmed FBI informant. In that Sebastian and Atif were the only suspects investigated, the Burns/Rafay case may well be a classic example of ‘tunnel vision’.

REASON FIVE: THE WEAKNESS OF THE CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE:

  1. Atif and Sebastian loved the work of philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. The prosecutors equated Nietzsche’s work with Adolph Hitler, and utilized the very loose connection to indicate that Sebastian and Atif believed that they were superior beings, entitled to eliminate anyone who got in their way. That fact that Nietzsche was perhaps the most influential philosopher of the 19th and 20th centuries was lost on the jury. Hitler did admire the German philosopher but the philosopher never expressed a belief in genocide, nor did the defendants.
  1. The actual motive given for the crime was greed. Atif would inherit money from his father’s estate that could be used to make a film. Does that sound like motivation to bludgeon a family to death, or did Atif and Sebastian create this motive to satisfy the RCMP gangsters who made them fear for their lives? Why would they choose to kill the Rafays? The Burns’s had more money by far and there was no death penalty in Canada.
  1. Burns appeared in a school play, “The Rope” where the eponymous murder weapon was changed into a baseball bat. This is a stark coincidence but hardly proof of murder since it presupposes that a killer would advertise his method beforehand.
  1. The crime scene was made to appear like a burglary had occurred. Somehow this was attributed to the two teens, as if other killers could not have thought of the same idea. Were the murders done by others seeking revenge against Tariq Rafay, they might also want to make the scene appear like a burglary.
  1. Sebastian Burns’s hair was found in the shower, mixed with the Rafay’s blood. This is the most quoted piece of evidence. Burns was living in that house for several days and using that shower. Do adolescents consistently clean up after themselves?
  1. Blood was found on the bottom of Atif’s pants. Atif and Sebastian entered the bloody crime scene and walked from room to room. Why wouldn’t the cuffs have blood on them? Why would blood be nowhere else?
  1. News reports then and since have referred to Atif and Sebastian fleeing to Canada to evade investigation. This is the most scurrilous of all the accusations against them. Sebastian lived in West Vancouver; Atif’s family had been annihilated. Where would they go but Canada since Atif was a citizen? The truth is that they were allowed to leave because there was no credible evidence against them. The RCMP sting (Mr. Big) was used against them to elicit confessions, but the use of the sting, according to current rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada, should not have been used in the absence of hard evidence. No such safeguards existed at that time.

So called evidence from the sting should not have been allowed into a US courtroom but the judge was prejudiced against the defendants. Mr. Big violates the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and the Fourteenth Amendment against illegal search and seizure.

MIRANDA rights, i.e. the right to remain silent and to know that what you say may be used against you in a court of law; the right to have a lawyer present during questioning; the right to select questions you want to answer; were not accorded them. Why not? Because the evidence was gathered in Canada. To permit this evidence at trial was the result of a mistaken interpretation of the law and of Miranda protections

REASON SIX: The most significant evidence in the case pointed to their innocence and was explained away.

Fact: Atif and Sebastian were seen at a showing of The Lion King at the time of the murder—minutes before 10 p.m. Neighbours on both sides heard the thumps from the bludgeoning at 9:50 that night (twilight).

How can they have been in two places at once? How do you attack an airtight alibi? Somehow, it was averred, they left the theater by the side door and raced back to commit the murders. Even if this unlikely story was hatched under duress by Sebastian himself, it doesn’t make sense in the time context. So the prosecutor obfuscated the time by calling the neighbours’ recollections into question.

In light of what appears to us a manufactured case against Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns, it is legitimate to doubt the result of the trial and the verdict of the appeal court.

 

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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."

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