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


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’.


  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."

320 thoughts on “Why we believe in the innocence of Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns

  1. Well said.

    I would say from my studies of this case that the evidence is overwhelming that they are innocent.

    The police and prosecutors and media MUST stop assuming that a relative is the likely perpetrator. Tunnel vision by conviction hungry law enforcement is too often the result.

    • There were so many unanswered questions about who could have murdered the Rafay family, such a sad story. One of my questions is why did the family move to Bellevue, Washington? Did they obtain better jobs? Why would they move away from their only son to another country? I think they could have been harassed to the point of leaving, especially being murdered so soon after they moved. Just a thought. My opinion is that the confessions of the crimes by Burns and Rafay, may have come from fear of threats, but more likely to fit in with these gangsters (undercover agents).

      • Your last point, fear or fitting in, should not be mutually exclusive. The fear caused Sebastian to want to fit in; otherwise he would not have been “solid” and he justifiably believed that he and his family might have been subjected to retaliation.
        The Rafays moved to Washington because Tariq got a better job (supposedly). But you may be right about them having been harassed. They were, but I don’t know how that played into their motivation to move. It’s a worthwhile speculation. They did not move away from Atif; he was a student at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.
        Many possibilities unexplored in this case.

        • Hi, I just saw the Netflix documentary about this case. These two men are close in age to myself and I can’t help but feel so sad for two highly intelligent men who had their whole lives ahead of them, be locked away in prison because of some agenda from incompetent, arrogant, inept police work. These men were just boys when the thug cops got their false confessions. It is truly a shame to think that this can happen in a country that is “supposed” to have an fair justice system. These two men could have contributed to our society, but instead got their own lives stolen from them. I HOPE THEY GET HELP FROM THE INNOCENCE PROJECT AND GET THE FAIR JUDEMENT THEY DESERVE. They should be freed to live there lives. They’ve been punished for too many years for a crime that evidence clearly shows, they did not commit.

          • Thank you for the support and the outrage, Janine. You have summed up the situation exactly.

    • ‘Evidence is overwhelming that they are innocent.’
      The evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that these two are responsible for the murders of the Rafay family. As for the Muslim extremist theory, Tariq Rafay wanted to adjust the qibla (prayer direction) by 1 or 2 degrees. This is not enough of a change in Muslim ideology to garner hatred by extremists. In fact the idea that this is the reason why the family was executed is laughable. Further, Al-Fuqra terror events have been marked by the use of explosives, not a mere baseball bat. In addition to this, If the family had truly been a target by the terrorist organization, why is it then that Atif Rafay was not executed as well. Atif Rafay who does not identify himself as a ‘Muslim’ throughout the whole case whatsoever, would have been more appealing of a target to the organization as a result of his moderate or lack of beliefs. Surely, Al- Fuqra would have had surveillance on the house to ensure that the targets were all home. Even more so compelling argument against Al-Fuqra committing these crimes is that the targets mentioned in the Police report were of Indian descent, not Pakistani. The Rafay family did not fit the description of the supposed targets, in this culture to mix an Indian family with a Pakistani family is in fact offensive and would not have been made by a extremist islamic terrorist organization.

      Jimmy Miyoshi, a longtime friend of the boys, escapes to Japan out of fear that he will be incarcerated as well. The argument by the defense is that he feared prosecution and therefore falsified a testimony. After nearly 10 years Jimmy returns to give the exact same testimony. His company told him to figure out this situation otherwise he would lose his job. His occupation did NOT tell him what to say in order to keep his job but to merely contribute in order to help solve the case.

      For many of those who are not familiar with the Bellevue, Somerset area. The Rafay home can be easily valued somewhere over $1M during this time. That alone should prove to be a clear motive, not to mention the life insurance policy. It is a shame that these boys, who are now men, will not admit to their crimes.

      Justice was served. And in my opinion this is a case that shows using the Mr.Big tactic can be ultimately effective. RIP.

      • I wonder who you are, Hamzah. This post is so full of misinformation, I don’t know where to begin. Only to say that every argument you make has been distorted to favor an investigative and judicial process that was illegitimate, prejudicial and flawed.
        Take Miyoshi: Where did you get the idea that his testimony was “exactly the same” after 10 years? This is patently untrue because we have the entire testimony in our possession. Jimmy initially denied that Atif or Sebastian gave him information about the killing before or after the murder. He testified against them in 2004.
        As to your qibla argument: We have, in our possession, journal writing that indicates that such beliefs are indeed punishable by death.
        Al-Fuqra has used bats, metal bars, guns, and explosives…separately. In fact, they hire others to do the killing, othgers who have their own way of getting the job done.
        And surveillance of the house: Of course they cased the Rafay home. What if they didn’t want to deal with Sebastian and Atif, making the killing even more difficult and complex? The purpose of the killings was to spread terror in the moderate Muslim community. That was accomplished without trying to kill two eighteen year olds, one of whom was tall and athletic looking.
        And you are completely wrong about the value of the house which was heavily mortgaged, since the Rafays had only just moved there. The one million dollar sum you mentioned is so much b.s. Look it up in the property valuations. This was 1994. The bank would have repossessed the house notwithstanding.
        So you may make yourself feel better, Hamzah, by spouting this garbage, but your facts are not straight.

        • Preach. I really hope some justice comes for these men. I watched “The Confession Tapes” and my heart breaks for them as well as their families. I cried when they spoke at sentencing. I could feel their emotions, pain, and frustration. The fact that Sebastian has exhausted his appeals and Atif has (to my knowledge at the moment) one chance left is such a horrible shame. To think they may never be proven innocent or be able to live as free men is almost unbearable. How is this possible? I mean I have no experience in law or the justice system but I just feel as though it’s pretty clear to see that they should at least be given another opportunity to have their case reevaluated. Even if it’s solely based on the unlawfulness of the “Mr.Big” tactic. If Supreme Courts have deemed it unlawful why would a case where the most incriminating (only?) evidence was that same tactic leading to their convictions. Is our justice system that incapable of admitting fault? Or greedy? Blows my fricking mind. I see on some of the sites they are encouraging the public to write the prosecutors or the State. I hesitate to do so as we’ve seen interviews with law enforcement and the State’s lead prosecutor that clearly shows they are convinced of these men’s guilt, are determined (regardless of conflicting evidence) to keep these men behind bars, and seem to be incapable of acknowledging any wrongdoing. Is there any other I can actually help (other than donate money as I don’t have the means at the moment)? Thank you for the information and I respect what you’re doing very much Ken x

          • I appreciate this entry, Rachel. “Is our justice system incapable of admitting fault?” It admits fault only when it is found to be at fault, usually by outsiders. Then they say “I’m sorry.” It’s disheartening.

            Writing a letter to Dan Satterberg is still worthwhile. The ‘lead prosecutor,’ Konat), as you name him, had to resign from his position years ago for making racist statements. He is not in any position to rectify the injustices in this case. The keys to any wrongful conviction cases are legal help, new evidence, patience and publicity. We can’t allow the state to let this case be forgotten.

            Finally, the fuel and grease of the justice system are convictions. Truth ought to be the guiding principle, as you imply, but it often is not. And once the conviction is registered, overturning it amounts to a miracle. The appeals system is heavily weighted toward sustaining convictions, good or bad.

        • Ken, I make my own words! I think it’s horrible that they are still imprisoned based on everything saying by themselves that they are innocent, I really want to help them in some way, I sent emails to Dan asking me to review the case, the worse thing is that while they are arrested the real murderer they are idiots, they spoke stupidly. BUT THEY WERE YOUNG, we talk nonsense when we are young, but it would not be a reason to spend the rest of their miserable life in jail for something they did not commit. ridiculous that this government does not see that they are innocent, or they see more by a type of trash that is in the place of their hearts they let Burns and Atif stay there. This is very sad we should take action.
          By Brazilian

        • One simple question..why Atif, who was 19 at the time of crime, did not showcase any empathy for his family which he so passionately talks about at the time of sentencing?…he is seen prancing around with some gal or acquaintance on his parents’ memorial….can anything be more stranger than that? Or is he mentally ill?Whether they really committed the crime or not only God knows but kids with such low morale need to take responsibility for their actions…they are either paying for their attitude or they are paying for being nonchalant about what happened to the people who mattered the most.

          • You do have a point there, Jess. There was some karma involved in their conviction. But, then again, it’s not possible for anyone to imagine the way a teenager might behave in the face of that carnage. Much of what they did, like watching videotapes at the motel where they were interrogated, was simple escapism. In the end, I think that they “were more sinned against than sinning”.

      • “The evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that these two are responsible for the murders of the Rafay family.”

        Literally every example of “evidence” that you sited above is circumstantial. That’s not what “beyond a reasonable doubt” means.

        “After nearly 10 years Jimmy returns to give the exact same testimony.”

        Nope. What Jimmy testified to at trial was something he hadn’t told investigators during any of his prior question (so either you’re wrong or you’re accusing the prosecution of withholding evidence regarding said testimony.)

        “The Rafay home can be easily valued somewhere over $1M during this time. That alone should prove to be a clear motive, not to mention the life insurance policy.”

        Yeah, that’s why no one with kids lives in a nice house or has life insurance; because OBVIOUSLY they’re going be murdered by their own children.

        You got a bleak world outlook, my dude.

        • I’m not sure whose post you are referring to, Joel. I couldn’t find the one with those quotes but I have no doubt that they are somewhere on this site. Of course, I agree with almost everything you say as to evidence. Whoever said the Rafay home could be valued at a million dollars must be referring to now, certainly not 1994.

          The Jimmy Miyoshi issue is far more relevant. Netflix unearthed the original transcript of Miyoshi’s interrogation by the RCMP. In fact, it’s the very opposite of what he later testified to. This interrogation by the inept and tunnel visioned RCMP will be shown in a play during Vancouver’s Fringe Fetsival. The play will be at the Havana Theatre from Sept. 6-15th. Anyone in the Vancouver area who wishes to see for themselves can look up performance dates and times on the Vancouver Fringe Festival website.

  2. I do not believe for a second they are innocent. Absolutely no other theory fits the crime. Their ‘alibis’ were staged, and you ignore the innumerable signs of guilt they exhibited. Sebastian Burns is also clearly a sociopath. You are barking up the wrong tree defending these two, and it’s very bad for your credibility.

    • “Absolutely no other theory fits the crime.” It is when people like Roger deliver “absolutes” that we lose the possibility of reason. No other theory THAT HE CAN THINK OF fits the crime. “Clearly a sociopath”. Once again, where is the reasoning? “very bad for your credibility”. My credibility is of no importance compared to the suffering of Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay. I can handle it. Roger’s credibility should be based on his knowledge and handling of facts, not his unsupported statements.

      • I completely agree with you. This is insane to think these boys committed this crime.

        Do you people even understand how sick and twisted fundamentalist ideology IS? HAVE YOU EVER ACTUALLY READ THE QUR’AN?!? This has made many open, intelligent people outraged at the US for letting this happen. If you can’t understand why someone would kill for the Muslim faith, you obviously know nothing about their religion. Educate yourselves.

        • I would generally not approve of such a statement, nor do I now, but it is important to answer Conrad in the context of present-day hatred of Muslims. Personally, I do not believe the Koran is any more or less violent than the Old Testament. It is recommended somewhere (is it Leviticus?) that wayward youth should be taken to the city gates and stoned to death. The Koran has similar injunctions but the modern day practice of Islam has little to do with that aspect of the religion.
          However, there are extremists living everywhere in this world of 7 plus billion people. They justify their violence with appeals to ‘fundamentalist’ religion, be they Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus and even Buddhists (look what’s happening in Myanmar!).

          • Not to take away from the point here, but where are the radical Christians killing innocent people? You never see It, it’s ALWAYS in the name of Islam. And don’t try to spin It, Islam is Islam. The Rafay family was killed my Muslim extremists and the boys are clearly innocent.

          • Um, what? Where are the radical Christians killing innocent people? Does Nate not know what a burning cross symbolizes? What about the Inquisition? What about the Christians who destroyed native civilizations around the world in the name of the Christian religion? No religion has a monopoly on hate.

        • Yep you are 100% correct.
          To me, they were obviously innocent and it was clear how the investigators had refused to follow up on the other significan leads (like Muslim extremists).

          • “Does Nate not know what a burning cross symbolizes? What about the Inquisition? What about the Christians who destroyed native civilizations around the world in the name of the Christian religion? No religion has a monopoly on hate.”

            You have to be kidding, Ken. The Inquisition? Christian conquistadors? You are citing 700 year old examples of Christian “hate” to draw an equivalence between Islamist extremism and other forms of religious extremism in 2017? (or 1994?)

            Not only is your false moral equivalence intellectually dishonest, it undermines this case’s own (completely plausible) alternative explanation for what happened – the Rafay family was savagely beaten to death by Islamist fanatics because they were “heretics.” Islamist fanatics engage in this kind of behavior with regularity in 2017. Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist fanatics do not.

            Obviously, most Muslims do not engage in violent behavior. I am simply pointing out the absurdity of your attempt to place all of modern religion’s extreme behavior into the same category. At this time, Islam has a unique problem with violent and fanatical behavior among the world’s major religions. To deny that is to deny reality.

          • While I don’t want this site to devolve into a religious forum, I would admit that most of the incidents we hear about are the result of extremist Islamists. And I do feel that the Rafay case may well fit into this category. But I hold that religious extremists of all stripes are operating in today’s world. What did anyone know about the Rohingya Muslims until the evidence of ethnic cleansing by Myanmar’s Buddhists? How long had this hatred been manifest in that country? Who would have thought that the Ku Klux Klan would make a comeback into American civic life? The Klan is a so-called Christian organization, still burning crosses the last time I looked.
            My point is that religious extremism is everywhere, both in history and now, and its effects are often deadly. If that makes me ‘intellectually dishonest’, I can accept the criticism.

      • I just watch the Netflix series and to say I am gutted would be an understatement. I feel so incredibly sick after watching that, knowing how one sided it was and how those two boys were wrongly convicted. Get them out of jail already!

        • Just finished watching the Netflix episodes too. Even IF these two are guilty, it needs to be actually proven otherwise, they should clearly be exonerated. How did it take months to get a confession? If Burns is such a “sociopath” why did it takes him months to finally give an incredibly vague confession where every sentence trailed off and ended with “or whatever.”

          I went to this site: http://rafayburnsappeal.com/ and saw their suggestions for help, one of which is to write to the King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. He has almost NO Twitter followers, so I bet if people tweet like crazy at him, he’ll have to address it one way or another, publicly or privately. Bad publicity moves people, as we can see with this case.

          In other words, tweet at Dan Satterberg! Cause why not?! TH: @DanSatterberg

          • Thanks for Twitter account I will use it but bad prosecutors live in delusion. They decide who is guilty and ignore anything that does not support it. Good ones look into other possibilities if only to exclude them. Good judges allow the defence to introduce alternative theories if they are credible. An informant backed by the FBI is credible for one example.
            I have not read fully about Ken’s project I imagine and hope he works with top lawyers
            Thanks again

          • They do delude themselves but they are also susceptible to prying outside eyes, the more the better. This documentary, at the very least, may force them to come out and start justifying their tactics and their case yet again. The difference will be that people are less likely to swallow either their self-deception or their untruths. In other words, the case may well get to see the light of day.

        • Oh God oh God, I have just finished the Netflix – very slick – and kept thinking it was like a documentary that was going to end Ok, that I was watching what actually I remember reading about at the time, and seeing Burns’ father speaking, I looked at how long the programme had to run and waited for an update on where they were living and what the two had done with their lives to find those tapes were believed, the sentences stood, they had no chances left. Words don’t cover it. What a stitch up. Speechless. Jury???? What can you say? INNOCENT they were not proved guilty. Without that stitch up there is nothing.

      • I have only just learnt about this case and I am immensely intrigued by it. The police used unorthadox methods to gain the confessions, and it does appear from the footage that Sebastian is lying. However, there was never a possibility that they may have hired someone to commit the crime, hence the lack of forensic evidence against the pair. I find it odd that David Burns told his son to use pay phones due to police tapping their phones. Why use payphones if you are 100% guilt-free? It is also odd how Atif was more concerned about his walkman being missing and how Sebastian never mentioned murder when he rang 911. There is a possiblity that they never committed the crimes but their behaviour after the murders is very concerning, the lack of empathy. They should be free since there is no direct evidence linking them to the crime except circumstantial, which is not a valid base for a court case. But what I would like to end on is this; if Sebastian was staying with the Rafay family, why was there no DNA evidence of his in the house?

        • Hello Leighann,
          To begin at the end, yes there was DNA evidence at the house, Sebastian (hair, fo example), and the whole Rafay family. But there was also DNA evidence from outside.
          With Sebastian using pay phones and so forth, would you want to get on the phone if you thought the police were spying on every word you said? The police will be happy to extract an odd phrase that is not linked to any crime but can be used against you.
          I have tried to urge people not to judge their behavior after the crime took place; there is no way of knowing how someone might react to witnessing such a thing, maybe that the world has been pulled out from under your feet, like an earthquake. The appeal court in Washington erred grievously by using their surface behavior when talking to the RCMP gangsters as an indication of their guilt. It’s a disgusting ruling that only shows the weaknesses of the appeal system.
          Finally, the Walkman and the VCR. If you were facing such a thing (God forbid!) what would you focus on? Your dead family mashed up or a piece of irrelevant audio equipment? It’s a question but the answer to it depends on your ability to absorb true life horror. Soldiers will do the same thing.

    • Wow ignorance is exactly what put these boys away, were a member of rhe jury, i suggest yiu watch the Netflix documentary a severe case of malpractice. I for one hope that both convictions are overturned, and the real criminals behind this senseless act are caught, and convicted to life imprisonment

    • I agree…I have seen Making a Murder and that case to me is hands-down a set-up. But in this case Burns reads very much like a sociopath, I really wanted to see them as “innocent” because their family/friends are so convinced but in reality that means nothing. Rafay doesn’t even mention his sister in his “heartfelt” plea for them to be recognized as innocent at the end of the trial. If I cared as much for my parents as Rafay says in that moment, I wouldn’t have been gleefully running away and giggling at reporters. I see why the RCMP Mr Big method is not something that should be used in that situation and yet the confessions were too lax, the only reason for them eventually admitting to me is that they felt they could trust the “businessmen” at that point. I find it disturbing that it could have been done by extremists that hated Rafay’s family but unfortuntely we may never know. It’s sad but the behavior of Burns and Rafay is what really bothers me. Plus everyone is so up in arms about them being seen at the movie theatre…but that is also only hear-say- not hard evidence unless they have video footage of it. Even so- how far away was the theatre? In the tape-recordings of the neighbors they both say about 9:30 was when the murders’ took place. It’s cutting it close- but possible that two young men could get away and to that theatre within that time if done commiting the murders.

      • Are you serious ? “If I cared for my parents as Arafat says he didn’t I wouldn’t have run away gleefully from reporters” Excepte that’s is YOU and also you were not in his shoes at that moment and I’m hoping you have never been wrongfully accused of murdering your family so really YOU have no idea how you would behave. The fact that most people look at this case and think ‘well I wouldn’t do that’ regardless of the fact that they have no ducking idea what they are talking about because they have never been in that situation is why these poor boys are in jail. I think the way they acted makes them seem even more innocent. How could they have staged their alibis and then not have a plan for how to act with the media, how the fuck does that make any sense to anyone ? We need to stop judging people based on your own personal convictions. This whole Hing is such a farce, it angers me so much.

      • I’m reminded of the rape case out of Washington state a few years back. A girl reported a rape, but her attitude was “weird.” She seemed relaxed and was able to clearly give police details without showing any emotion. She didn’t seem rattled or hysterical, and due to her behavior , no one ended up believing her and she even got charged with falsifying a police report. She actually paid the fine to police and just went along with her charge..I guess she felt like she had just given up. They found the guy in Colorado with a picture of the girl’s photo ID, proving she had been raped and exonerating her from her other charges. The point is, people react to trauma in very weird ways. Having never experienced extreme trauma, i like to assume I’d be horrified , dramatic, and in tears..but who really knows. Atif’s sister was autistic and he came from a highly intellectual family , so maybe he also had his own issues processing and dealing with human emotions. Maybe that’s where the laughter and other inappropriateness stems from.

        • The case of Amanda Knox comes to mind. Her wrongful conviction took place in Italy. She and her boyfriend seemed unconcerned about the murder of Meredith Kercher and were subsequently the victim of character assassination. She was convicted of murder but the conviction was thrown out by the Supreme Court of Italy for lack of any concrete evidence. The US government made some effort to support her.

      • They were not being tried on their ability to act as you expect people in the middle of a traumatic episode to act from watching TV or wherever you get your information in trauma and grief. Stage one of grief: denial. What they were being tried on whether they murdered three people. If you want to see ‘trial by personality’, watch a reality show. You probably believe those stories aren’t full of omissions in the editing too.

        • Mave Dave,
          Of course I wish they had been tried on the murder, but they weren’t. They were convicted, without hard evidence, of a vicious, bloody murder. They were convicted for being who they were and not for what they did. Even a cursory look at the media coverage prompted by police, the use of the RCMP and the use of guilt by association would tell you that they were targets, rather than suspects. Documents clearly show that the RCMP were not investigating them but, from the very start, were only trying to get them to confess. Everyone ‘knew’ that they must be guilty.

    • Even if they are guilty, they were railroaded into a trial with little actual evidence other then the coersed confessions of young 20-somethings.

      If you watch the confessions, you see they make no sense. In one Burns clearly states, multiple times, the baseball bat used was something they found in the house. And when the questioner asks if they had bought it, he specifically says that no, the Rafays had it in the house.

      When Atif Rafay was asked the same thing, he clearly states that both he and Burns both went to the store and purchased the bat specifically during the murder.

      In fact, if you look it up, the confession goes against so much of the actual physical evidence that actually was there. According to the confession, Rafay spent the whole murder sitting in the sitting room as Burns murdered his family. But blood splatter evidence strongly suggests that there was at least one other person in the room with the murderer when the father was killed – so who was that?

      It sounds like a confession that was completely made up because these young people were hounded from the start, with the media, police, etc all telling the public they are completely, obviously guilty. The cops refused to accept any other explanation, as did the media.

  3. REASON ONE: You state that showering would not be sufficient to remove blood from the scalp and body but do you really know that for certain?

    REASON TWO: When Haslett asks ” Did any of them fight?”, Sebastien prefaces his answer by saying “Well, that’s a story that has yet to be told…”. He’s very convincing in making it sound like he’s not simply regurgitating media accounts of the crime but rather giving a first hand account of what happened. It’s a shame he never got to act in a movie. He might have won an academy award. The falseness of most false confessions is easy to detect…often painfully obvious. If these confessions are false, they’re the most convincing false confessions ever videotaped.

    • Wording is important. I said it was “unlikely” that showering would remove all traces of blood. No, I can’t be 100% certain but never said I was.
      As to false confessions, they take many forms. I can only say that, after ten years of researching them, it’s possible that I know more than you do on this subject. They can be quite convincing, especially if the suspect has a compelling reason to make them so. In this case, both Burns and Rafay feared for their lives.

        • In the previous sentence to the one you quote, I used the word “unlikely” with respect to eliminating any trace of blood from the face or scalp. The sentence after, that you quote, refers back to the previous sentence. I might have done a better job in clarifying that.

  4. As for the weakness of the circumstantial evidence:

    1. The prosecution never said that Nietzsche was a genocidal Nazi. They made the point that, like all authors, his writings are open to interpretation and that Atif and Sebastien interpreted some of these writings in an sinister way. Millions of people read Catcher in the Rye without subsequently shooting a President or killing a pop star but a couple of people did. Same idea here. I don’t think that this is strong circumstantial evidence and there’s nothing to say that the jury attributed much weight to it. At the same time, I don’t think it was wrong for the prosecution to reveal Atif and Sebastien’s affinity for the “superman theory” as a way to illustrate their belief in themselves as superior beings who are above the law.

    • Leonard,
      “There’s nothing to say that the jury attributed much weight to it.” There’s nothing to say either way as you and I were not on the jury. If I had been on the jury, I might have been taken in by the prosecutor’s association of Nietzsche with genocidal ideas (this is in the trial transcript) although I can now see it as a gross manipulation. There is a great distance between subscribing to a theory that some people are superior to others, as obnoxious as that might be, to murdering those who are inferior.

  5. circumstantial evidence:
    2. You ask why the boys would choose to kill the Rafay family as opposed to the wealthier Burns family. One reason could be that Sebastien was close to his family and therefore never put the idea of killing them on the table for himself and Atif to consider. Atif wasn’t as close to his family. He looked upon his parents devout religious beliefs with disdain and was estranged from his sister because of her disability. A second reason could be that Basma’s disability made the Rafay family an easier target. You also ask why they would choose to commit murder in Washington where there is the death penalty as opposed to Canada where there is not. This question assumes that the death penalty acts as a deterrent. Do you believe that?

    • If they were so cold and calculating, the death penalty would be a deterrent. No, I don’t believe in general that the death penalty is a deterrent.
      The Rafay family had very little money aside from an insurance policy. The house was heavily mortgaged as they had moved there recently. The Burns family was wealthy by those standards.
      Many kids have disdain for their parents’ religious beliefs. It’s simply not credible as a motive for murder, as the media and the prosecution (and you) tried to suggest.
      Finally, I do not believe that Sebastian was any closer to his family than Atif was to his. I believe that Atif had a close relationship with his mother and, like many late teens, a more distant attitude toward his father. You are making a series of assumptions here that do not hold up when you are actually familiar with the people involved, as I am. As to his sister, maybe Atif was estranged from her. The people who targeted the Rafays must have known about her too. That’s why they didn’t attempt the killing when Sebastian and Atif were in the house. So I agree that they were easier targets in that respect.

  6. circumstantial evidence:

    3. I’d have no difficulty accepting similarities between “Rope” and the murders as a stark coincidence if it was the only stark coincidence but it’s not. After wrecking the family car, Sebastien attempted to extricate himself using theater alibi. Later, at the precise time the Rafays were being murdered, of all the places in the world he could possibly have been, where was he? He was in a theater…again. I mean, honestly, what are the odds of two such astonishing coincidences befalling one person? Probably about the same odds as one person twice winning the grand prize lottery jackpot. Probably about the same odds as one person being struck by lightening on two separate occasions. If Sebastien Burns is innocent, he’s got to be the most unlucky fella ever to walk the face of the earth. Here’s the point I really want to make: It’s very easy to take any one piece of circumstantial evidence in this case and look at it in isolation and conclude that it’s coincidental or indefinitive or both. However, when you take all the pieces of circumstantial evidence and line them up beside each other and look at them collectively and connect the dots, the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. This, of course, is nothing more than my humble opinion.

    • The theater coincidence is not as unlikely as you say. They were seen in that movie theater on the night of the killing. Moreover, adolescents lying about family car accidents is unsurprising. In the past, young people spent lots of time in movie theaters. Why wouldn’t that come to mind? The circumstantial evidence in this case does not line up as you say, unless you have a need for closure. We all deceive ourselves in pursuit of a winning argument. The more powerful arguments, I believe, are the absence of forensic evidence and the coercion of the confessions.

      • Sorry, but, in addition to this “coincidence”, does nobody think that it seems a bit odd that these two went to the lion king of all movies?of course it is just a detail on which you can’t decide on guilt or not, but that made me think of this alibi as likely staged.

        • Yes, good point, Sofie. Everyone who saw The Lion King is a criminal, myself included. It’s about myth and not exclusively a child’s film.

          • This kind of follows the “perfect crime” theory. If they were trying to stage a perfect alibi then why would they choose the Lion King if that’s not a movie that they would have gone to see on any other normal evening? They were in Seattle where I’m sure dozens of movies were playing at the same time, not like the Lion King was their only option so they had to make due.

          • What you say here is confusing, Peter. I have said that the Lion King is one of those films that appeals to both children and adults, albeit on different levels. But I’m not sure if this answer has anything to do with what you’re writing here.

          • Ken- I was defending your point. The other comment said that using Lion King as an alibi makes them look guilty, because it seems odd that 2 18 year old men would choose to see that on a normal night. It also suggests that there were no other movie options at that time on that night so they had to settle for Lion King because it fit their alibi window, but they were in Seattle which would have had dozens of movies playing at the same time. I agree that the Lion King appealed to a large audience, I literally just watched it a few months ago and I’m in my 30s.
            My point was that if they were trying to commit the perfect murder and have a solid alibi, they likely would have chosen a more suitable adult movie, for instance Speed had just hit theaters in June 1994. So if anything the fact that they were seeing Lion King makes them look less guilty or not guilty at all.

  7. circumstantial evidence:
    4.I agree with you here as far as you go which ain’t too far. Yes, perpetrators other than Atif and Sebastien could have staged the crime scene to make it look like a burglary. Let’s go with that. Let’s assume the perps were persons not known to the Rafays…strangers. Isn’t likely these strangers would have left signs of forced entry?If Sultana was anything like my wife, she would have had the doors locked especially given that she had just moved to a new neighborhood. Okay….maybe she forgot to lock the doors. If a stranger entered the residence through an unlocked door with a baseball bat, isn’t likely Sultana would have been alarmed?That she would have screamed? That she would have suffered defensive wounds trying to ward off her attacker? That her screams would have awakened Tariq? That he also would have suffered defensive wounds? Sultana and Tariq both died without ever knowing what hit them. Neither one sustained any defensive wounds. Sultana was never aware that a stranger was in her house. These strangers must have been real stealthy. And real good lock pickers too. Maybe these strangers had keys. Maybe these strangers looked exactly like Atif Rafay and his good buddy Sebastien Burns.

    • Interesting discussion here with someone who appears reasonable. I appreciate that. Sultana was probably not like your wife, especially since she had lived in Canada for an extended period. Back in those days, Canadians (and I know this from many years in Toronto) were just as apt to leave their doors unlocked as they were to lock them. It may have been by habit that she didn’t keep the doors locked.
      We don’t know about screams. We do know that the neighbors heard thumping sounds at the time the boys were at the movie theater. Since Sultana may have been surprised, she might not have been able to scream but to look with horror and panic at her attacker. In nightmares, we sometimes try to scream but cannot. I would say that this killing was nightmarish. Tariq Rafay was in bed when he was attacked and would likely have been asleep. I think your argument here is thin.

      • I grew up in the 90s in a suburban neighborhood outside of Boston, during the summer my parents would leave the back door wide open pretty much every day and every night. Wouldn’t be too difficult for someone to sneak in during the middle of the night for a surprise attack.

        • I’ll reiterate here something I said a couple of years ago. The Rafays had lived in Canada where people routinely leave their doors open. Or did so back in the 1990’s. I have friends in Toronto who still do it. Michael Moore made a point of this in “Sicko”.

          • I’m not disputing any facts here, but I do want to comment on speculation. I grew up in Vancouver and am the same age as Atif and Sebastian: we locked our doors. Always. Dead bolts, chains, etc and yes even alarm systems. 1994 is not 1954. There was the terror from the Green River murders, Clifford Olson plus the disappearance of women on the lower east side that was later attributed to Pickton. I find it very unlikely that a smart woman like Sultana Tariq would have left her doors unlocked at night especially with a daughter at home. But anything is possible. It’d be interesting to know if during the first questions Atif was asked how he entered the house: whether the door was unlocked when he got home. It was Bowlng for Columbine where Michael Moore made the statement about Canadians not locking their doors. It was an unfounded statement. That said I’m not disagreeing on other points. There is just not enough to go on to convict these guys or anytime for that matter. The investigation doesn’t make sense.

  8. You’ll notice that I didn’t comment on some of the points in your blog. That’s because I agree with them. I completely agree with you, for example, that they did not “flee” to Canada. They were well within their rights to return to Canada and probably should have done so sooner.
    This is a fascinating case. There’s just so much in this one. As you can tell, it’s gotten under my skin a little bit. I’ve enjoyed discussing it with you.
    Has the appeal process in this case been exhausted? I think it would be a good thing if they were granted a new trial regardless of the outcome.

    • Atif has appealed on every level and is still pursuing the final stage of a personal restraint petition (PRP). He is trying to make a thorough case for his habeas hearings by exploring (and exploiting) all possible grounds for a federal appeal.
      Sebastian went straight to habeas (federal court) after losing his initial set of state appeals.
      The process has not been exhausted but it is an ordeal. Still, Atif is upbeat and feeling well supported from the outside. Attorneys are now working on his case as are others. Frankly, he is remarkably strong in the face of continued unjust incarceration.

  9. I am troubled by the fact that Atif did not attend the funeral of his family, but instead was on a bus back to Canada. Couldn’t he have waited 1 day or so and been at the funeral? Another thing, it seems totally unbelievable that he would notice his walkman and VCR missing in all that carnage. Plus, they very quickly stopped cooperating with the police. They both come across as very arrogant and pompous and uncaring about the brutal murders. Atif didn’t even go in to try and help his sister who was moaning and dying. He admitted as much on tape. And Sebastian’s family members all come across as arrogant and in denial which is often typical of family members. Nothing about these young men screams innocent. And I’m sure there is a lot more evidence that we just don’t know about — whether it’s not presented in the media, or to the jury.

    • The funny thing here is that I agree with Lori on some of the points she made. Troubling, yes. The behaviour of eighteen year olds, yes. I would ask you, as I have countless times of others: How would you behave after finding your entire family bludgeoned to death? If you thought the killer(s) was still in the house, would you help your brother or sisterA? Maybe, maybe not. Some people are more courageous than others. The point is you don’t know unless you have to face it and I sincerely hope you never do. You can’t answer that and neither can I. There is no behavioural manual for those who face atrocity. The VCR issue could well have been a way of avoiding the absolute horror of what had occurred; that’s what I think and I know Atif well.
      The family memorial took place in Vancouver and the two of them behaved badly. Atif had no connection of any sort with his extended family. But had the both of them been cunning and calculating they would undoubtedly have behaved in a solemn and hypocritical manner.
      You think people should cooperate with police? If you’re a suspect? You need a lawyer, right? They didn’t even calculate enough to protect themselves because they knew they were innocent and thought they had nothing to worry about. That is the mistake many people, young and old, make by talking to police. I hope you don’t do anything like that, Lori, because it would be a mistake. The police talk to you because you are a suspect. It wasn’t until Mr. Burns got them a lawyer that they stopped talking to police.
      “I am sure there is a lot more evidence…” Believe me, there isn’t. And the evidence you mention here is not evidence that they committed a murder. And nothing forensic has ever surfaced that ties them to this murder.

      • Sebastian said they would stay outside cause it could be dangerous inside. However, when the cops arrived they were sat down in front of the house. How is that dangerous?

        • Hi Anna,
          Not sure that you said what you wanted to say here, but they sat outside the house because they didn’t know if the killer(s) was still inside.

    • Agreed. Burns and Rafay are guilty. Burns committed the murder during the movie… With a baseball bat. Burns appeared arrogant, money grubbing, and with every sense of lack of remorse. The motive was money. The court system did abide by Canadian law by obtaining information within legal guidelines within their country. Fake tears and all. They were convicted by their own words. When they both confessed on tape, everything that the US federal agents couldn’t decipher made so much more sense. Guilty.

      • I can respect Jane’s opinion and will let it stand on its own (not argue with its premises) because it provides an object lesson in the debate on capital punishment. The only thing that is 100% certain in this case is that the Rafays were murdered. We all know that, just as we know the twin towers were toppled. Anything after that is speculation or, as I say, opinion. Unless Jane is the voice of an omniscient God, then she is pretending to deny uncertainty, the human condition.
        Rubin Carter used to say–and I agree with him–that capital punishment is ‘the perfect punishment–an eye for an eye–in a world of imperfect people.’ Jane’s is the attitude brought on, to some extent, by social media–and this forum is social media. One can say what one believes without solid evidence. “The motive was money.” “Burns committed the murder during the movie.” and so forth. These are categorical statements and reflect the attitude of those who are comfortable with the death penalty. And when they find out the defendant is innocent they say that “the possibility that executed people might have been innocent is ‘the price we have to pay’ for justice.” But juries are not infallible and neither are judges or federal agents.

    • Atif was never informed of the funeral, as a matter of fact he never even knew his relatives were in Bellevue. Despite the police contacting his relatives at his request, Atif was informed no such action had taken place. They flat out lied to him. He found out the truth via TV news when he arrived in Canada

  10. Ken, is there on record any similar cases of possible violence perpetrated by “Muslim Fundamentalists” in the US or Canada ? That is, personal home invasions/murder of entire families ? What is the history ?

    Does the Innocence Project do any research on the leads the police neglected or are you solely focussed on the plight of the convicted ?

    I ask this because I have as much trouble, or even more, imagining Muslim fundamentalists as the killers as I do Sebastian and Atif. If the kind of grievances this group supposedly had towards Mr Rafay led to the brutal murder of an entire family, one would think it would hardly be a one-off case. Also a very risky way to commit it instead of targeting Mr Rafay on his own. But I don’t know, maybe there are other circumstances and I have just not heard of them. (and I’m not talking about honour killings)

    In terms of motive, why does insurance money necessarily have to enter into it ? Sebastian may have been exercising a fantasy; the Rafays were convenient and so was their son. There are so many precedents and documentation of the psychology of murdering pairs.

    Finally, I must question your statement that you “know Atif very well”. Firstly, he is a man behind bars who needs friends and help – this is not a symbiotic, free-flowing situation.
    Many killers are kind, intelligent, creative people who are surrounded by friends and family that adore them. Take Dylan Klebold, for example, and the secret life he hid from everyone. Mind blowing !

    • Hi Allyson,
      Your response is well thought out and welcome. To the best of my ability, I can answer some of these questions.
      First, I will say that no two crimes are identical (home invasions and the like) but that we were basing our speculation on the ‘modus operandi’. According to documents and the original police investigations, Mrs. Rafay received threatening phone calls beforehand; two suspects in that community were identified but not investigated; Mr. Rafay, the president of a Canadian-Pakistani friendship organization was involved in work that called the placement of Canadian mosques into question; articles appeared in local ‘in house’ papers on the apostasy of people who held this view; that a friend of Mr. Rafay’s who was the next head of the Canadian-Pakistani friendship organization was shot dead in front of his house just before Sebastian and Atif’s trial in 2003; that a witness, an RCMP informant in Canada, warned of a potential hit on a Pakistani family that had moved to Bellevue, Washington from West Vancouver; that an FBI informant gave vital information to the Bellevue police as to the murder weapon and the individuals involved in the killing…this goes on but you get the idea that we didn’t just pick the motivation out of a hat. Still, it’s the cumulative effect and nothing definite that led to the theory.
      As to insurance money, that was the motive used in the trial against the defendants. Now this may have been suggested by Sebastian Burns during the months long sting by the RCMP but they did not hesitate to use it because no other motive existed. Sebastian might have said this because he had to satisfy the RCMP gangsters that he was ‘solid’.
      Finally, after 10 years I think I do know Atif very well. While you’d be right that no one could know that the Columbine killers would commit a crime like that, I’d say that if I knew Dylan Klebold for ten years, his instability might have jumped out at me at some point in the relationship. Atif is not a perfect being, but he is incapable of plotting a murder, just as I would safely say that about my own brother.

      • Thanks for your reply and for the info. Very interesting about the person targeted in BC.
        And I’m sure the Klebold family, despite being aware of their son’s emotional turbulence and tendency to problem solve, would have never thought him capable of murder either, almost two years in the making. Nor his friends.
        Anyway, I’m not trying to draw parallels between Klebold and Atif, but only wonder at the capacity of the human being to deceive, conceal and compartmentalize using religion, the military, intellectualism, power …

        • True. You never know anyone for certain, not even yourself, in the sense that you don’t know what you’re capable of doing in a particular situation. For good or ill.

          • Yes, especially when they are out of the original context (in this case, the duo dynamic).
            Researchers agree that Klebold would have not acted on his own.
            So when we contemplate of what Atif is capable, the answer may be different depending on the situation. I’m sure you’ve thought that over, however…

          • Reminds me of the film about Rumsfeld (or MacNamara?): “There are the unknown unknowns.” We have science and probability that work to some extent in the law. We also must admit to the possibility that we are wrong. And yet there are very few cases of wrongly convicted people being found to have committed the crime for which they were convicted because the standard for exoneration is so extremely high. There are people who have been exonerated and gone on to commit crimes, mainly because of their experiences in jail. Innocence projects try to stay away from people who show that negative potential because the reputation of the project would be significantly damaged or permanently destroyed.

      • I think the idea that Mrs. Rafay received threatening phone calls before the murders hurts you more than it helps you. Those phone calls would have made her keep the doors to the house locked especially at night but there were no signs of forced entry at the crime scene which points the finger of guilt to Atif and Sebastien since they had keys.

        • I think you’re making too many assumptions here. You might be right, but there are too many variables in most crimes, especially this one, to write with certainty about ‘the finger of guilt.’ “Why was there no forced entry?” is a legitimate question but the conclusion–that Atif and Sebastian had the keys–leaves out more than a dozen other possible scenarios. The simplest I can think of is forgetting to do something when force of habit takes over. Or thinking you’ve done something when you really haven’t. Or perhaps someone let them in or opened the door to speak to them?
          Something happened, unquestionably. The Rafay family, minus Atif, was savagely murdered. We know that. And the truth is that it was done in a particular way that we might never fully know. We do know that there were threats.

          • I do still think that the killer may not have been a total stranger. If it was someone from the Pakistani community , they may have even gone out of their way to be friendly with the family so the family would have no alarm or suspicious to let them into their home.

  11. Coincidentally, that Rumsfeld clip was used on a recent episode of The Current that featured an interview with a scientist-author who just wrote a book about our conception of “knowledge”. Perhaps you heard it too- is that what sparked your recollection ?
    I found it very interesting …

  12. I’m not even sure what the question is regarding the guilt of Burns and Rafay. I have been fascinated with this case from the beginning and just watched Dateline and Mr. Big. Burns tells the story with such a cavalier attitude, with Rafay laughing at the recollection of his sister as she was walking around waiting to die, there is no doubt in my mind. Those who believe the guys are innocent haven’t logically assessed the evidence.

    • Georgie,
      “Cavalier attitude” does not indicate the use of logic. “No doubt in my mind” does not appeal to logic either. We’ve tried to stay logical while admitting the difficulties of the case. One of the segments about a series of wrongful convictions on Netflix, coming out this summer, will, I believe, examine the case dispassionately.

    • Plus to not have helped herC he not even mentions her in his speech at court. Taking by what he said there only his parents were killed.

      • I find that aspect of Atif’s behavior troubling. His character at the time revealed a dislike for his sister. It was hard for Rubin Carter and I to warm to him, knowing about this. But we had to acknowledge the imperfections of character in our clients. You have to know that sometimes the innocent defendant can be the author of his or her own misfortune. (Rubin himself had a huge chip on his shoulder that caused the police to hate him.) As you say, even after sentencing, Atif couldn’t bring himself to acknowledge her. But that doesn’t make him a murderer; if we thought so, we never would have represented him. Both men are flawed but innocent of the crime for which they were convicted. We are all flawed, no?

  13. What gets me about the Mr big videotaped segments that I’ve seen (and I am aware that the public has viewed but a fraction of the Mr big recordings) is as a prior poster mentioned, the details of, and the demeanor with which the two recounted the “Story that has not been told before” concerning Rafay’s sister. Once Sebastian burns says that, rafay giggles – he knows what’s coming – he knows this story burns is going to tell. So is that A detail the two boys would have come up with prior to meeting with mr big that day merely to please Mr. Big – to merely appease this big boss out of fear – NO WAY. Rafay giggles because his sister , walking around aimlessly and confounded required some
    Extra BAT WORK – !!!?? And as the poster above said, the way he SAID it — there is no way in hell that that didn’t happen — Hallmark of truth. That’s what happened. Now Legally the confessions should never have come in and I believe The convictions should be overturned. But I do believe they are guilty. An then there’s that other pesky fact – renting videotapes the night of the murder at the hotel. If innocent, those two boys might have tried to get some alcohol, that I would accept,’or even some benzos to calm their nerves, but actually going to the store to rent videotapes. It’s not real evidence, not at all – but it does speak volumes as it is precisely what two remorseless murdering teens would do that night – one of those videos was a chevy chase movie, don’t forget. Come on! Last point – the two vs three killers theory based on the spattered pillow that was moved – could the third person evidenced by the lack of spatter be the sister who was “walking around”. Maybe, as her dad was being blugeoned in his bed, she grabbed the pillow to shield herself from the spatter during burns attack and stood in that area where no spatter is evident. Just a thought knowing the little I know from media and other online facts.

    • I have no problem with your ability to make conclusions; that’s probably the way the jury saw it. The strange thing about this case is that each piece of circumstantial ‘evidence’ is subject to pro or con interpretations. I do believe that the interpretations depend upon what you bring to the table beforehand. They are ‘prejudiced’ in the mild form of the word.
      It’s harder when one deals with forensic evidence. There’s less room for individual interpretation, although it still comes into play. The lack of forensics is more troubling to me.

      • Yes, people will want to measure someone else’s response by “what would I do”… this is an impossible game. What strikes me more is the choice of movie before the murders. The Lion King is a pretty odd choice for these two deep thinkers.

        On the same note – I’ve also wondered why the police and prosecutors wanted or needed to solve the Rafay murders so desperately. A Muslim family, recent arrivals from Canada – not exactly the “young white woman” kind of case that captures the attention of the press and the public. If the murders had gone cold, would there be the same kind of pressure ? I can’t imagine it…
        Ken, do you have any thoughts on why this became so important to solve ? It’s not like James Konat was a young upstart at that point.

        • I saw the Lion King when it came out too and I was in my late thirties. While the film was appealing to children, it was deep enough for adults to enjoy. That’s why the box office take was so big. Any type of mythological work has universal appeal.

          The multiple murders were so ghastly and so out of place in the community that the case became high profile. It still is in some ways. I always felt that the attitudes of Atif and Sebastian played a large role in the urgency of the case. They were perceived as arrogant and indifferent but one must remember that adolescents will often present themselves in ways that go against societal norms. My guess is that the police, especially an inexperienced detective like Bob Thompson, were determined to get the better of them. Tunnel vision has causes. Police perception of an individual can cause prejudice in the absence of solid evidence; hence circumstantial evidence is skewed against the unlikable suspect. So it’s not always the victims of crime that produce the urgency but the nature of the killers or the suspects.

  14. I admire your determination. Really. Everybody deserves representation and a fair review/appeal of their convictions.

    But IMO you’re also engaging in the type of speculative thinking that you’re asking your own viewers not to engage in, such as with reason #5, item #2 (the greed motive).

    Firstly, you ask your readers to wonder if murdering his family sounds like it’s worth a mere $500k?…..thus implying it’s not logical nor common to murder for such a low amount of money. But in reality, thousands of murders are done for far less than half a million dollars even when the motive is purely financial and not personal. This is especially true for younger murderers.

    Plus… When you consider the fact that Sebastian said he was unsatisfied with his mobster pay for delivering ‘stolen cars’ to the United States for Mr. Big (in the videos) it really shows how greedy he really was…..along with his fascination for making money while doing illegal activities which could land him in jail (despite you claiming that the Burns’ family is so rich that Sebastian should have had no financial worries).

    Also, telling Mr. Big’s mobsters that he wasn’t satisfied with the pay he received (for delivering the cars) doesn’t lend credibility to the theory that he FEARED Mr. Big and was terrified of him. A person who was TRULY terrified of Mr. Big wouldn’t be complaining about mobster pay to those very same mobsters.

    Plus…. Sebastian made the statement (to Mr. Big’s mobsters) that he could make more money stealing videos from his local video rental store, thus showing how greedy and desperate he seemed to be to make money without having to work for it honestly.

    These greedy statements by Sebastian certainly don’t prove murder, but they do contradict your explanation that Sebastian wasn’t greedy or that his family was so rich that it wasn’t logical for him to murder for money.

    Secondly, you make the point that the Burns’ family was far more wealthy than the Rafay family (e.g. they would have delivered a bigger estate/insurance payday for being murdered) along with the fact that there’s no death penalty in Canada.

    However, you fail to mention that his sister was not living at home in Canada with her parents and could not have been murdered easily along with the parents to give Sebastian his maximum inheritance.

    Secondly, his family in Canada did not have a mentally impaired person in the home who essentially could not even call 911 or do anything to assist her family during the murders (all it takes is one extra person to call 911 to make such a plan not feasible).

    Plus… Even if he got his sister to come back to Canada for a family dinner with her husband, that would have left extra NON MENTALLY IMPAIRED adults in the home (who could have called 911 or run out of the home and got help once the attack began).

    Oh… and that assumes Sebastian doesn’t have any other family members or siblings who might be present in the home in addition to his sister and her husband, which would add even more people to the room.

    Most importantly….. Your “Canada Theory” doesn’t take into account that by doing the murders in the United States nobody had to physically bludgeon their own parents (Sebastian was convicted of being the “bat man” because Atif was far too small and meek to take out his entire family with a bat). However, under your “Canada Theory” it would have been Sebastian who would have had to bludgeon his own parents face to face, which isn’t the same thing as killing non family members.

    Atif is far too tiny to do anything other than watch (I doubt he’d win a fist fight against a 90 year old granny, lol).

    Thus your conclusion that it would have been more logical to do the killings in Canada doesn’t really stand up to basic logic when all of the evidence is considered.

    I do agree that the Mr. Big confessions are not solid enough to force a conviction all by themselves though. But when I look at the totality of circumstantial evidence, I’d have still convicted them both myself.

    Part of being on a jury means using your own life experiences and basic common sense when evaluating circumstantial evidence which could be interpreted in different ways (juries are allowed to use common sense to evaluate evidence).

    The movie theater alibi isn’t really air tight and it’s certainly not much of a leap to assume that they left a darkened movie theater and returned. It’s not as if it takes a rocket scientist to leave a darkened movie theater and come back. It’s a rather simple plan, not very sophisticated.

    But I do respect your determination in representing them.

    • You’ve taken a lot of time, Michael, so I’d like to answer over a period of time as well. Much of what you. Say is factually incorrect although your conclusion–that they are guilty as charged–is a matter of opinion. I will deal with your final point first: No one ever said that they returned to the theater, in fact no one saw them leave the theater, either before or after the end of the film. While it would have helped the defense if someone had seen them leave after the film, we don’t usually notice people when we leave the cinema in the dark or even in the lobby.

    • With respect to Sebastian’s supposed greed, I would consider the circumstances under which he spoke of that as a motive. He’s speaking to people that he thinks are mobsters, gangland types, so he needs to convince them that he is ‘solid’ and he needs to do it with as much bravado as possible. What he is saying, therefore, is part of an act, and cannot be taken as one might take a confession to a police officer. (And even those confessions can be dubious.)

  15. I have only 1 observation to make. Those who want to review the legality if not the morality; of the confessions can Google Burns v Warner. In a decision upheld by the liberal 9th circuit; Judge Marsha Pechman; a federal judge; goes through Burns’s claims and rejects each one in detail. She of course takes care to opine everybody is entitled to their opinion; but I firmly believe her arguments against coercion are persuasive. Her opinion as a federal judge carries a lot of weight. I’m not saying her legal opinion confirms guilt. The centerpiece of the legal arguments has been that the confessions were illegally obtained by coercion. But thus far the trial court; the state appeal court; the federal habeas judge; and the liberal 9th circuit who routinely reverse criminal cases; have found that the confessions were given voluntarily and of their own free will. As Pechman roughly said; Burns was free to stay or leave; he was not a naive young kid; and after watching the tapes she; a highly decorated and revered federal jurist was struck by how calm he was and she saw nothing demonstrating fear as he laughed at killing 3 people. It may well be that jurors can be blinded by emotion; which is why we have federal judges appointed for life who discard emotion and sentiment; and issue decisions with dispassion and lack of bias.

    • Interesting comments, William. I appreciate what you’ve said.
      Rubin Carter was fond of saying that “The death penalty is the perfect punishment but perfection has no place in a system that is run by human beings.” So, yes, people of great weight and moral authority can weigh in and rule but, because they weren’t at the murder scene or the interrogation, can easily be mistaken. The legal system is run by people.
      Months of videotape of Sebastian Burns were taken by the RCMP; what the jury and the judge saw was a distillation; none of Burns’s denials appeared on the tapes, only the so-called confession. Neither Burns nor Rafay made those confessions of their own free will. Even confessions made to the police and sanctioned by Miranda rights can be false. We see this over and over in wrongful conviction cases.
      Finally, have you ever seen bravado in a teenager? It doesn’t look like fear but it may mask it. Judge Warner and the whole post-conviction system has one purpose: sustain the conviction (unless evidence to the contrary (e.g. DNA) is overwhelming.

  16. They were found guilty by their own admissions. Their admisions were not done out of fear for their lives, but from their own greed. They refused dna testing. They did leave the US without saying a word. Who would act like this after a family was slaughtered? Not innocent people. Well, sociopaths would. They are locked down and not going anywhere…

    • “They were found guilty by their own admissions.” Does jlaw not believe in the possibility of false confessions? Does the Mr. Big technique actually encourage false confessions? (I know it does from other cases that were thrown out by the courts.)
      “Greed” was the only motive that the police and prosecutors could manage to come up with. My belief is that greed in this case is more a reflection of the mind of the accuser than the mind of the accused, a projection if you will. I have said before that if greed were so paramount and if these boys (at the time) were ‘amoral’, then why not go to Canada and kill the Burns family, where there was no capital punishment and where the Burns family was far better off financially than the Rafays?
      They did not ‘flee’ the US. They had no place else to go and they were not being held.
      Finally, does jlaw know how he would behave (at the age of 19) if he found his family slaughtered like that? Does anybody?

    • Of course it was “greed”! After everything that they had gone through with the media, they had no jobs, no possibility of school, no real way to make a decent living. They most likely felt that those perps could have offered them something (money, freedom) which they otherwise had very little access to. It is completely shameful what’s happened to them. The justice system is evil in this country — just look at what happens to black men and women shot by the police

  17. I just watched the Netflix documentary and can’t believe the police got away with using this tactic. They were clearly determined that these two were the killers, in the face of everything pointing elsewhere.
    I know it’s easy to show situations in different a different light depending on how you select the evidence; this goes for both the documentary and the original trial; so I’m not saying the documentary shows all there is to know.
    Watching the footage of the confessions is heartbreaking; flippant, contradictory answers without internal consistency, led by an indtomidating character intended purely to illicit these kind of responses. The ridiculousness of it all beggars belief.
    Reading the other comments; arrogance is not a crime, seeming cold is not a crime, reading philosophy is not a crime.

    It’s tragic that the lives of these loyal friends have been ruined based on the determination of police with a blinkered attitude. It’s tragic that the true killers walk free.

  18. Hello Ken, the information that I have about the case is limited from the Netflix documentary ‘The Confession Tapes’. I’m not going to get into legalities of the case, nor argue the innocence of Sebastian and Atif. But I deeply admire your drive and commitment in helping these men at a chance for a fair trial. Keep on fighting!

  19. I am really failing to see why it is even worth defending the accused . Yes the complete lack of hard evidence is rather peculiar; but one must remember that these are not two odirnary teenagers. They clearly have visions of grandeur purely from there intrest in zeude, and being a psychologist it is almost too easy to work out the behavior of those two teenagers. The complete lack of remorse , not going to the funeral , renting movies after the murders. Your argument is what would you do in the situation , I think you can agree that the higher percentage would not leave there sister to die , would not care for a VCR missing , and would not attend the funeral of there whole family ? are you telling me that this is normal behavior and should be ignored ? They were both 19 year old sociopaths , clearly looking for a thrill and obsessed with achieving there own greatness , commiting three perfect murders, escaping without even having to pretend to show remorse and living the high life on the insurance money while they plan there next plan.
    i do see your point about mr bigs being a bullying tactic and should not be used; but the fact lies that they confessed along with the evidence of complete lack of remorse is MORE than enough evidence to why these two will spend there rest of there lives in jail and defending them is a complete waste of time.

    • Some of what you say about them is true, Shir. Sadly, that is why they were convicted. They behaved arrogantly and obnoxiously, before and after the murders. But, if you really are a psychologist, your conclusions are surprisingly inconsistent. Why would they feel remorse if they were innocent of the crime? Renting movies when you are stuck in a motel room for days is not terribly criminal or heartless. Maybe a bit escapist, no? The frivolous use of the insurance money indicates a lack of judgment but what do adolescents generally do with a pocketful of money?

      I think they were convicted because police and prosecutors, just like Shir, tend to dislike kids like that. I probably would not have liked them either if i knew them then, but I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that they were capable of such a heinous crime because of such personal traits.
      A psychologist is supposed to be a scientist. A scientist does not label people sociopaths without a proper examination. The judge said that Burns was ‘amoral’. Had Burns murdered three family members, he would have been an amoral sociopath, even a psychopath. What happens, though, if Burns and Rafay are innocent? What if you knew for certain that they were innocent? Would you have called them sociopaths notwithstanding that they did not commit the murders?

      What Kelly Loudenberg did so well in the Netflix piece was to allow each side to have its say. There was no Michael Moore like voice directing the way you ought to think. You are free to draw your own conclusions from the evidence presented. I think most people can see the railroad job that the police did on the suspects, the crass vulgarity of the RCMP gangsters, the snide bullying of two vulnerable yet, I will admit, not so nice young people.

      As I quote at the beginning of this website: “All true convictions should proceed from a scientific investigation the results of which can be replicated (and which should be shown to be replicable). A particular person should not necessarily have any involvement whatsoever in the investigation into or trial of their offense. The world itself should provide all details and all evidence. If such evidence is lacking, then a crime cannot be proven without a doubt, and a person ought not to be convicted or punished.” Jesse Ball, Silence Once Begun (Pantheon, 2014) THE LACK OF FORENSIC EVIDENCE IS NOT ODD. IT IS THE VERY FOUNDATION OF THEIR INNOCENCE.

      • Yes, 2 poor innocent young kids, barely out of diapers, really
        Babies who slept in cribs still, I bet

        I believe that SOME of the people in the Netflix series were innocent, but not these 2
        People do seem to love these stories, but you know, a very large percentage of people convicted of crimes, are actually guilty

      • Innocence, and “not guilty” verdict in a legal sense i.e.not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, are 2 different things
        You don’t KNOW that these 2 are innocent, unless you were present during thebkillings and saw what happened.

        So those smart enough to hide forensic evidence should walk, only dummies who mess up, ever get convicted of murder.
        You are in love with these 2, for whatever reason..OK.
        Do you know there are cases in both USA and Canada where murder convictions have happened with NO forensic evidence, without even a body?
        No definitive proof that a person had beenmkilled, maybe they disappeared to a new life in a different country?

        But conviction happened on witness testimony that the accused told them they did it.
        Or circumstances. .like motivation, access, ability.
        A man’s wife disappears and there is NOTHING proving he did it, no forensic evidence, zero.
        In fact he may have hired someone to do it..No proof of that, either..he has an airtight alibi.
        Convicted, nevertheless.
        Should those who hire a hit man get off Scot free?
        By definition, there’d be no forensic evidence tying him to the murder.
        I think yo6 are not well acquainted with law if you think forensic evidence is always mandatory for conviction
        Anyway, how would you know 100.00% that police didn’t plant evidence, lie about it, etc?
        Forensic, physical evidence isn’t 100.00000 % foolproof either
        You could always argue that, if you like the accused person and believe they must be innocent.
        Maybe no-one should ever be convicted of murder?

        I think that’s why the law refers to “beyond a REASONABLE doubt ”
        NOT ” beyond ANY POSSIBLE doubt, whatsoever.
        That standard would mean almost no-one would ever be convicted
        Even multiple eyewitnesses CAN, possibly, be mistaken, Or lie. Physical evidence COULD possibly be planted.
        Expert witnesses could lie, for pay

        Maybe just accept that some people will be victims, and no-one need face justice for committing crimes


          • Does anyone in this discussion remember what is what like to be 18 years old? You think you are clever, but you are not.

            I personally think they are awful people, but guilty of this crime? No. To commit a crime like this and to have the forensic intelligence to hide a mountain of evidence that would surely convicg them had they committed these incredibly messy murders would mean they possess a level of criminal in. If they are guilty, not counting guilty of arrogance and bravado, then they are cunning criminals and deserve to be in jail. Quite doubtful

          • I agree with Harper entirely except for one thing. They are not ‘awful people'; they were, as you said, 18 years old and lacking judgment, even obnoxious and arrogant at the time. “You think you are clever, but you are not.” Simply stated but absolutely true.

          • Does anyone in this discussion remember what is what like to be 18 years old, especially with supportive loving families? These kids were not from broken dysfunctional famiiles where you might forgive their criminal transgressions, they loved their families, they got caught up in a mess set up by the Canadian police.

            They denied their involvement and then “confessed” to be cool with men who they thought were gangsters/mafioso types.

            In reality they were being deceived by the police that should have been searching for the real killers. Based on the abundance of evidence and testimony the authorities were given by other reliable sources and officials, it is unconscionable that they continued to pursue this course alone and not consider other possibilities.

            I personally think they are awful people, but guilty of this crime? No. To commit a crime like this and to have the forensic intelligence to hide a mountain of evidence that would surely convict them had they committed these incredibly messy murders, would mean they possess a level of criminal sophistication a couple of college kids probably don’t have.

            If they are guilty, not counting guilty of arrogance and bravado, then they are cunning criminals and deserve to be in jail. Quite doubtful

    • Ken keep fighting the good fight. Totally agree with everything you have put across. It sickens me to the pit of my stomach that these 2 boys now men were put away simply because they were ‘odd’ personalities. Irrespective of who they were before the murders and how they reacted after, the physical evidence does not lie (that being there is nothing linking burns and rafay to the murders). This was another case of criminal investigation being ruled by media. The hypening of the argument that ‘they acted weird’, they must be guilty because they read philosophy about ‘superior beings’. What a bunch of sensationalist BS. If acting weird or reacting in ways that is perceived to be ‘outside the social norms’ is precursor for murder, well hey every teen must be guilty then. This in tandem with the police operating with their investigative ‘blinkers’ on sealed the fate of these 2 men. The police brought into the hype of ‘their’ so called post murder ‘reaction’ hype they left logic and open-minded unbiased behind to the point they wanted it to be burns and rafay irrespective of what the evidence was telling them and they were going to get their targets by any means necessary. What i have read about Mr Big stings, they are designed to illicit false confessions. The scenarios themselves are strange. Involve the target on one criminal activity to get them to ommit incriminating evidence about another by continuously telling them, you must say this to be ‘solid’. Sounds like putting words in another’s mouth by other means ie. You must tells us what we want hear otherwise your not ‘solid’ with the crew. Criminal bragidosia anybody? People also question, why did they involve themselves in criminal activity if they were innocent? Simple it goes back to trial by media. The boys lost their rights to a normal life the moment they were called into question and accused of the murders. The power of the media to make you ‘guilty’ before proven meant the boys were never going to get normal jobs even if they were proven innocent at trial. You see it happen all the time. With little life career prospects a life of crime seemed a convenient option to boys accused of murder. Hey lets use the hype and fame to appeal to the only people willing to hire them based on their supposed current resume’s. Sounds extraordinary to you or me, but to somebody under that much presure under that much uncertainty anything seems plausible. To answer Jimmy Miyoshi’s part in this case, two words ‘self preservation’, it is not uncommon. To say one thing at initial investigation and then flip at trial clearly indicates being ‘leaned on’. He feared for the security of his job, career and family, he was threatend that he would loose it all if he didn’t testify against rafay and burns. The family question. Why was rafay so absent about his sister and unemotional towards her plight. Many things could answet this, but his reactions alone do not make him guilty. This case was prejudiced from the outset and the preconceived notions of guilt driven by the media including the police and judicial systems led this case to its inevitable conclusion. It is sad that people think that there conceptions of morality a far superior and ‘more right’ than anothers. The more people understand that the normality of the conceived ‘right’ social behaviour is but an illusion and is and will always be the product of the eye of the beholder, the less one will be judged on appearance and demeanor alone. Miscarriage of justice does not merely begin to describe what took place. I just hope that you and innocence project can win this fight. Good luck and god speed.

      • Thanks for all of this; much appreciated. I would only want to say that the sting is not designed to produce false confessions. However, it consistently does so because those who operate the sting have the tunnel vision you are describing. They think the confessions are real but, in the absence of hard evidence, it’s the product of self-delusion. The recent case here of Tina Fontaine, a First Nations 14 year old girl who was cruelly murdered, is a perfect example. The sting was applied without regard for the evidence, so the jury found the possible perpetrator not guilty. Why the courts here haven’t ruled out Mr. Big is a mystery. To me, the worst consequence is that the RCMP have grown reliant on it. Their skills in solving crime are lacking, to say the least. The poor families who want to see justice are devastated.

  20. I just watched Netflix Confession Tape. It is insane that false confessions are used to convict wrongfully time and time again. So many people can’t fathom innocent people will confess but there are so many cases in the past and many more to come. I followed Memphis three, and Amanda Knox case, which were both overturned after lengthy legal battles. I am saddened very much to see Sebastian and Atif incarcerated on illegal technique to draw false confession and due to people who just can’t see beyond their norms.

    • Yes I also just watched the episodes.
      It is so interesting this case I believe was a false trial. I’m 17 in year 10 and earlier during the year we studied “serial” narrated by Sarah Koenig and there’s so many things that are similar, LOTS of inconsistencies, alibis and so suspects that were never interviewed etc.
      like the people who were calling Atifs mum sending threats were never looking into which is bizarre.

    • Wow I am 17 and just watched the episodes on this case and my god it’s so interesting! I can’t stop looking info up etc.
      then I found this thread, I absaloutly love this thread so much information.
      I personally believe they are innocent, everything sounded to forced like when he swore you could really tell he was trying to act cool, but he was talking to a “gang member” so I probably would Have to, but then there was all the umming hand ahhing and inconsistencies which did it for me, I’m no lawyer (obviously) but that screams innocence to me, am I right??
      But at the trial when Atif starts crying saying how hoe much he loved them sounded forced to like he was told to be sad, it didn’t look natural.
      Watching there body language a lot of the time they’d hold there breath, and jimmy? I’ve forgotten his name (the japaniese boy) when he was up at the stand his face went red, pretended he couldn’t hear what was said and didn’t swallow or breath for a few seconds unlike how he acted before that statement was made (about the email).
      I don’t know, as I said im 17 so probably reading it all wrong but I’d love to hear what you think!
      Look forward to your response!! :)

  21. So the alternative theory is that religious extremists killed them….with baseball bats?….in his supposed false confession, Burns remembers that he wasn’t completely naked when he committed the murders, that he was wearing a pair of “gonch”-underwear. His description of the murders makes a lot of sense and probably represents what really happened in my humble opinion.

    • I always thought that Muslim extremists heavily preferred using knives, stabbings, slitting throats , or beheading.certainly in most cases of
      Islamic extremists killing.
      Or guns shooting, both more effective, easier to carry
      A baseball bat is an odd choice for a planned hit.
      Seems more a spontaneous weapon of convenience, found there..by Burns, Rafay?
      Islamic belief is that beheadings prevent the victim’s from entering Jannah — Heaven,
      I believe.

      • I agree with about the weapon choice in this case, just wanted to clarify that in Islamic teaching proper beheading (Game of thrones-like) grants a quick death and considered merciful as it doesn’t let the beheaded feel any agony like electrocution or hanging (Halal Meat is slaughtered in this method)

      • However, if you watch the tapes of their confession (whether you believe it to be false or fact) Burns states it was a weapon of convenience while Atif states himself accompanied by Burns had bought the metal bat at a store. It’s honestly hard to believe that a story could change that much and stay true. The one thing that has always stuck in my head from my ex Police officer law teacher was “it’s harder to remember the lies” which in turn plays a large role in why Burns and Atif had different stories for the murders.

  22. The Netflix documentary definitely shed some light on this case and brought it back into the public eye. In my opinion I feel that it is very likely that both of these individuals did commit the murders. My reasons for believing this is that the way that both Burns and Atif behaved following the murders was very foolish, and no matter who you are if your parents have just died you’d think you’d feel a bit down or even a little bit mentally unstable in the days to come. They were behaving as a couple teens who had just won a lottery or were successful in their task. Also the mentality to commit 3 murders also isn’t so far out of reach for them at the time. They are both teenagers at an age that represents great mental instability, Burns is pretty smart slick talking guy from what I could see and for him to manipulate Atif into his plan would not have been too hard either, especially when you see the type of stuff they were reading prior to this. Also, Burns shows that his moral compass at the time was off because he was willing to do crimes for monetary reward when dealing with Mr. Big, or he thought it was no biggie since he already earned his stripes by going Barry Bonds on 3 people so at that point he was willing to do whatever. Furthermore they claim to watch Goodfellas and the movie could have influenced Burns to be a “gangster”
    Furthermore both men claim that they are innocent and gave their thoughts, but any person with half a brain would claim innocence after spending several years in jail knowing that there was a huge chance that you could get out since there was a lot of faulty evidence. Of course Burns is gonna argue that the trial was unfair and Atif is gonna cry NOW, because at this point you don’t wanna rot in jail for the rest of your life opposed to being free regardless of wether you commit the crime or not. From a behavioral perspective they commit this crime teenagers who though they could outsmart the system for whatever reasons, at an age where alot of us make a lot of stupid decisions. I believe that they are now rehabilitated and definitely feel remorse for what they’ve done but the choices that they made as youth have ruined their futures. Although I think they did it, they should not have been guilty because the evidence was weak and the whole Mr.Big technique was unjust. It’s not about what they did but what you can prove in the court of law. But then again what do I know.

    • Gavin has laid out a lot of the circumstantial evidence used against them in the court and the media. A lot of it depends on reading into actions that can have other interpretations.
      Not sure what “going Barry Bonds” is all about. Or watching Goodfellas encouraging someone to be a gangster. Let me make this clear: after the murders their behavior stunk. It was disrespectful. But I’d say that’s as much a sign of innocence as guilt, maybe moreso, because smart criminals are going to lie low after clubbing people to death. And why that methodology that can leave so much evidence in its wake? Clubbing people to death is more a sign of fanaticism than stealth. And, once again, I can’t tell you how I’d behave after seeing such a thing. It might even have turned me into a nihilist at that age.

      • Actually a normal sign of “Islamic fanaticism” , which you seem desperate to claim, is slitting throats with a knife, and often beheadings
        Very few cases of using an aluminum baseball bat to bash people in Islamic fanatic cases

        Sons, angry at limitations felt to be imposed by famiky, can often be in unspeakable rage and commit such acts.
        Also coldblooded killers wanting insurance money might try to disguise as a passion killing, many things are possible, some more likely than others
        Perhaps aliens from another solar system landed in UFOs and did it?
        Anyway l you appear in love with these 2, I guess you identify with their superiority. You wouldn’t want to help defend the many uneducated, non-polished, less eloquent people with 2hom it’d be difficult to discuss Nietzsche, or something. Some inferiors may need help more, and be really 100% innocent, but blech, who cares about those schmucks, can’t really come across well in a news conference, etc

        • Bludgeonings are not unusual in that context. I don’t think you’ve done your research there, Betty. We have a theory on this crime, based on a certain amount of evidence, but it remains a theory that many have not heard before. It’s a theory that should have been allowed in the courtroom, however it may have been seen by the jury. No alternate theory was presented in that courtroom and this one had some amount of credibility, based on tips from informers.
          Your statement about me is resentful, unfair and false, so maybe you tend to write things based on what you feel, not what you know.

        • The fact is we may never know why Islamic extremists may have used a baseball bat because that was never investigated as it should have been. However the murder supposedly was also set up to look like a house burglary at the same time, hence the boxes tipped over and a couple of items stolen. So maybe using the baseball bat was part of the ruse to make it appear as a ‘burgualry gone wrong’ when it was actually an assassination.

          • Of course this was said about Atif and Sebastian–that they tipped over boxes and disposed of a VCR and so forth to make it look like a burglary. It’s all speculation and I agree “we may never know why”. Maybe whoever did the crime wanted to take something away with them as well? You can speculate endlessly. The fact that Atif mentioned the missing VCR was used against him in either scenario. Either he wanted to give the impression that it was a burglary and/or that it proved he was a heartless person who cared more about a thing than his family. Perhaps he focused on something he could deal with emotionally rather than on the carnage that was too overwhelming? People will do that sometimes in terrible circumstances; they zone out and deal with something irrelevant.

            On a related topic, some Iraq War veterans came home with PTSD after seeing the death of one person, just one. They were trained soldiers. I just don’t believe that two boys with no criminal records could obliterate three people with a baseball bat and be able to function afterwards. But I also agree that I’m speculating, based on what my own experience tells me.

    • I actually think this is what makes them innocent… if they had thought out such an elaborate plan and intended to kill, their behaviors going forward would have been different. They would have been the “perfect” victims. Too perfect. Wailing at the funerals. Wearing all black. Crying out for justice. The whole 9 yards. I think for two kids, they didn’t really know what to do and felt completely lost. It’s not easy to know what anyone of us would do at 18 and to have your entire family blougenoed to death.

      Also, it’s just hard for me to believe that anyone killing for insurance money would use a bat to kill…

    • When my father died i found myself finding things funny and laughing in the mosque at his funeral (i was 19 at the time)He wasnt murdered thankfully, however, if he were then im sure i would have been an immediate suspect or at the very least considered cold and unloving. To the contrary i am loving and caring and an extremely sensitive person however we cannot know how we are going to act under the extreme shock of losing a family member let alone in the violent way in which it was done in this case. The mind cannot comprehend what it is going through, the world feels surreal and so the mind finds coping mechanisms to deal with its surroundings which may be acting strange and laughing. Also soon after his death i went clubbing. SO whats the big deal if he sat and watched a video. Its quite NORMAL to try and forget ones own pain by filling up your time and that pain doesnt necessarily need to be by drowned by turning to the bottle as someone had suggested earlier as being reasonable and yet not watching a video as reasonable. people can be full of crap when it comes to their opinions. People should not be imprisoned based on opinions on how people should be or behave. I dont know if these 2 are innocent but i do know that they have been wrongfully imprisoned as this case shouldnt have washed. Oh and i just remebered that someone i know spent a night in prison a long time ago and made up all sorts of lies to look like he was a criminal in order to fit in as he was scared he would get a good bashing if he didnt sound like he was someone important that they should leave alone. By the time he came out the next day all the inmates thought he was some guy very high up in the mafia lol and he was just a very educated guy trying to save his ass for the night.

  23. How old were the young me in the confession tapes? It looks like there are beer bottles in the video, if they were under age and drinking alcohol how would this evidenced be admissible, if they were under the influence of alcohol?

    • They were 19 and legal drinkers. BUT the RCMP supplied the beer to loosen them up. I don’t know the legality there but that is a common tactic of the sting.

  24. Such a blatant miscarriage of justice. After watching ‘”The Confession Tapes” & learning about this case I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. It seems like once most detectives zero in on “their man” they wear blinders that force them to exclude all possible suspects or scenarios. They had an alibi, there was no forensic evidence tying them to the murders & RCMP used a technique that is illegal in The US & has since been barred in Canada. My biggest problems are the use of the Mr. Big technique & the not following up on other leads. I’ll start with the former. What if torture was legal in the country that the confession was recorded in? On top of that, Atif & Sebastian’s accounts of the crime don’t match up with each other or fit the forensics of the murder scene. Being suspected of a crime you didn’t commit is bad enough. Now compound that with someone murdering your parents. No wonder why Atif wanted to go out & spend some of the life insurance money he received with the only person whom truly understood what he was going through. That to me sounds like a teenager trying his hardest to avoid confronting the emotions of losing his entire family & coming to terms with the realization that he was now alone in this world. I know I personally I’d do anything that helped my mind escape the reality of my new life. Even worse than the RCMP extorting a false confession out of the teenagers is the overlooking of legitimate intelligence from of law enforcement agencies. Sounds like the RCMP took the easy way out. An investigation into the intelligence collected from reputable sources would have proved costly & time consuming. No law enforcement agency likes to have a triple homicide go unsolved but, the RCMP & the media (thanks to the misinformation they were given) has these boys tried & convicted within days, if not hours, of the Rafay family murders. The only thing these guys (kids at he time) are guilty of is being stupid & trying to fit in in a world they new nothing about.

  25. Just watched the Netflix Documentary.
    This happens way to often, individuals in positions of authority manipulating and coercing false confessions. No wonder people have lost faith in the Justice system. I hope that this innoncence project is still working hard to free Sebastian and Atif. Thank you for all you do Mr. Klonsky.

  26. I am so glad that The Innocence Project is going to help these two boys, because I really believe they are completely innocent. You can tell that they are only trying to impress Mr Big, and possibly get help from him since he is telling them that the cops are coming for them. They are making things up as Mr Big asked them. In one story they are naked during the murders, other times they talk about where they disposed of the clothes they wore during the murders. I’m sure they had no idea these fake stories told in the spur of the moments to this “criminal” would not be used to prosecute them. I feel like Atif Rafay never really got to properly mourn his family, because he was always being looked at as a suspect.

  27. I saw the Netflix production.

    im keen to understand if during the case the court heard the other possibilities such as what’s been said here and in the documentary.

    If the prosecution’s job is to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” then it’s the defence’s job to make the case that there is “reasonable doubt” that the killers were Rafay and Burns and the court’s job is to hear from both sides. From what i’ve read, the court didn’t hear much of the other possibilities and also Burns argued that they were not allowed to hear from their side. Could you elaborate?

    Were there testimonies who could explain the sort of behavior exhibited by the two? Were there any similar cases where young men have acted in such way amid tragedy and media storm? Were these case presented in the trial?

    I don’t necessarily think that setting someone up for a confession should be inadmissible in court but I do believe the full tapes need to be presented and the confessions need to be closely scrutinized. There were elements of coercion and duress to get these confessions. If the prosecution was able to create a situation for creating a scene where the two (or three) would willingly and freely confess, the the stunt would be more acceptable. The full tapes ought to be preserved and be presented because in many cases there would be many instances where it would help the defense and weaken the prosecution.

    I find the immunity deal on Miyoshi a bit suspect. Knowing the fate of his friends, he would have never testified in their favor. For what? To spend the rest of his own life behind bars too and be separated from his family and the life he managed to build in Japan. He was a third suspect being accessory to a triple murder, could the prosecution really seek justice by letting one go free or were they really sitting on a weak case even after the Big T op?

    Did any detail emerge about Miyoshi’s supposed involvement in the murder?

    • I’ll answer the major question here. When Sebastian says that they had to fight this case with both hands tied behind the back, I think he was correct. The judge refused to allow three possible means of defending themselves.
      1. They were not allowed to present evidence of a possible Muslim fundamentalist connection.
      2. They were not allowed to have the FBI expert on sting operations (Levine) in the court because the judge ruled he was not an expert.
      3. Richard Leo, a noted analyst of false confessions, was not allowed to testify after he’d written a dossier on the case. The judge ruled, I think bizarrely, that a jury can make up its own mind if someone is lying or telling the truth. That was an asinine decision that the Washington appeal courts have upheld.
      Whether or not one thinks they were innocent (or guilty), a defendant has the right to mount a defense. That’s what courts and habeas rights are about; it’s also a fundamental right in a democratic state.

      • I agree 1000% on this!!! The crime scene really points to this being a fundamentalist attack and I am in shock the courts didn’t look further into this. It just seemed the judge simply didn’t like them. The whole thing makes me sick realizing this could happen to anyone.

      • I just watched the confession tapes on Netflix and what was so frustrating to me was the judge’s lack of objectivity at the end of the second episode. He spoke about the confessions as if the idea of a false confession was the most absurd thing he’s ever heard.

        • That judge wasn’t listening. He had his big moment when he called Burns ‘amoral’ and told Rafay that he felt remorse for killing his parents. Yet Atif was saying clearly that he was innocent. And that’s all that Sebastian said as well.

          But a jury verdict, by definition, is to “speak truth”. The officers of the court somehow mistake the outcome of a trial with the truth. While most convictions are correct, we know that thousands are not. It’s not the truth that plays out in a courtroom despite people swearing to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. Clearly, James Miyoshi did not do that when he told Jeff Robinson that he couldn’t remember phoning him to ask if he could testify for the defense. The law can only pretend to be the truth when, in truth, it’s not on the same level. The skill of the lawyers and the prejudice of the judges and juries plays out too.

  28. Saw this on Netflix.

    What a sorrowful situation.

    I would like to think the pair are innocent but the thing that troubles me the most regardless of the bully methodology is the fact that Mr. Rafay claims the reason behind their actions was for the insurance money. This is a really hard one to call, I would love to say innocent but after viewing it and evaluating what my gut is telling me, I am truly left with mixed emotions. Nietzsche or not, I think that the emotion no show is again truly puzzling. I want to believe they are innocent but sadly I just can’t.

    • I can fully appreciate your ambivalence, Re. People bring emotions into the courtroom just like they bring in their reasoning capacity. One does not function without the other.
      I would only say that the ‘justification’ given for the crime, i.e. money, was an attempt to satisfy the gangster/interrogators. They made it clear that if the two boys were not ‘solid’, they would be dealt with accordingly. The trick was that the gangster/interrogators committed crimes in front of the boys and/or showed the rewards of crime and mentioned violent acts they supposedly did like wasting people. Sebastian and Atif had to give them a motive. Let’s say you were innocent and found yourself in the same situation. What motive would you give to keep your life intact?

  29. I was thinking that one aspect that might help your argument in a fairly substantial manner is the fact that even though their immediate surroundings were heavily wired they never once spoke about it. Regardless how intelligent a person may be, certainly something no matter how small will surface. Just an observation but I think it might be relevant to this debate.

    • This point has been made on several occasions, so the police and prosecutors found a rationale, as they always do. The boys, the said, were so clever (you actually see Konat saying this) that they knew they were being taped. I’ve always wondered how the law enforcement people could think that these kids were clever enough to keep their mouths shut for five months and yet fall for Mr. Big.
      Your comment is certainly relevant.

  30. After watching the show and doing some reading, I have to say I totally believe these 2 men did this crime.
    The 911 call specified a break in, not murders and a still alive person in critical condition needing help.
    The teens know what time dad and sister go to bed, an early time for a hitman to assume they would be soundly sleeping and especially since the mom was still up doing things. Especially if the hitman’s only weapon to kill 3-4 people was a single baseball bat.
    Then the idea of the teens going to a nightclub minutes before it would close is bizarre unless they needed to show they were still out and about at 2 am prior to returning to the home.
    If a professional group was staging a break in, robbery, they certainly would not take tiny items like a VCR and Walkman and what person in shock over finding his family murdered in that fashion would even notice those 2 items missing or walk around that scene looking for missing items especially while his beloved sister was still alive and needing medical attention?
    Who would walk in on the mother they so loved and not check to see if she was alive if her body was facing down and get blood all over-themselves?
    Also what hitman would leave anyone alive and stop to shower with his bat before heading out of the home especially one who was aware there was another son in the family who could return anytime?
    Was this hitman/robber supposed to have come in the home barefoot, leaving no shoe or even foot prints blood stained marks outside the home or in the home?
    Who the Hell washes only 2 pairs of underwear in a washing machine load that also happen to be the 2 boys convicted of this crime?
    If you are looking for the other person in the room the dad died in, perhaps it was his son, who wanted to see this man bludgeoned, and his underwear got blood splattered at that time, or just in case, were thrown in with Sebastian’s.
    The dad, who was sleeping, got the worse beating for some reason.
    Neither of these 2 teens looked at all upset at any time about this horrific crime and Atif only showed any remorse at his sentencing when trying to act innocent but seemed to forget he also lost a sister (he “loved”), as he only discussed the loss of his parents.
    These two appear to both be psychopathic and narcissistic.

    • Hi Jill,
      These arguments appear reasonable and were persuasive with the jury; they are arguments made if one is 100% sure they did the crime. All else follows. For myself they represent the essence of tunnel vision. e.g. Two pair of underwear are found in the washing machine. This must mean that they were “blood spattered”. There is no evidence for that at all. “Neither of these two teens looked at all upset…” If they looked upset you would say they were deceitful hypocrites. It goes on. Everything becomes grist for the mill of their guilt. They ordered wine and a salad at the restaurant. Why? To establish an alibi, but, God forbid, not to have a drink like any 19 year old. They go to a movie. Why? To establish an alibi. God forbid they might want to see “The Lion King.”
      Good lawyers are trained to make convincing arguments, not to ferret out truth. Truth is for higher realms.

    • Spot on Jill! you’ve convinced me

      1.The time of the murders – you don’t show up at 9:30 to kill 4 people with a baseball bat and think you’ll get away with it cause everyone will be asleep.

      2. Not footprints whatsoever? So this guy broke in barefoot, murdered 3 people, didnt know where the 4th one was but decided – eh I’ll shower here – you would want to get away asap

      3. You’re trying to stage a break in? No one breaks in murders 3 people and then takes a walkman and VCR in the hopes of convincing authorities wrong place, wrong time. You wouldn’t stay to murder 3 people if you just came for some merchandise – And then stick around to shower.

      4. 2 pairs of underwear freshly washed??? No one does an entire load of laundry for 2 pairs of underwear. This seems like one of their mistakes.

      Don’t support getting these guys out. This is not circumstance, I understand on principle maybe they shouldn’t have been convicted, but never fear the right people went to jail.

      • Andy,
        The way evidence is seen and used often confirms the prejudice of the observer.
        Let’s look at the underwear evidence: The police supposedly found two pairs of underwear in the washing machine. The implication was that they had been blood-spattered and that the washing machine was used to eliminate the blood. This is the power of suggestion without proof. Do you think that blood washes out so easily? Do you know that one of the lies told by the RCMP gangsters was that bloodstains on that underwear implicated them in the crime? So the so-called evidence is suggested to be proof. People like you and Jill, Andy, go along with this.
        Look at all the so-called evidence you have brought up here. Do your questions indicate that you don’t know and that you’re seeking answers or that you and Jill are trying to make the facts fit your theory of what happened? We don’t know the full answers to what took place. We never will. The issue here is the shabby case against the so-called perpetrators of this crime. “I understand on principle maybe they shouldn’t have been convicted.” What principle? The US Constitution?

        • The thing that struck me was why would the boys leave the sister alive if they did it? People are using that as an example of guilt, that they didnt help her, but if they did why wouldnt they go back and hit her again before making the call? Theres obvious discrepancies in the confession that could go either way but I also thought it was weird to pick and chose which evidence to follow. If you believe they stripped down to underwear to do it then how can you use blood on the pant leg as evidence too? Sebastian lools like a tool but the jails would be alot busier than they already are if thats the criteria.

          • I couldn’t agree with the above poster (HC) more.

            I watched the Netflix ‘True East’ episodes last night as I was trying to fall asleep. That was a mistake, I ended up awake half the night thinking about this incredibly strange, albeit sad, case.

            I was left with several questions which I will address below, however, the question asked above by HC is what mainly baffled me as well. Why would they have left Basma alive?

            It defies any form of logic to think that these two 19 year old men would go to such lengths to plan and implement a triple (brutal) murder, down to every detail, only to allow the sister a possible chance at survival.

            I’m assuming this was addressed during the lengthy trial. So far on line, I’ve found no explanation.

          • First, Atif and Sebastian didn’t kill the family, so the question is moot, of which I would guess you are aware. Whoever did the killing must have thought that 1) she was as good as dead or 2) seen that she couldn’t speak. Basma had aphasia after suffering some childhood disease or trauma. Maybe she was on the floor and fatally injured but was able to stand up for a brief period. These are speculations on my part, nothing more.

      • 2. I thought that there were footprints in the garage that didn’t match either of the two boys, and it was never explained. They actually asked Sebastian during his confession (on netflix at 3:06) and he said “I don’t know shit about blood stains in the garage”.
        Somebody needs to give a list of evidence pointing away from the two boys vs. evidence pointing toward so we can go through it point by point.
        The media focuses on the “Mr Big” sting. While the prosecution likes to think of this case as a solved puzzle,, these little pieces of what seem like hard evidence that don’t fit, make their argument seem more like a misassembled piece of IKEA furniture. They could have this whole thing backwards.

        • In our view, there is no evidence against them aside from their statements. The thing is that people make up their minds, as in a conspiracy theory, and everything is made to fit the theory. “If you don’t like the facts, don’t change the theory, change the facts!”

  31. I have seen the new Netflix documentary and I am deeply saddened by what I have seen. I have no faith in the justice system. Please I hope there is something that can still be done to release these two poor guys. They’ve already lost so much of their lives already. I am angry that the defence was not allowed to present evidence that was needed to help in their trial. How is this allowed! I want to do something, anything to help as I cannot imagine how terrible they must feel to have spent two decades locked up for something that clearly has reasonable doubt.

  32. I’m glad I’m European. Unbelievable how the justice system in the USA works. And unbelievable how some Americans keep believing the system actually works, despite the evidence sometimes the system is actually wrong. I hope justice will be done, because I’m convinced this is a wrongfull conviction.

  33. Wow i can’t believe that some of you dont see the way the jury was manipulated into convicted these two young boys whose only crimes we’re to be young and dumb, and not being able to cope or not wanting to cope with the reality what happened.. i mean come on!!!! You guys contradict yourselves, just look at the footage of them in the family’s memorial, they were acting extremely foolish! Even laughing. Is that the way 2 calculated and cunnings killers act? Specially knowing they are the main suspects and that they have to try and make people think they didn’t do it. I mean think about it, if the alibis were staged? And they went through all this trouble to plan and cover up a murder, wouldn’t they also try and at least show remorse, a little tear, something!!! They didn’t and you know why? Because they thought they had nothing to worry about! And our justice system failed them! Even if they were to get out tomorrow, they failed these two kids! Who are now adults that on top of one of them losing his family, has spent the last 2 decades in prison.. i mean jesus! I can only imagine the feeling of being wrongfully convicted for something it’s so obvious you didnt do.. another thing, the conffesions, did you guys see how he was denying it at first!!! Omg it doesnt take a freaking psychologist to see that the mobsters scared the living crap out of them not only by intimidating them, but by saying”hey we have connections on the inside if you tell us what happened we can make this go away” i mean whattttt! What kind of judge would allow a confession like that inside an american justice system, even i probably would have lied about the whole thing i mean afterall these so called “mobster” can help me get the cops off me for something they obviously have a hard on for.. and how can we ignore! Jesus christ! How!! Can we ignore, the “FBI” tipping police about a possible suspect! What’s your explanation for this? “Burns” and “Atif” have connections with the FBI and staged that too.. i mean hey ken, please.. do everything you can for these kids man! I beg you.. and the Detectives, the Prosecutor and even the Judge should pay for what they’ve done to these kids, it scares me to death to know that there are countless people in the same situation… Stop injustice!

  34. Wow i can’t believe that some of you dont see the way the jury was manipulated into convicted these two young boys whose only crimes we’re to be young and dumb, and not being able to cope or not wanting to cope with the reality what happened.. i mean come on!!!! You guys contradict yourselves,, just look at the footage of them in the family’s memorial, they were acting extremely foolish! Even laughing. Is that the way 2 calculated and cunnings killers act? Specially knowing they are the main suspects and that they have to try and make people think they didn’t do it. I mean think about it, if the alibis were staged? And they went through all this trouble to plan and cover up a murder, wouldn’t they also try and at least show remorse, a little tear, something!!! They didn’t and you know why? Because they thought they had nothing to worry about! And our justice system failed them! Even if they were to get out tomorrow, they failed these two kids! Who are now adults that on top of one of them losing his family, has spent the last 2 decades in prison.. i mean jesus! I can only imagine the feeling of being wrongfully convicted for something it’s so obvious you didnt do.. another thing, the conffesions, did you guys see how he was denying it at first!!! Omg it doesnt take a freaking psychologist to see that the mobsters scared the living crap out of them not only by intimidating them, but by saying”hey we have connections on the inside if you tell us what happened we can make this go away” i mean whattttt! What kind of judge would allow a confession like that inside an american justice system, even i probably would have lied about the whole thing i mean afterall these so called “mobster” can help me get the cops off me for something they obviously have a hard on for.. and how can we ignore! Jesus christ! How!! Can we ignore, the “FBI” tipping police about a possible suspect! What’s your explanation for this? “Burns” and “Atif” have connections with the FBI and staged that too.. i mean hey ken, please.. do everything you can for these kids man! I beg you.. and the Detectives, the Prosecutor and even the Judge should pay for what they’ve done to these kids, it scares me to death to know that there are countless people in the same situation… Stop injustice!

  35. It is so obvious these young men were coerced. This is a wrongful conviction. The RCMP should be ashamed of their tactics to elicit this confession. The US justice system should be ashamed and held accountable for the way they mishandled this case and destroyed lives.

  36. so,,,,, where is the forensics in any of this?? Our court system is ridiculous and to hear a judge actually believe that this really happened without any forensics is just ignorant.

  37. I just watched the Netflix series and I believe they are guilty. Everyone kept going on about how these naive “boys” were manipulated. No, they were 19, not 9 and from what I could tell highly intelligent.

    • We can only hope that no legal system ever falsely accuses you of a heinous crime you didn’t commit. Senseless sheep are often courted as a jury and will be led by incomplete evidence to determine your guilt. These boys WERE manipulated by two seasoned officers who continuously told them if they didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear, they would go to prison for life, and then showed them fabricated police paperwork. Kids or adults, MOST people would consider this evidence plausible.

      Obviously, no one ever gets falsely accused and everyone deserves punishment in your hometown. Watch the show again, do a little work by researching other sources, and then come back with REAL evidence. The murder that happened to this boy’s family has happened before — or do you believe these kids committed that an Ivy League student of Cornell University would risk his inheritance, which would be much greater, to murder that family too?

  38. Although the laws of “Mr. Big” have changed in Canada, I can say without the least bit of regret law enforcement is identical everywhere — it’s the people in the positions. While there are people who get into the court systems and law management to help mankind, there are certain places where bullies who are allowed to commit their bullying for praise in the same facilities. Why do I speak with such conviction?

    Years ago, I was an exotic dancer. I had no desire to tease men for money, but because of my naivety, there was no other way for me to survive on my own after a series of extremely unfortunate events. But I wasn’t in this situation due to stupidity. I was one of the most intelligent students of my school and represented my school in several contests because of my thinking. However, none of this was considered as I stood naked in front of a group of men for a bachelor party one night.

    Another new girl was giving her first performance. The routine was one girl danced while the other prepared. They would trade places before doing one number together. By “together” I don’t mean any physical touching of each other just dancing simultaneously. We never got that far. As I came off the stage, one of the men stopped me and told me they wanted to “send the bachelor off with a bang” and asked me how much it would cost. I explained to him that I don’t do “extras” because, with the money I bring in legally, it’s not worth the risk for a one-time payout–regardless of the bribe. He told me that Christa, the “virgin” performer, agreed to it. (He didn’t know it was her first bachelor party and she was very shy. We actually stopped and bought a wine cooler for her “badge of courage.” She certainly would not be giving into what he was saying.

    “Whether she agreed or not, I won’t.” He put his hand on my arm to stop me and said, “We have a box of condoms that’s completely full!” I still refused. He pushed me so hard with his verbal crap that I turned around and re-entered the room where she was dancing. Grabbing her by the arm, I led her to the bedroom and we changed into our street clothes. In our exchange while dressing, she told me that they had lied and said I was in agreement if she would agree, but she also refused.

    With our bags in hand, rushing through the living room, the leader stopped us again and asked where we were going. I told him we were finished because we were not whores or prostitutes but legitimate dancers. Even more, the contract he agreed to stated there was no sexual contact. Air hadn’t passed between us before he pulled out a badge and declared us under arrest. It was about 12 official guys against the words of two exotic dancers. Thank goodness they had a video of the entire event. Still, the case actually went to court. We were let go, of course. But it’s disgusting how far the cops will go when they’ve determined they know the outcome and refuse to appear as people who don’t know what they’re doing.

    Just considering all the money that went into setting up the bachelor party, the recording equipment, and the courtroom. Compared to these boys’ case, mine was dirt in the eye. These officials won’t EVER admit they’re wrong. Meanwhile, in addition to ruining these privileged kids, of a decent these men will never taste, they refuse to admit wrongdoing.

    I would give anything to write a film about this to let people know this really does happen. I would do it for free! These boys, their families, their wives (sorry, Sebastian), and the children they probably won’t have have all been altered while the real killers and watching and laughing with peanuts and beer.

    The fact is, men in this position will not EVER admit wrongdoing — why should they?

  39. And even if they are guilty – the ‘evidence’ used to give them life sentence is absolutely ridiculous. I will write to the court.

  40. Hi Ken.
    Really admire your work and all you are doing for these two innocent men. I am just curious; have they exhausted all their appeals? What can be done to help, and is there a chance of a retrial?
    Apologies if you’ve already answered these questions.

    • No apologies necessary, Anna. You have hit on the most bizarre aspect of this bizarre case. Sebastian’s appeals have been exhausted. Atif is still in the process of appeals. He has yet to go to federal court whereas Sebastian was denied his habeas. This has to do with Sebastian’s mental condition after years of isolation; he was incapable of going through all the intermediate steps that Atif has taken. So it is technically possible for Atif to be legally exonerated while Sebastian is not. I do not believe that this will happen. I do not trust the appeals process, given the outlandish rulings I have already read. New evidence can result in a mistrial, a new trial, or an exoneration. It can also go nowhere.

      • Hi Sir,

        I am sorry to ask to this question but – Will Sebestian serve his entire life in prison?
        Is there any way he can be helped?

        • No, Monika, I don’t believe he will. But it means having people in authority take a fresh look at this case. See rafayburnsappeal.com to see how you can help us achieve that goal.

  41. So does this mean that even if it were possible to prove sebastian didn’t do it, because he’s exhausted his appeals he will never be free even if evidence were to prove innocence? Sorry I don’t understand all the legal aspects

    • Believe me, it took me years to get my head around this insane system. One can exhaust legal appeals but in most jurisdictions, and Washington is just one, new evidence can always be looked at. I think there was a Supreme Court ruling to that effect; if so, then it must be in all jurisdictions. In fact, a minority of cases is decided by legal issues. New evidence, e.g. DNA, recanting witnesses, someone else confessing to the crime and so forth, forces the various district attorneys to re-examine cases.
      And yet, even with DNA, you’d be surprised how many of these offices try to hold on to wrongful convictions. They stall and then offer the prisoner a deal whereby the prisoner pleads guilty to a lesser crime and is released on “time served”. Or there’s an Alford Plea, a horror show, where the defendant pleads guilty to the crime he or she didn’t do, but is released to the community. That way, the DA’s office gets to say that there was no wrongful conviction when everyone in the community understands that there was. At least the person can get work and live a semi-normal existence. The American system of so-called criminal justice can be a cruel abomination in certain jurisdictions. The long prison sentences, begun with the Clinton Administration and for which he has apologized, make these plea deals an option for people desperate to leave prison.
      One of the largest problems in the legal system is the same problem that Morgan Sperlock sees in the fast food industry. “We want to trust.” The justice system works better than the fast food industry but we want to believe that its function is to protect us. My experience with wrongful convictions tells me that the system is as much about protecting those who work inside it as it is about the public. Let’s put it this way: each questionable case should be examined on its merits; we should not believe automatically that the public is protected from these kinds of abuses. You do so at your own peril. That is why “The Confession Tapes” is so powerful; people talk endlessly to the police without a lawyer present, believing they are protected by their innocence. The police want an arrest and a conviction. They want to look good. They have methods to make people say what they want you to say. You are not protected.

  42. I saw this story come up on a Netflix show I was watching. This case really upsets me a lot. There was no hard evidence what so ever!!!!!! People lie all the time about themselves even in negative ways. When I was a young teen I would lie about skipping school and going to wild parties to fit it with the bad kids when in reality I was a nerd who would never do those things. It was obvious they felt they had to lie to the gangsters to survive. The whole thing was unfair. They were too young to know how to cope and deal with a situation like that. They may have been legal adults but they didn’t have the world experience to understand the situation they were in. No offensive but they seemed to have been raised wealthy and a little sheltered and unaware of how the police and justice system can be. I was growing up around the same time as these guys and their personalities were just how my generation can be. I don’t know how to explain it. But I understood their behavior. I have a lot of friends who were raised similar and I know most of them would have reacted the same way in that situation. It tore my heart to pieces to hear how the judge talked to them. It was callous and unprofessional. It was plain as day that the judge and the police didn’t understand or like their personalities and wanted to peg the whole thing on them so they could prove a point.

  43. I just finished watching the two episodes about this case. I’m torn between if I think they’re innocent or not. I’ve read everyone’s comments on here and from both sides there are good points. The boys being 19 and trying to fit in with the mobsters makes sense. I’m 19 I know how people might act in a situation like that. Atif and Sebastian’s stories on the tapes were different, like with the bat. If they clearly both committed the crime together why were their stories different and why did they say “uh” and “um” so much as if they were trying to think of a story. However, the way the acted by leaving in the car and laughing, how could Atif, knowing his family had been murdered, he ran into the car laughing? And why were all the hairs in the shower Sebastian’s and no one else’s? I was hoping at the end of the episode everything would have been answered but there are a ton of questions that will never be answered.

    • Hi Bree,
      I think it’s basically impossible to tie up any case with a bow, so there is bound to be ambiguity on both sides. I’d like to answer a couple of your questions from the perspective of the support team.
      As to the laughing and joking: this has come up several times and the criticism is justifiable. However, you should take another look at the circumstances, i.e. go back into the segment. They were being chased by reporters at a memorial service for the Rafays. Their behavior was inappropriate, but is it any more appropriate for reporters to invade a memorial service and try to ask Atif why he wouldn’t talk to the police? The two of them were being harassed and yet, as we see it, they had done nothing to deserve this treatment.

      The “hairs in the shower” evidence is ludicrous. Since the police lacked any hard evidence, they jumped at one thing that might have associated Sebastian with the crime: Mr Rafay’s blood and Sebastian’s hair. I don’t know if there are too many adolescents who clean up shower stalls, even when they’re guests in the house. Those hairs were in there before the crime was committed. That was the shower he used as a guest in the Rafay home. Now why would Sebastian’s hair be the only hair in the shower? My guess is that the people who did the murder did not take a shower, but they cleaned off the murder weapon and whatever else needed to be cleaned off. Why would a murderer hang around to take a shower after clubbing someone to death? At the same time, why would a murderer leave the murder weapon behind and perhaps be identified? And would he take it with him dripping with blood? I think not.

  44. My gut can not escape the feeling that they are guilty, but have some major issues with the way they where convicted.
    I must admit the ” solid ” bond Sebastian and Atif have, to go as long as they have and not turn on each other says a lot.
    To me that means as much as both Sebastian and Atif final words.
    That being said I still can’t put the horrific crime beneath the mentality of our youth and what they are capable of.
    Unfortunately we have no evidence in which another motive for Atif to commit or let alone be a part with his best friend to murder his family. Hence no prior signs of amense hatred towards family members?

    Going back to my original thought as to the solidness of secrecy with each other is beyond psychology. Yeah especially Sebastian at this point has nothing to lose only to gain if he admits his guilt. I see a book slash box office hit!

    I do applaud your efforts to pursue justices in either case. Keep up the good work.

  45. Hello sir,

    I believe that the both Rafay and Burns are innocent. But it is heartbreaking to see that justice was not given a chance. It makes us worried for the humanity.
    I thank you for your work on bringing the truth to light.

    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

  46. Again as they both sit in isolation behind their cell doors you would think after repeating play by play in their heads day in day out that one of them would crack. Have they? I know you said Sebastian has suffered mental issues for being in solitary confinement. Did he crack and is simply blocking out the outcome of their “play”?
    I’m truly on the fence with this case.
    The confession tapes are completely illegal and should have never been admissible, unfortunately the American justice system failed.
    The question still remains unanswered and probably will be for 3 life sentences that run consecutive.
    I know polygraphs do not hold up in court, but If I was innocent I would be taking a polygraph on a daily bases for my own sanity.

    • Solitary will break anyone. When the negative publicity came out about solitary, they decided to show their humanity and place Sebastian back into the general population.

  47. Laughing at his parents’ memorial? That is not uncommon during immense stress.

    I’m a doctor. When as a young registrar (I think an attending equivalent in America) in anaesthesia, I was involved in the attempted and unsuccessful resuscitation of a 1 week old baby. It was incredibly sad and incredibly stressful. I still remember a point, though, after we’d declared the child dead that I and the senior Paediatrician shared a joke whilst we both helped swaddle the baby for Mum to cuddle. It was hideously inappropriate, but for both of us it was a release of stress that might otherwise had been torrents of tears.

    The point is we often behave in ways we subsequently abhor in times of extraordinary pressure and immeasurable stress. That is why we have science, and in law evidence, to negate our own interpretation of other people’s emotional responses.

    • This response should be seen by everyone involved with this case on either side of the equation. We laugh during funerals, at least I have done so, and hate ourselves for doing so. I think the bottom line is just what Simon writes here: Burns and Rafay should not have been tried and convicted for who they were or how they acted, but for the lack of evidence. In that way, they’d have been acquitted.

  48. Hi Ken,

    These type of cases have always interested and infuriated me at the same time. I try not to jump to conclusions based on one documentary or source as all sides will no doubt be self serving. But what drives me crazy in most of these “questionable” conviction cases is the out right unprofessionalism to say the least and in my opinion criminal actions of individuals (detectives, prosecutors) who are in positions of authority. When I watch the interrogation videos / confession tapes and hear these police officers line of questioning and tactics it is mind boggling to me that this is “how” things are done to investigate crimes and how someone can watch these tapes and not see someone saying “no I didn’t do it” a thousand times and then after 10 hours of sitting in a room being questioned break and say…well maybe I may have done it and regurgitate verbatim the words of the officers used and not see that as “flawed” somehow.

    But I do have a question for you Ken. Again what irritates me to no end is someone in authority abusing there power for whatever self serving reason. My question is about the judge in this case. I also watched the Netflix series and granted my only information on the judge has come from the clips in the documentary. After both Burns and Rafay made there comments prior to sentencing the judge handed down his sentencing. Is it normal or common practice for a judge to seemingly explain a sentence for a convicted person with such emotion in his reasoning? I found his short sentencing speak to be disgusting in the sense that it felt like it came more from someone directly involved (family) of a victim and a so called “impartial” individual who’s duty is to be unbiased and rule based on law? Just wondering your thoughts on this?

    And also I guess how the Mr Big tapes were allowed (legally speaking) into an American courtroom when the tactics are considered illegal in the US? (I guess what I’m looking for was how did the judge reason the tapes be admissible?)

    Thank you for your time Ken


    • These are astute questions, Jamie.
      This judge fits into the category of a moralizing judge. In his diatribe, I can see that he had a major animus toward the defendants. Since he was so certain of their guilt from day one, his rulings in the courtroom (in my view) were designed to short circuit any possibility of an acquittal. Even with Atif, who basically proclaimed his innocence, he seemed to think that the defendant was showing remorse for the crime. Mertel was anything but fair and dispassionate. You are right about that. What he said to Sebastian was only true if Sebastian had done the crime. Of course he didn’t show remorse because he didn’t commit the crime. A jury’s verdict has not come down from above; this jury (in my view) probably found them guilty because they had no chance to see a defense. The one juror who opposed the others (we have her notes) was taken off the panel.
      The judge’s ruling on the tapes had something to do with the evidence having been gathered in Canada. In all the appeals proceedings, the courts have refused to overturn the ruling. I find it strange that defendants from Canada are denied Fifth Amendment rights when the court itself is protected from a violation of Fifth Amendment rights. Neither defendant was read his Miranda rights before ‘confessing’. Another related problem is that the courts held that the information had not been gathered by “persons in authority”. Since the RCMP agents were pretending to be gangsters, they were not the police at that moment in time. Atif has made the point several times that the pressure to ‘confess’ coming from gangsters is far greater than the pressure from a police interrogator. One has no rights at all in the presence of gangsters. Does this make any sense to you? It doesn’t to me.

  49. After seeing the horrible crime scene photos I would never make a joke about those murders, least of all suggest I committed them. Atif actually saw his family, his dead parents, his fatally injured mentally impaired sister still alive and groaning, yet he flippantly made jokes and admits to participating in their killings to virtual strangers? I do not buy it. Guilty as charged.

    • I would make such a joke, and even suggest I did it, if I was convinced that by doing so I could have manufactured evidence and a case against me done away with. (Remember, the “gangsters” convincingly lied about the evidence they had,
      making the young men think a railroading was in process.”

      What I would never do would be to lie to someone for *months* to get him to confess to a murder that I had no evidence he committed. Would you?

      • Not only do I support what you say, but we now have evidence that they would never take no for an answer. Either you told them what they wanted to hear or you were in trouble. The same methodology was used on their friend, Miyoshi. I say unequivocally that, not only are Burns and Rafay innocent, but that the RCMP and the Washington so-called criminal justice system destroyed the lives of three innocent individuals and many people attached to them.
        The truth will out. The process has just begun.

  50. I think these guys are guilty, my reasons for this follow:
    note these are just threads of circumstantial evidence which collectively i feel give weight to the fact that they are guilty.
    1. sebastian stayed at the rafay’s house 5 days prior to the murders – this would ensure any hair found by him was not seen out of the ordinary.
    2. sebastian had used the ‘i was at a movie’ alibi in the past when he crashed his car. note, sebastian told the movie theatre worker there was a curtain dysfunction thereby alerting his presence there. similarly they gave a large tip at the restaurant – i feel these actions made ppl ensure they were noticed giving a solid alibi.
    3.there was just one hair of someone else found at the crime scene. unless the killer was in a boiler suit then you would expect a slew of hair/dna from someone else.
    4. killer clearly wasnt in a boiler suit as why would he need a shower?
    5. the boys said they felt scared of the fake gangsters – if you go through the evidence you will see that sebastian from the outset opts to be a ‘hitman’ for the gangsters. he also says how cool it is being involved with crime.
    6. the undercover cops were verrry clear to not apply pressure, and sebastian once asked if they would kill him if he betrayed him – to which he replied that is not what he does and sebastian is free to walk away.
    7. sebastian would pursue the gangsters, often leaving multiple messages for them to call back.
    8. i believe sebastain is a classic psychopath, he has grandiose ideas – once told the gangsters that ‘he is one of the most intelligent people in the world’, easily lies, and was theatrical in his summing up in court.
    9. jimmy gave details of how the plan came about on a road trip. they toyed with the idea of gassing the house before settling on using a baseball bat.
    10. i think its odd they didnt assist the dying sister when they got home and instead waited outside.

    anyway those are my thoughts.

    • We’re not playing super-sleuth here, Bea. Maybe you’d like to consider your ‘rulings’ here if your son or daughter or brother or sister or maybe a parent was involved, because, you know, a wrongful conviction can happen to anyone who might be at the wrong place at the wrong time and is unguarded enough to talk to the police.
      So, Bea, would you like to see your own son or daughter or whomsoever you love convicted on such a raft of bullshit as you present here, the same nonsense that the prosecutors put forth to the public as evidence of guilt and that a jury, fed on misconceptions, outright fabrications and lies, swallowed whole. I have answered many of these questions in the pages of this blog and I won’t go into all of them here. Your list has nothing to do with legal points or tangible hard evidence that is usually necessary to garner a murder conviction. But I’ll give you credit; you have successfully parroted the police and prosecutors who conspired in this travesty–no, Bea, let’s call it what it is–this atrocity that has deprived two young men of their freedom. So when you locate some real evidence of guilt, Bea, please share it with us so that we can all go on to something else. Otherwise, I’d ask you to please stop treating this as an Agatha Christie parlor mystery. It makes you sound ridiculous.

      • Hi Ken,
        Thanks for your reply – I guess the problem was that there was no other evidence adduced at the crime scene (bar one hair). this in itself is problematic for me…

        I cant get over this fact. surely there would be other DNA at crime scene if it was an intruder? What are your thoughts on this?

        Open to hearing your opinion.

        • There was other evidence like blood in footprints in the garage. Most of the evidence was either not tested or, when it didn’t implicate Burns and Rafay, was declared irrelevant.
          The one hair was a pubic hair found in Mr. Rafay’s bed. I’ve said before in this blog that the police were rubbing their hands, thinking that this piece of evidence would be the clincher, that it surely had to be Sebastian’s when he killed Tariq Rafay in his bed. But the problem for them was that the hair matched no one in the house. So, because it didn’t implicate Atif or Sebastian, it was deemed to be a “stray”. This hair still exists and I hope it’s being further analyzed. DNA techniques now are far more advanced than back in the 90’s. From my information, they can actually determine a person’s ethnic background.
          One piece of evidence that the police and prosecutor initially jumped on was blood from the Rafays on the cuff of Atif’s pants. But he had wandered through a blood-soaked house; they really couldn’t use it as hard evidence, much as they wanted to.

  51. If someone is sent to jail for 297 years you need to be 100% sure they are guilty.

    We can’t say “I think” or “I guess”.

    All this hairs in the shower, etc is guess work.

    All they have in this case is the confession.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but did they not make these confessions because they thought the gangsters were going to help them escape being stitched up by the police. They were teenagers. This confession is not proof of anything.

    • Hi Rob,
      Specifically, the gangsters were going to get the Washington police to destroy the evidence and make the charges go away. The reason the boys believed there was evidence is that a phony newspaper story was shown to them that indicated their DNA was connected to the crime. Of course they knew their DNA was not connected in any way to the crime so they believed that they were being framed.
      Take a look back at “The Confession Tapes” and you’ll see the page in that fraudulent newspaper.

  52. Hi Ken,

    Watched the Netflix documentary last night – trying to remain impartial but I’m finding that incredibly difficult. How were they convicted with such flimsy (at best) evidence? To me it seems their un-likeable personalities was a big factor.

    Few things that trouble me;
    1 – why were the defence not allowed to show portions of the tapes that show how Sebastian Also denied the crimes? (excuse my ignorance on US law)

    2 – the FBI informers information, was this ever followed up ? And why was it not considered at the time?

    3 – their friend Jimmy- surely this must be eating him up with guilt ( if they’re innocent) why has no one put the squeeze on him to get the truth? Would he still be open to prosecution if he decides to speak?

    4 – if the prosecutors are saying that this was planned as a perfect murder by the 2 defendants, why would they then blab and throw that perfect game away? Hypothetically – If they had committed the crime, they would have been home free, and gotten away with murder due to the lack of evidence. What sort of criminal genius would then confess? Makes no sense.


    • Hi Chris,
      Question Number 4: You’ve answered your own question better than I could.

      Question 1: We are not dealing with US law in this particular instance. Apparently, the RCMP has destroyed all of the tapes (5 months worth) save for the moments that implicate them. I gather that they are allowed to do this, so a jury never sees the defendant deny over and over that he had anything to do with the crime.

      Question 2: The judge refused to allow the informant testimony. Too speculative for him. The defense was also said to be cashing in on the emotions engendered by 9/11 when the crime took place in 1994. This was an extraordinarily stupid ruling unless the judge wanted the defendants to be found guilty. What other conclusion can be drawn?

      Question 3: Jimmy is a strange bird but I have no desire to blame or express animosity toward him. Three or four years ago, he went to the Burns’s house to return Sebastian’s skateboard. What does that say? Dave Burns asked him to admit he had lied and, while he refused, I believe Jimmy is living a life that’s filled with guilt and remorse; I mean the RCMP and the Bellevue police ruined his life too. My belief is that he lied in order to avoid being charged as an accomplice. In fact there is no doubt as to that. But if your friends had been tricked into falsely confessing and charged with murder, and you were told that you would receive the same fate if you didn’t give evidence against them, what would you do? Go to jail for 297 years? I know what I would have done.

  53. I appreciate the hard work you are putting forth for rafay and burns. It’s been a few days since I finished the first two episodes regarding their case on the Cofession Tapes, and their case haunts me. Can I say definitively that they are innocent, no, but can I say they’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, also no. There are inconsistent stories in the MrBig tapes that cause me to pause and question how the two would have differing stories on something as simple as the murder weapon , making it appear as though they are making it up as they go.

    I also don’t understand the point of questioning or gauging their personal reactions on some undetermined scale of normalcy. People are looking for behaviors to say, “well I’d never do that , and I’m normal , so their behavior isn’t normal , therefore they’re quilty.” But that arguement doesn’t have merit, maybe in the court of public opinion it does, but an actual court room , no. As far a rafay not mentioning his sister, why should he? Is it sad that she was murdered, obviously, but why would he mourn her if he had no real connection with her and he never fostered a relationship with her. If I had lost my dad while I lived with him in High School, I wouldn’t have shed a tear, and would have been grateful to be back living with my mother, doesn’t mean that I would have killed him.

    Finally, I wanted to ask you a question. You seem very close to Rafay, and from my reading he has done as well as can be expected in prison. Sebastian on the other hand has less updates available in terms of life behind bars. From what I have read , rafay benefited from being in less of a harsh prison population based on his size, but Burns hasn’t faired as well. Overall how is Sebastian doing?

    • Hi Lena,
      I think your speculation here is well thought out. You are essentially showing the reason they were convicted, i.e. beased more on who they were rather than evidence of what they did.

      As to your question at the end, I’ll try to answer as best I can. When they were sent to prison, it appears to me that the system thought of Sebastian as the guiltier party and so sent him to prison in Walla Walla where conditions were brutal. Sebastian was, suffice to say, not a favorite among other inmates. He was later sent to Clallum Bay on the Olympic Peninsula. The problem at both prisons was their inaccessibility. His parents were not able to visit on a regular basis. Eventually he was transferred to the same prison complex as Atif but are living in different buildings.

      Sebastian spent many years in solitary (protective custody). Rubin Carter explained something to me that I’ve never forgotten. Wrongly convicted people tend to react to their plight in two opposite ways. 1) They make the best of a horrific situation (and imagine how bad it is to have had your family slaughtered and then be falsely convicted of their murder) like Atif has done and survive through the knowledge of their innocence and their belief that the truth will out. They are courageous and admirable people. But Rubin also knew the opposite reaction. Like Sebastian, he spent the first 8 years in a state of extreme anger. That is perfectly natural. His life as a citizen had been taken away for something he had not done. “Anger only consumes the vessel that contains it,” Rubin famously said. While he was able to turn himself around and survive, Sebastian did not have his reserves of inner strength. Rubin’s other statement on this subject also jumps out at me: “The prison knows what to do with violence. That’s the specialty of the prison. Show them anger and violence and you will pay the price they will exact.” That, Lena, is more or less the sad story.

      • Thank you so much for your reply. I can appreciate just how many comments you must get , especially recently. Thank you again. I hope that there will be some improvements for both Atif and Sebastian.

  54. If Atif and Sebastian are guilty, how come they do not kill Atif’s sister. I would think that if Sebastian killed Atif’s sister for life insurance that he would at least have sealed the deal before calling the police instead of leaving the one witness to testify against him alive. Am I simply missing something here?

    • The answer to your question will remain a mystery, but an uneducated guess is that they may have believed they had killed her and she got up off the floor. She was so badly injured, she died soon thereafter. Since Sebastian did not kill her, the speculation about insurance is irrelevant.

  55. I have no doubt in my mind that Atif and Sebastian did it.

    Firstly, they were fully grown adults. They were 19. Innocent adults, traumatised or not, don’t act in the way they did after the murders.

    Sebastian had a shower after the family were murdered and he has admitted that.
    Why on earth would he do that if he was innocent?!
    Also, the 911 call is the most rehearsed thing I’ve ever heard and I’m not the first one on here to say he would have won an Oscar!

    Sebastian is clearly a controlling person and he took control of Atif. Painting a picture in Atifs head about what it would be like had his family (who he already had issues with) been gone.
    Sebastian stayed in the home a few nights before the murders. Clearly because he was figuring out their nightly routines so they could decide the best way and time to kill them! The boys laughed when they recalled Atifs mentally challenged sister walking around close to death?! How could an innocent Atif see his sister walking around injured and still not help her?

    It was mentioned in the netflix documentary about how it could have been people after the family based on religious reasons. One point mentioned is the position of Sultanas body and how it was faced that way purposely to do with muslim murders. If that’s true the body would have had to be moved.
    There was no blood anywhere around her head. The body wasn’t moved.

    Another reason I believe them to be guilty is the fact that Sebastians lawyer was coming to prison to help him and he should have been paying all the attention he possibly could to see what needed to be done to get out and prove his “innocence”.
    Instead, he’s more interested in having sexual intercourse with his lawyer.
    I’m Sorry, but no matter how old you are, how much youre craving something, if you are on trail for murder and the death penalty is staring you in the face, you will do all your best to help your case and cooperate. The guy has chosen to sleep with his lawyer during their sessions instead of helping his case! The reason he did that is clear. He knows he’s guilty, he knows he’s not getting out, he doesn’t give a damn which is why he decided to have a little fun while he could!
    No innocent person would decide to do that over helping their case to prove their innocence.

    Sebastian was a spolit brat. Atif was a follower. Together, they committed a disgusting murder.
    They were not forced into saying what they said. They openly admitted to it. Yes it wasn’t how it should have been done but at the end of the day, that method has managed to lock up 2 sick people so in my opinion it worked.

    • Hi Grace,
      You appear to have understanding beyond my powers. “No doubt”.
      I question whether they were “fully grown adults” from an emotional perspective. In fact, statistically speaking, 18-19 year old males do more stupid things than any other age group in our society.
      I wouldn’t put credence in anything said to RCMP mobsters because it was all said to impress them.
      “The 911 call is the most rehearsed thing…”. Okay, how would you make the call? Do you know what it would be like to have witnessed what he had witnessed? No, you don’t, Grace.
      “Sebastian is clearly a controlling person and he took control of Atif.” I guess the judge impressed you, but even this judge has doubts about this case 12 years later. You have no doubts, though.
      The sex scandal showed poor judgment whether or not he was guilty or innocent. But not all of us have the self-control you apparently have. By that time, Sebastian had been in prison for nine years (he was incarcerated in Canada before extradition) and his lawyer may have come on to him. I say “may have” because I’ve never met Sebastian due to prison rules. He had been deprived of sexual contact for a crime he had not committed. Who is more responsible, the lawyer or the client? What I am saying here is that his behavior might just as well be taken as a sign of innocence as of guilt. I can’t say one way or the other, except that it was stupid yet understandable.
      You may not think so, but they were forced into saying what they said. It’s clear that you don’t understand the “mechanism” of the sting and why someone would make false statements. Several cases in Canada have already been thrown out on this account. And it’s still illegal to use it in the USA because it involves coercion.
      But you have no doubt. Would that the rest of us could have such certainty!

        • Hi Grace,
          No I did not avoid it; I’ve dealt with it before. First, I urge you to take whatever Sebastian said to the mobsters with a large grain of salt. He was fabricating a story so that they would believe him.
          Here’s what I guess may have happened: the killer(s) went to the shower to wash off the murder weapon, not to wash himself. Sebastian’s hairs were in the shower because he had been living there. The cops thought that Sebastian’s hair along with Mr. Rafay’s blood were sure signs that he had done the murders and that his so-called confessions must have been real. I think my version is more objective because the police were bound and determined to get these guys the moment they saw them. We looked at the case and tried to find holes in Atif’s and Sebastian’s stories. Believe it or not, projects look for reasons not to take on cases; the shower evidence was ridiculous and everybody on both sides knows that.

  56. The show was constantly trying to establish that these two were innocent. so it is Heavily biased. Most important is the testimony of Jimmy Miyoshi.
    Rebuttal 1
    Jimmy Miyoshi, was threatened ?? really with what . If he does not cooperate than the Rafay & Burns are innocent. So how can they implicate Miyoshi, if Rafay and Burns get away? Miyoshi never took part in the crime. It is very difficult to implicate Miyoshi. To tell a potential witness that he will get into trouble, if he did not tell the truth is ‘standard procedure’. But a Fake testimony will also get you in trouble. What if the real killer was found than Miyoshi perjured under oath. Lying under oath is a serious crime. This is just a tactic (from Rafay & Burns lawyers) to discredit a key witness in this case. Any lawyer will and would have told Miyoshi that state has no evidence against him and that if he lies, he will go to prison for 5 years. Plus his testimony will destroy lives of 2 of his friends.

    Rebuttal 2
    The Muslim hit squad story is laughable. Because every Muslim who prays knows or tries to find the Kabba Direction on his own (because they pray in their own house and when they are outside they still need to find it out ). And each and every mosque has people saying that their direction is off, it happens all the time. What is important to note is Tariq rafay (victim) committed no Blasphemy (or what muslims consider Blasphemy). There are plenty of people (muslims included) who have done Blasphemy but have not been attacked in USA or Canada. But why did the religious hit squad killed the wife & an autistic daughter. No reason to kill the daughter. Another laughable suggestion that muslim hit squad moved Sultana’s face towards east. Such can only be said by a person who is not muslim and does not understand.

    Rebuttal 3
    Killing parents for Inheritance and insurance. Has happened before. so No need to say that this is not a valid reason.
    Rebuttal 4
    The crime scene was staged . Drawers opened but not searched, boxes over turned but not searched. Why would a burglar would only take the VCR and a Walkman from the house. Why not Sultana’s jewelry? gold ring etc. No Physical break & entry into the house. Burglars can kill if surprised, but the viciousness and the method clearly showed that murders were planned. Tariq was in his bedroom meaning sultana was killed without much noise (Just as Burns described).
    How did Atif knew that VCR and Walkman are gone but never bothered to check on his sister. who has time to look for a walkman when your whole family is murdered and dying (sister was not dead)
    The fact that the baseball bat was metallic was not publicly known but Sebastion Burns knew.
    The unidentified hair is not grounds for reasonable doubt because we bring hair into our house with our shoes and clothing. it can also belong to a guest or friend that was visiting earlier.
    After watching the show I was convinced that these two did it.

    • 1. Miyoshi had a big problem. He was friends with them and was facing co-conspirator charges. The RCMP threatened him with 99 years and, possibly, the death penalty. (We have this on record.) We have the interrogation on record. Even under that pressure from actual police (this interrogation was done after the murders) he insisted that ‘they never told him’ they were going to kill anyone. He testified in court because he was facing those charges and had little choice. I would have done the same if my 2 friends had ‘confessed’ and implicated me.

      2. Muslim extremist group would have been laughable were it not for three tips that the police failed to follow up on, so convinced were they that they had the right guys. One tip was from an FBI informant (the police confirm this). Another was from an RCMP informant before the murders took place. Another was from the Seattle Police Department (SPD).

      3. Killing parents for inheritance has definitely happened before but the amount of money and the vicious method of killing militates against it being a pair of youths, one the son and brother of the family. Atif was being sent to Cornell University by his parents, was a scholar and totally involved in his studies (as he still is). Knowing him now for ten years, he doesn’t not have an ounce of greed in him.

      4. The crime scene was staged to make it look like a burglary. Yes. Why does that have to be Atif and Sebastian. The specific extremist group that was identified by the FBI informant had staged home invasions like break-ins before. One case, a mother, father and daughter in the Pakistani community were knifed to death in Tacoma. Everything was the same except the method of killing.

      The question you should be asking, Malik, if you believe in justice, is why did the police not follow up on these leads? Thompson, in “The Confession Tapes” said that they didn’t have the time to follow all the leads, even though he knew about the Muslim extremist group. The RCMP sting took five months to garner a ‘confession’. What were the Bellevue police doing in all that time? I am placing below the pre-trial examination of Police Detective Thompson by Sebastian Burns’s lawyer. Tell me what you think.

      JEFF ROBINSON (Burns’s 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?
      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.
      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.

  57. Thank you for the reply. Wouldn’t you think that Atif’s hair too would have been found in the shower if Sebastian’s was? Given that they both stayed days before and they both most likely have used the shower. Yet only Sebastian’s hair was found mixed with the blood

  58. can you not just privately investigate the names of the people the FBI informant gave from the mosque? or have the police department investigate them? and rule them out? i want to say they are innocent – but the lack of remorse – even the 911 call – it doesnt do them favours!

  59. So, you’re being investigated for murders that you “didn’t commit.” Do you for a second, think that it’s a good idea to associate with organized criminals who make it clear that they have no qualms with murder? Burns’s comfort level with confessed murderers, as much as his actual confession, convinces of his guilt. His sociopathy is obvious.

    Of course you consider their behavior following the murders.

    With regards to the murders being the work of Islamic extremists. The calling card of radical Islamists is to commit crimes to teach the victims, as well as society, a lesson. They want everyone to know that certain behaviors and beliefs will not be tolerated. Yet, in this case there was nothing but crickets following the murders. No messages at the crime scene. Certainly this doesn’t rule out Islamists. But it’s far from indicative, particularly the attempt to make it look like a crime scene. Also, what Islamic extremist, or murderer in general, takes the time to shower in the house where he just perpetrated a triple homicide? Unless they live or are staying there of course?

    May they wallow in torment.

    • “Obvious”. As if you can guess what’s inside his mind. It’s easier to guess what is inside yours because you wrote this. What makes you think that Burns or anyone else took a shower? Because there was blood on the shower floor? Do you think it’s possible, Josh, that the murder weapon might have been washed off there? There would be ample reason for doing that but I don’t know for sure. Maybe a little humility would be as good for you as for me.
      As for comfort with actual murderers, Burns was paid increasingly larger sums of money every time he committed a small crime. His behavior was being shaped or, better, conditioned. I’ll bet that you go to work so that you get a paycheck. Our behavior–you and me both–is shaped in the same way. Are you so certain that you wouldn’t get caught up in the same kind of scheme?
      “His sociopathy is obvious.” Not to me. Where do you get such certainty?
      And wow, your ending is indicative of something inside you. Some little bit of hate and cruelty?

  60. Hi Ken,

    Would you mind giving an update on Sebastian? I understand he has exhausted his appeals, so what options does he have now?


    • Hi Sophia,
      The way I’ve come to understand the appeals system is that it functions to sustain convictions; judges look for any excuse to avoid overturning a jury verdict. That being said, most wrongly convicted prisoners do exhaust their appeals, wasting an ocean of time in the process but keeping a glimmer of hope that some open-minded judge will rescue them.

      Yes, he has exhausted his appeals but that doesn’t mean it’s over. Exonerations generally occur because of new evidence. Most jurisdictions have to accept new evidence, DNA or recanting witnesses or some indisputable new fact; not to do so would place prosecutors and judges in an untenable situation. Even then, of course, they fight tooth and nail against the validity of the new evidence. But this is where public opinion and media can have a huge effect. Since many judges and chief prosecutors in the USA are elected, the risk of sustaining obvious wrongful convictions can become greater than admitting error.

      There have been cases where a sexual assault results in misidentification of the perpetrator and DNA absolves him. However, even there, I have seen where police and prosecutors will say that while so and so did not commit the assault, he must have been in the room. They simply won’t let go of the conviction.

      • I’d imagine the people working on behalf of Atif and Sebastian have spent much time pursuing James Miyoshi over the years in the hopes he might recant his “coerced” testimony. (I use quotations as I really don’t know if this is true or not at this point).

        I also imagine this would not be an easy thing to do with someone of his character and situation. Still, one would think that 20 years and counting after the trial, James might have more incentive to do right by his former best friends and fewer consequences. Do you think I am right about that? What would be some of the reasons Miyoshi might not come forth from a legal standpoint (or personal, if you want to venture a guess).

        • You are entirely correct, Allyson, although we have not pursued him. We do have two hearsay reports about his freely admitting that he lied (for good reason). We also know that, as of five years ago, he was unwilling to come forward. I think that Jimmy has the same inner conflict now as he had before. When I read his interrogation by the RCMP, I am struck by how he tried to walk a tightrope between friendship and his own well being. This eventually proved to be impossible as the choices given to him became starker. I now see him as almost heroic but I don’t expect heroism from the average person; that’s why we honor heroes, after all. Let me say this: the RCMP ruined his life, maybe not to the extent that they ruined Sebastian, Atif, and Sebastian’s family, but they ruined it nonetheless. Imagine walking around every day with the knowledge that your friends are imprisoned on account of what you said and that what you said was false.
          From a legal standpoint, I don’t think there would be any consequences. Witnesses recant all the time. But he may feel that too much water has gone under the bridge at this point to redeem the situation.

          • Wow, I am surprised that no one has contacted him if there are be no legal consequences to a recantation. There must be a very good reason you would only guess at what his state of mind is without at least attempting to go down that avenue. It has been 20 years and counting. Maybe his life is no longer ruined.

          • Well, he lives in Japan and I think he’d like to be as far away from this nightmare as he can possibly be. I honestly don’t think you can recover from something like that unless you have a lot of resiliency. Sure it would be great if he recanted but then he’d have to face up to the damage he has inflicted on his friends’ lives. Whether one can fault him for it is almost irrelevant.

          • I really don’t understand this line of thinking but perhaps I’m missing something…would you want to go to your grave knowing you had the opportunity to right a wrong?
            I have no doubts Miyoshi would be forgiven, as it seemed his friends didn’t put the blame on him in the first place.
            Why not give him the opportunity to do just that?

          • If I saw him, I’d certainly ask. I just feel that his state of mind subsequent to the trial became more and more unpredictable. Were I you, I’d look on his website (James Kira, I think). I haven’t gone there in quite some time but it might give you some idea why we would be reluctant to pursue him.

  61. Wow, this case is mind boggling. Although I can always state my opinions and views on this case, I am choosing not to in this situation because I will reserve that for the experts. That is what they are paid to do. What I will do is ask a few questions to the public as to how they get to their ways of thinking.
    1) How can anyone judge this case when all the evidence and videotapes were not given or investigated?
    2) If you had all the information, videotapes, conversations etc that people spent countless hours in retrieving do you think you would have the same opinions?
    3) Do you think the media had a lot to do with persuading you into thinking the way you do?
    4) Should people be found guilty of murder on behaviors and confessions alone even if they are coincidental or disturbing?
    5) If you were the prime and only suspect of a triple homicide would you want to be held accountable for everything you say and do if you were innocent or even guilty?
    6) We can go on and on as to why this and why that and why not this and why not that, but in the end do we ever really know the full and true story unless we see it with your own eyes?
    7) Do you believe that everyone deserves a fair trial?

    My opinions do not matter here, but I do wish them a fair trial. It is then and only then can they be proven innocent or guilty.

    • I’m happy to post your questions, Maria. I think number 7 is obvious if you don’t live in a totalitarian state.
      I’d like to comment on number 6. When witnesses go up to testify they swear to ‘tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth’ when that is clearly impossible, even IF you see it with your own eyes. Perceptions vary among witnesses who see the same crime committed. The trial ‘verdict’ actually translates from Latin as speaking the truth. The law only pretends to the truth. At best, it can be an instrument used to find truth; at worst it can be used to obscure truth, especially in the post conviction phase.
      This being said, if the facts warrant, someone was killed in a particular way at a particular time. Knowing how, when and why is an imperfect science. That is why the death penalty should be banned. The death penalty is a perfect punishment but the world we live in (the people who inahbit that world) are imperfect.

  62. Scott Peterson was convicted with zero forensic evidence, no confession, and some of the evidence that the prosecution presented against him was totally bogus. Should he go free too?

    • Hi Leonard,
      My knowledge of the Peterson case is fairly superficial, about as much as the average citizen. I do know that there are uncanny parallels between his case and Burns/Rafay. The media played a large role in demonizing these defendants. The lack of forensic evidence is notable in both cases and the issue of juror prejudice was also a factor. From what I can see, I would say that Peterson’s conviction was based primarily on circumstantial evidence, evidence that appeared to be a bit more coherent and persuasive than Burns/Rafay but only a bit. The falsified evidence–or evidence that is not really evidence–nullifies much of the circumstantial evidence against Peterson.

      From my superficial vantage point, I would agree that Peterson was improperly convicted. I would not hazard a guess as to his guilt or innocence but the trial seemed faulty to me. In Burns/Rafay, the trial was definitely faulty (the judge disallowed the evidence needed to defend themselves) and the means of gathering evidence was outrageous and unconstitutional.) But yes, since Peterson’s trial also seemed prejudicial and affected by the media circus, I would say he should also have a new one. The lack of forensic evidence and the amount of assumptions and guessing in both cases are disturbing.

  63. Hi Ken you said that Sebastien repeatedly denied involvement during the taped confessions, yet in the “confession tapes” the only denial seemed to be haslet misunderstanding what sebastien was saying or the other way around. It did not sound like an outright denial. In any case Haslet was on the witness stand saying that he did not deny it at any time. Now if you have any evidence of denials. Would it not be perjurious? What are your thoughts

    • One of the problems of this case is that Sebastian was targeted for five months, during which he was taped and otherwise spied upon. What the jury got to see was the end point, the so-called confession, which we are certain was a fabrication made to satisfy the gangsters. But Sebastian denied killing the Rafays for five months. I actually think that what you see on tape might qualify as a confession if that was all that took place. The mistake that the jury and others make is thinking that because the process took so long, that the final hours are all that matter. The reasoning I’ve heard is that the defendant has been holding back and finally confesses when his resistance is broken. But the confession is no more or less real if it comes at the end or the beginning. That’s all they will show you. The rest of the tapes are destroyed.

      The RCMP lying and perjuring themselves? Take a look at the Djekanski case and the Ian Bush case and many others. They lie all the time, I’m sorry to say. Which is not to say that ‘they’ are all bad. In fact, the majority of RCMP officers, of course, are hard-working and decent people. The minority are unscrupulous individuals who take advantage of their power; there are more of them than they would care to acknowledge.

  64. First of I would just like to thank Ken for his hard work gulity or not those boys didn’t not recieve a fair trial. With regards to people that say that they murdered them during the movie we know that to be false since 2 seperate neighbors with no ties to the boys claimed they heard the banging around 945 pm or 930pm. The movie start time was 950 pm meaning that they would have had to murder the family after dinner before the movie. And once you come to that and the 15 min drive between the 2 and a shower to clean all blood off you leaves you very little time. One person said that the mom would be alerted in it was a stranger but a sebesation coming in only in his underwear and with a baseball bat doesn’t bother her. So then what did they do with the bloody underwear and bat must brought it with them yet there was no dna anywhere (possible but at this time there rushed when your rushed mistakes happen) show back up downtown go to a movie and look normal we know they stayed to the end cause they could re play the end a month after it came out and cops could find no proof they saw it before. This is work of a psychopath but we have no history from either to tell us there

      • I’d say you cannot know for certain nor can we know anything ‘for certain’ when it comes to the law. The law pretends to truth (“the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”; verdict means to “speak truth”), but that is nonsense. Truth is on a higher level than the law. But this is why there has to be a wider berth for and an easier way to right wrongful convictions. The verdict is treated as if it were the truth but we know that while it’s usually correct, it is far from infallible.

        I know this seems a roundabout way to deal with your question, Allyson, but the banging sounds (thumping) were actually tested out during the investigation into the murders. The neighbors confirmed that the sound made by a baseball bat was similar to the sound they heard. There’s no certainty, however. Nor is there any certainty in the convictions, especially since the confessions, the main evidence, were garnered through coercion. Maybe the best question to ask is which scenario is more likely?

        • Ken, I appreciate the response but jI think it’s important for everyone to restrain from making definitive statements such as “we know that to be false”. Doesn’t help the argument.

          • Yes, but then there’s the possible trap of not being able to know anything at all. What does seem impossible to me is the ability of Atif and Sebastian to drive from the Seattle movie theater to Bellevue, commit the murder, and then go out on the town. Killing a human being, despite whatever television or film might show us, has an enormous and overpowering effect on the murderer. Multiply by three??
            For Sebastian and Atif to be seen as guilty, one has to abandon common sense. So, for me, the American notion of common sense actually contains wisdom. What we know cannot be 100% certain, but it does appear very close to certain that Atif and Sebastian were at that film at 9:50. Not even the RCMP or the prosecutors questioned that. Were the thumping sounds the killing itself? Probably.

  65. “Killing a human being, despite whatever television or film might show us, has an enormous and overpowering effect on the murderer”.

    I’m not sure what kind of effect you are suggesting. I would imagine it would run the gamut.

    Haven’t there been many cases where a someone, who has just committed a horrible act, then turns up for a lunch or a class or what have you as if nothing had ever happened, leaving everyone who knew them incredulous ?
    I’m not a big sucker for TV shows, but I have to say the footage of Atif and Sebastian renting movies the night after the murders raised my eyebrows. Is that not common sense ?

    • No, it’s not common sense to equate renting videos with killing a family. What would you have them do, cooped up in a cheesy motel for days? Sit there in tears for hours on end. I think that they, like many adolescents or many people in general, would prefer the escape of a film.

      • I would think I’d had been completely paralyzed and yes, most likely in tears for much of that time. If I were Sebastian, or even Atif, I would’ve most likely sought the comfort of speaking to my parents the first chance I got. (I do believe one could call collect in the 90s). They both seem like reasonable and intelligent people. I have to say I found it strange that it was the girlfriend who called the Burns first about the murder – but maybe you can shed some light on that.
        And no, I can’t imagine watching a movie would be something I’d think about.
        (If I recall correctly, the visit to the video store was the night after the murder, not after days of being cooped up).

  66. I have only read half the comments replying to your article so I am unsure whether this has been discussed earlier, but thought I would ask anyway. I believe Burns and Rafay are innocent but there are two things about the case that I still am unable to justify completely. First, Rafay claims he heard his sister was alive in a nearby room but decided against checking on her as he believed there was nothing he could do for her. Do you think this is peculiar? Would you not want to at least stay by your sister’s side if you heard her voice, knowing she was still alive? Would you not want to potentially ask her what she saw while she was still alive to obtain some answer of who did this to your family? It seems dismissive for Rafay to just leave her there. What do you think of this?
    Second, Burns’ call to 911 is also slightly peculiar. Sure, he sounds audibly traumatised and stutters over his words, but he doesn’t mention a murder and alerts of the officer of the break in as a first point rather than the deaths, which are obviously more significant than a burglary. Would it not be reasonable to mention the most severe crime that occurred that night – the deceased family members he’s just discovered? However, I understand everyone has a different way of dealing with trauma and Burns could have been unable to put into words what he had just seen. It just seems like the deaths would the first thing on your mind, wouldn’t they?
    Although I believe Sebastian and Atif were unfairly convicted in all other avenues of the investigation, these elements do remind me why some people still believe the two are guilty, because they raise some questions. What are your thoughts?

    • Thanks for this, Veronika
      I can’t speak for the way a person might behave in such a situation because the circumstances are unique. I think you put it beautifully with respect to Sebastian: “Unable to put into words what he had just seen.” We think of these situations as if we are there in our right minds, but we are not there at all. A break-in might be all he could do to describe it. Of course, if you want to see him as a fiend, you might judge his behavior as brutal, cold and calculating.
      As to Atif, his sister, Basma, could not speak at all. She had a medical condition that caused apahsia, so he knew there was no information to be gained. Is there a possibility, under the circumstances, that you yourself might want to avoid seeing what became of her?
      Yes, there are elements in this case, personal qualities mostly, that might cause people to see them as guilty. But I would be more impressed by actual evidence that they did the killings. Had that been present I can assure you that I would not be writing this answer to you. I would never have gotten involved in the first place.

      • Thanks for replying. I was unaware of Basma’s condition – I was misinformed that she was merely autistic but given the circumstances, the situation makes a lot more sense now.

    • Burns also does not mention a sister who is alive but dying to the 911 operator.
      I don’t think anyone can blame the detectives for being very alerted by the boys’ behaviour. Observing the people close to murder victims is very basic police work.

      • Looking through all possible suspects is also basic police work. Observing people is basic, yes, but drawing conclusions from what you see on the surface will cause as many problems as it solves. I blame the detective for jumping to conclusions and for believing that the people in front of him must be guilty, despite a lack of evidence. But then ‘tunnel vision’ was at play.
        Burns not mentioning the sister? Is that supposed to mean something?

          • It’s possible that Sebastian was unaware that someone was still alive in the house. Wasn’t Atif the one to go upstairs and search the house? Perhaps Sebastian was only made aware of the deaths of Atif’s parents before making the 911 call. I mean, wouldn’t you want to call for help as soon as possible rather than waiting around to search the premises?

          • Veronilka, in the 48 Hours show you can hear Sebastian describe finding the body of Mr. Rafay. Basma’s room was next door. Obviously, Sebastian knew she was there.
            I believe you are thinking of Atif searching the house at the police’s request in order to assess stolen goods.

  67. I just watched the show on Netflix and it definitely spiked my curiosity. It reminds me a bit of The West Memphis Three case. No physical evidence, basically tried in the media, ridiculous confession, and behavior interpreted as odd. I’d have to do more research to have an opinion of guilt or innocence but from what I’ve seen so far, the trial was a joke. Like the west Memphis three, I feel like the jury relied on emotion and not logic. I think that’s one of the biggest problems in our justice system. We have a choice between one judge that knows the law inside and out (but can still be swayed by outside factors) or 12 regular people, that all have to agree, but can be easily influenced by emotional manipulation and don’t have a comprehensive knowledge of the law. That’s a tough choice. I think there is definitely reasonable doubt in this case and yet it seemed that the judge also had his mind made up. I do have one question, however, about the alibi..out of curiosity. These boys were 19 but they chose to go see The Lion King? I understand that adults can enjoy Disney movies, I’ve watched them without my kids and I’m 33. The thing that bothers me about this movie choice is the other movies that were out in theaters at the same time. Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption, and Pulp Fiction..Two 19 year old boys chose to see the Lion King over the other 3? It’s no evidence of guilt and I completely agree that they should have been found not guilty..but if I was trying to pick a movie for an alibi, I would assume that the police might ask me about said movie. The Lion King trailer (along with seeing other Disney movies) pretty much gives you the entire plot of the movie. It would be much harder to describe the other 3 if you haven’t seen them. Almost every 19 year old boy I have ever known, would have chosen Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption. Like I said, I fully agree that these 2 should have never been convicted but I am curious to know why they went to The Lion King

    • Hi Winter,
      I’ve gotten this question a number of times now and I don’t want to do the ‘lawyerly’ thing: relevance? I mean I was 48 when I saw it and not one person came up after the show and asked me why I was there (okay, my son was there with me). However, there are some incredible coincidences and even ironies in your entry and in those who ask about the Lion King. First, though, I will say that the talent needed to put that film together was extraordinary. Only Disney could have afforded a speaking cast like that. It was a hit like no other of its time, including Forrest Gump (a bigger fantasy than The Lion King, in my opinion).

      First, if you look at the mythological content of The Lion King, its story is universal. Simba is made to believe that he has killed his father so he runs away, but we know that the evil Mufasa is really the culprit. Is truth not stranger than fiction? Of all films, this one is the most apt if you were telling the Rafay killings as a made up story, considering what Atif and Sebastian came home to! So they saw the Lion King and wound up needing the Shawshank Redemption.

      But what is universal in The Lion King? First, that good triumphs…eventually. Or, if you substitute truth for good, then ‘the truth will out’ and the truth redeems. Second, that innocence does not protect you from harm. Everyone involved with the law knows this to be fact. Third, that in order to find meaning in life, there must be a journey. Easy to say from the outside, even if your role is to save innocent people.

      The Odyssey is, for me, the archetypal story. Hero goes abroad to fight in a war or accomplish some command, triumphs or succeeds, but then gets sidetracked on the journey home. Odysseus spent years trying to return to Ithaca because he offended Poseidon, the sea god. His was the sin of pride. When he returns home, much has changed. Now he must restore the world to what it was before he left.

      So–a long way to say a simple thing–The Lion King is an archetypal story that knows no age. Atif and Sebastian would have seen it from that perspective and not as a child’s tale.

  68. Ken,
    I applaud your devotion to this case! I guess I have to get this off my chest, since I’ve been researching this case and since no one else has mentioned this: Assuming that A&S are innocent, it is highly unlikely that the murderers lucked into the timing of the murder. They must have followed Atif and Sebastian (A&S) to the restaurant and theater, thus knowing A&S would not be home for at least an hour and a half, giving the murderers ample time to kill then shower/clean the bat. This scenario fits perfectly with the neighbors’ ear-witness timeline, particularly Julie Rackley’s ear-witness timeline:
    (1) The murderers follow A & S to The Keg restaurant, then watch A&S leave the restaurant for the theater across the street at 8:30 p.m.
    (2) The murderers wait long enough to see A & S drive across the street to the theater, park the car, then enter the theater. Confident that they have time to murder the Rafays without interruption and without having to fend off two teen boys, the murderers then leave their surveillance position at The Keg/theater around 9:40.
    (3) They arrive at the Rafays roughly nine minutes later based on Mapquest’s drive time and maybe a red light or stop sign (9:49), but they park down the block from the home, walk up to the home (presumably with a large duffel bag containing a baseball bat and maybe a flashlight), and then sneak into the yard where they find the open sliding door (9:51). Outside the sliding door, they remove their shoes to silence their movements.
    (4) They confirm that Tariq is sleeping, then find Mrs. Rafay in the basement, where they strike her twice (9:53).
    (5) Someone not-yet-bloody pulls out the VCR, puts it in the duffel bag, and ransacks the basement bedroom at this time (9:55).
    (6) At least two people then walk up the stairs to Mr. Rafay’s room to strike him roughly 50 times (begins 9:56). One person stands against the wall, perhaps using a flashlight to light the room, leaving the silhouette of blood. Then Basma is attacked in her room.

    This timeline corresponds with the neighbor’s (Julie Rackley’s) assertion that she first noticed the weird bat/hammer noises at 9:56. (She even reenacted her night to confirm she heard the noises at this exact time.) Ms. Rackley then continued to hear the noises for ten to fifteen minutes, which corresponds with Tariq’s attack and then Basma’s attack. This also fits with the theory that a hit was placed on the Rafays, since it seems most likely–to me, at least–that someone surveilling the family’s movements killed the Rafays.

    • Hi Tintin,
      Like the name, of course. I think you present a plausible scenario here, certainly more plausible than the boys sneaking out the side door of the theater. Of course, it’s speculative, but there is substance to the speculations. The problem people have with the VCR business is that it does not fit with the motivation of a religious fundamentalist killing. However, the modus operandi of the particular group we suspect was to hide their involvement with the crime while sending a message to the wider community about dabbling with different scriptural interpretations and establishing detentes with other religious groups. So perhaps they wanted to make it look like a robbery, just as Burns and Rafay supposedly tried to do. I don’t know about confirming that Tariq was asleep and why they wouldn’t kill him first. The one question that was never fully answered is how many people it would have taken to control that house. My guess is more than two.

      I think your ideas about timing and surveillance are likely correct. I’d also say that the house was ‘cased’ for days in advance. This criminal act was thought out and planned.

  69. There are some shaky goings-on, to be sure, but Ken, didn’t Jimmy admit he knew about the plan to murder BEFORE he got immunity? Also, when SB was talking to Jimmy about Jimmy’s talking to the ‘gangsters’, to back up their confession (or ‘confession’), from what I hear on the tapes on ’48 Hrs’, it didn’t sound like ‘Hey, these are the lies we want you to tell,’. Didn’t he in fact say, ‘He [‘Mr Big] knows what went on’? Surely he would have said, ‘This is what we told him went on.’ At the time, there was NO UC officer around, so no motive for SB to act like they had done the murder if they didn’t. (Also, if they WERE lying to Mr Big, though this is not proof of murderous guilt, I don’t believe their motive was fear, but greed. They wanted to keep on being paid for crimes. SB pursued Mr Big, and they were told they could walk away any time, and SB crowed that ‘Crime is cool!’)

    However, the Muslim assassins angle should have been pursued rigorously. Put it like this: I don’t think the confessions should be vacated but I do think that other suspects should be investigated and that it’s a disgrace they weren’t. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but such is the law, sometimes.

    • I’m glad you wrote this, Zahra, and I hope some people out there can read my reply. If you look at the initial interrogation of Miyoshi, after Atif and Sebastian were arrested, he is asked a total of twenty-six times if Atif told him in advance about the murders. His answer was consistent and persistent: “Never, they never told me.” It wasn’t until years later when he was threatened with the loss of his job, his freedom, his wife, his family that he testified against his friends. And that confession–that he knew beforehand–was all the RCMP wanted him to admit to. He had signed an immunity agreement. I think he asked himself: My friends confessed to something they didn’t do; so why should I go to prison as well? It was a simple calculation and I would have done exactly the same. But while Jimmy did seal the deal in court, I believe he was honorable. It was plain in the ensuing years that he was torn up by what he did. I blame the RCMP and the Bellevue police and tunnel vision.

      As to Sebastian, you can summarize what he said to Jimmy in three words: Just play along. The danger of sting operations designed to elicit confessions is that a suspect confesses to people he believes are criminals. But they are also police. When you confess to police–at least in America–you must be warned that what you say can be used in court against you. The sting operation gets around this problem by hiding the identities of the police. On the one hand, talking to gangsters is both thrilling and intimidating, far more dangerous in a person’s mind than talking to the police. The police are restricted by law. They can’t threaten to go and kill your family. What you say to gangsters, unguardedly, can be used in court.

      Finally, as to motive. Greed? Well, yes, if you yourself admit to the same greed that most of us have to one degree or another. Sebastian was conditioned, as you would condition an animal. Every time he committed a petty crime at their behest, they paid him, and they paid him in varying sums of money. That’s how you get people (and animals) to do what you want. Sure, we all want money. And don’t forget that Sebastian and Atif were already seen as murderers in Vancouver because the Washington press, egged on by the Bellevue police, presented them as murderers. Neither could have found work in the community. That vulnerability made the sting even more enticing.

      Who killed the Rafays? I hope you will soon find out.

  70. Hi Ken, please put some of us out of our misery. Are people properly working on an innocence case for these two and what is the likely good that this will go back to trail?

    • Hi Lauren,
      As I’m sure you can appreciate, this is a very complex case, to say the least. We know that Atif and Sebastian are innocent, but we have to establish a clear, consistent and provable narrative about what happened twenty-four years ago. Perhaps the full story will never be known, but the story we are putting together is going to be a likelier scenario than the one the state is relying on. To answer your question: the last time I counted there were fifteen people working on this case, including researchers, private investigators and lawyers. Only the investigators are being paid.
      You’d think with all that people power the chances of a new trial would be excellent. But this is the legal system where prosecutors and judges are reluctant to acknowledge even the possibility of a wrongful conviction. So it’s a tough road, but we are moving in the right direction.

  71. I feel grief and deep sadness for the immense suffering of these two young innocent men and their loving families. It is a horrific miscarriage of justice.and sad evidence of the evil emanating from ignorance and egotistic resistance to evidence. I thank everyone who is doggedly pursuing justice in this case. As Pearl S. Buck said, when good people in any country cease their vigilance and struggle, then evil prevails. Please remind us how we can help in the struggle for justice.

    • Thank you for these kind and accurate words, Mary. Anyone who can believe the RCMP or believe in its methods may miss the import of what you’ve written here. If you want to help with this case, visit rafayburnsappeal.com.

  72. Hi Ken,

    I’m not hopeful of these poor guys having their convictions overturned – too many reputations on the line. But what about them being returned to Canada and possibly having their sentences commuted there? Is there any sort of precedent for something like that?

    Keep up the good work.

    • Hi Steve,
      Sorry it’s taken so long to get back. There is much precedent for people to serve their sentences in Canada. The most prominent case is Omar Khadr, who after having spent years at Guantanamo Bay, was returned to Canada to finish his sentence. The fact that he was tortured to confess was the overriding factor in the decision to release him from prison up here, despite Stephen Harper’s opposition. Khadr’s presence in Guantanamo posed difficulties for the American government since he was 15 years old and a child soldier when his supposed crime of killing an American soldier was committed.
      So, yes, a prisoner can be released to another prison in another jurisdiction. Will Rafay and Burns get that treatment? Not until the public demands it and that won’t happen until our evidence is made available and publicized. It is a painstaking process. That the state of Washington lacks a parole system is a state of affairs that beggars common sense.

  73. I’m trying to find this info but cannot-were there 2 pairs of underwear and nothing else found in the washing machine at the crime scene??

    • Yes, Chantal, according to the “Confession Tapes”, two pairs. But it means nothing, proves nothing, and no blood or residual stain was detected. This is another piece of evidence that was subject to innuendo, rather than anything factual. Had any blood from the Rafays been detected, case closed. I wouldn’t be defending them. It would be likelier for Atif and Sebastian, had they done this crime, to throw out the underwear (even though Atif was supposedly sitting in the living room while the murders occurred) just like they supposedly threw out the weapon and everything else in dumpsters.

  74. Hi Ken,

    Have just seen the Netflix docu in Aus, and am aware i’ve seen 90 minutes of something that lasts 20+ years. I found the most compelling evidence your point 6, the neighbours. Can you explain how this was argued away and not a piece of evidence that was hard to overcome? How soon after the murders did the neighbours give there taped evidence? They seem very reliable, gave similar accounts, with tight time frames, and seemed confident on those time frames, not suggesting any possibility that they could be out by an hour. There timeframes I think we’re closer to 9pm-9.35pm, although u list as 9.50? And given what seemed an airtight alibi, how can this be overlooked. Did the neighbours ever change there stories?

    I also don’t get why Sebastian’s hair in the shower is not challenged by more common sense. Seems logical his hair was in there given he had stayed there 4 a few days, but there is a notion that once the killer had a shower, no previous hairs would still exist in the shower. Why not? Lots of ppl have hairs that clog in a shower,, or could get stuck on a wet surface. Seems completely illogical that ‘it must have been the killers hair’. Any hair could be in a shower for weeks, even with a shower that’s frequently used.

    Keep up the good work, hope u can find the smoking gun.

    Cheers, Chris.

    • Hi Chris,
      I’m not sure of the timing with the neighbors, as to when exactly they were questioned. For us, the most significant fact is that Marc Seidel, one of the two neighbors questioned about the thumping noise, was manipulated into believing that he may have been wrong about the time. The other neighbor never changed her story about the timing of the killings. Subsequently, Seidel sent an e-mail that re-instated his original testimony about the timing; if the neighbors were correct on this then the alibi was irrefutable. That never came out in the trial. But do not underestimate the degree of selectivity and pressure that can be applied by police and prosecutors so that they can tie up the loose ends of their cases. With Seidel, they created a hole in the case that the jury was predisposed to believe.

      Sebastian’s hairs in the shower were not convincing to anyone (including the jury, I’d wager) but that hasn’t stopped the authorities in Washington from using that ‘evidence’ when presenting their justifications to the public. It sounds convincing if it’s not presented in the context you provide.

  75. I’ve read and watched so many things about this crime and all I can say is that without biological evidence is almost impossible to find out who the killer was. Those guys lived their lives in prison because no one could say who the killer was but them! I think that in the “Confession Tapes” their behaviour, their position, the way they spoke was too relaxed to be true. When you confess something like this, even to a stranger to whom you didn’t wanted to confess at first, you have to be nervous, to have those images in your mind and try to report a traumatic event. That is what makes me think that they lied in those tapes but in the same time, when your family is murdered and your life changes completly into worse, you can’t feel that good, you can’t think about the money or other things. These guys sent themselves to prison through their abnormal behaviour after the sad event happened, through the things they did, the money they spentm the things they said and the thing they wanted to do afterwards. If they would have had a normal behaviour, if they would’ve shown they regret what happened maybe they would’ve been free. One thing is for sure, the case is not solved yet. People need 100% proofs that they are the killers, if they are the killers but everything could also be a cover up for whatever reason. This has left me mind blown.

  76. You would think the movie theatre they went to would’ve had footage of them leaving with a timestamp on it.

  77. Have you seen or spoken to Sebastian lately? I understand he’s dealing with mental health issues. How bad is it? Can he hold down a normal conversation?

      • I’ve recently been able to correspond with Sebastian via letter. To me, he seems to be doing fairly well. He was articulate and spoke about some of the things he has been doing with his time, he spoke of memories growing up that corresponded to my letters and what I had shared with him about myself, etc.
        I believe he has had it very rough. I get the feeling though, that he is doing as well as he can.

        • Hi Kaelyn,
          You must have written something touching and genuine. In dealing with wrongful convictions, there are small solaces along the way, like a lotus flower arising in a swamp. You have given me cause for happiness, despite the desperate circumstances. Until your correspondence, I have not been made aware of any letter that he has answered.
          So thank you from the heart. I am deeply moved by what you’ve told me.

          • Thank you Ken, for providing David’s email address. I may send him a note. Atif has mentioned what an invaluable support he’s been to both him and Loretta. In a strange way, their relationship is such a beautiful thing to arise out of such adversity…

            I was looking into Dan Satterberg’s opponent Daron Morris, for the office of the King County Prosecutor election. I haven’t found anything online indicating that he’s given an opinion on this case. Atif suggested that I reach out to him, which I certainly will do. I was just wondering if you or your group had been in contact with him. Seeing that a new DA in David’s case was instrumental in revisiting his case, it got me wondering.

        • Kaelyn,

          Thank you for posting this! Sebastian and Atif have been in my mind and heart since I’d first heard of their case via The Confession Tapes last month. I’d never before felt compelled to reach out to a complete stranger before – but I just had to write to both Atif and Sebastian to express my support via email through the JPay app. Atif wrote back fairly quickly and is remarkably friendly and kind. I have not gotten an reply from Sebastian and was afraid that he might find correspondence from a stranger unwelcome. It brings me comfort to know that he replied and sounds like he’s doing okay.

          Would you mind telling me if you wrote via JPay or regular mail? I may try again through the mail, in time. I wondered if maybe Sebastian doesn’t have access to email, like Atif. Thanks :)

          And Ken, what you are doing is so admirable and I have enjoyed your blog.

          • Thanks, Tara, for the kind words.
            Because I can’t communicate directly with Sebastian, I’m uncertain about the JPay. As you can now see on this site, he does answer regular mail. It might take more than one letter from you but I can assure you, he now welcomes hearing from the outside and will likely answer.

            Glen S. Burns 876360
            Monroe Correctional Center-SOU
            PO Box 514
            Monroe, WA

          • Hi Ken,

            Thank you for providing Sebastian’s mailing address. I decided to send him a letter via “snail mail” a few weeks ago. I’m not sure if he will respond but I sincerely hope so.

            My husband and I just finished watching David and Me on Netflix – it brought me to tears. Both happiness for David’s exoneration and sadness for the many years of his unjust incarceration. His continued positive attitude was so apparent and remarkable. I hope he continues to thrive. From my correspondence with Atif, he seems to have a similar outlook, despite his circumstances. Seeing this documentary gave me renewed hope for him and Sebastian. Well done :)

            I have written to both Dan Satterberg and Governor Inslee. Aside from that, are there any other ways I can help them? Thanks for all you continue to do on their behalf :)

          • Thank you, Tara, for taking the time to do these things. I have been struck, over the past 14 years, with the goodness of most people. It’s easy to say that the world is going to hell, and when you see some of the actors with political power behave the way they do, it’s easy to get discouraged. But wrongful convictions represent the very worst and very best in people; my experience is that goodness prevails. It doesn’t lead to exoneration in every case, but it does show the prisoners that they are not forgotten. David McCallum will tell you that. (If you ever want to e-mail him, he’s at d.mccallum347@gmail.com)
            I’m glad you wrote to Inslee. Don’t know how many others have done so.

          • Tara, did Sebastian answer you? After watching the netflix series, I couldn’t be more sad about it.. I’ve seen a lot of things, but still cannot believe people are capable of doing this.. It’s very nice to hear he’s doing at least ok by Kaelyn’s post, but did he answer you too?

          • Hi Emma,

            I am sorry for the late reply – I just now saw your comment. No, I have not gotten a reply from Sebastian either by JPay or regular mail. I am comforted by Kaelyn’s post about him sounding better, as well as the recent update on the Rafay Burns Appeal website. So many things bother me about this case, but I think reading about his ordeal hit me the hardest.

  78. When abouts did Sebastian take a turn for the worse?The last footage I’ve seen of him was when he spoke at his sentencing and he also did an interview with Dateline, I believe that was in 2004.

    Also the picture of him with his parents toward the end of Confession Tapes, do you know when the picture was taken. I’ve also seen a picture of him literally looking like a disheveled homeless person, do you know when that picture was taken ?

    • I have no dates when it comes to his altered state. Several years ago is all I know. When he tried to resist his imprisonment by not eating the prison food, they force fed him. That kind of resistance is only possible if you’re a Rubin Carter. If you add up his time in solitary and the generally violent way he was treated, it doesn’t take much imagination to see that he would break down over time. I’d probably be dead.
      I think the photo you see was taken near the time he graduated from high school. He also was in cadets and I think there’s a photo of him in uniform.

      • Actually the picture I was talking about was the one where he’s in jail with his parents visiting him. Is that a recent pic?

  79. Does Atif have Sebastain for getting him involved with Mr Big, does he blame Sebastian is what I mean.

    Do they ever cross paths in prison, are they still friends?

    • Maybe to some extent but he can see where the fault really lies. They do not cross paths; they are not allowed to see each other as they are in different buildings. And if you visit one of them, you can never visit the other. I have never met Sebastian Burns.

  80. The saddest thing is, the killers were never caught. I cannot imagine being sentenced to life when I know I’m innocent and the killers are out there. It’s heart breaking.

  81. Greetings Ken,

    I am not going to comment on this specific case, but will leave a more general comment about our legal systems, which, although varying in specifics and form, all suffer from the same root problem at their cores.

    Given that you are experienced with legal systems, courts and trials, you may have an interesting opinion on this that, if you are so inclined, I would be very much interested in reading.

    The problem is that a trial is a competitive game. It’s lawyer vs lawyer and moves including deceit, omission and misdirection are considered valid, because it is a competition. Let me put it this way: imagine someone is being operated on by two highly skilled surgeons and that someone’s life hangs on their competence and is literally in their hands. Now imagine that instead of pitting their knowledge and skills together to successfully complete the procedure without any side effects, that they begin competing with each other because whoever is able to affirm that “he/she was the one able to save that life” gets more merit than whoever supported the outcome. Competition does not like to share spoils or merits. In this metaphor, the one being operated on is truth and the two surgeons competing are the prosecutor and the defense attorney. The jury and/or the judge are the ones handing out merit.

    Now, alternatively, imagine that in fact both lawyers would work together and with the police to understand what really happened. They both analyze the evidence together, because it was not a matter of one getting a win, but a matter of performing a function: to save truth’s life. In this imaginary alternative, the ones seen as the best lawyers would be the ones who would be able to work together and actually measure the facts.

    But that wouldn’t work for us. Not that I am against competition per se, it is an unalterable fact of this existence, but we are wired to connect better with “winners” and we tend to disregard “losers”. How much trust would a client normally place on a defense attorney with a high loss record? Nobody will ask whether the actual defendants of his cases were guilty or not or what the hard evidence pointed towards – everybody will see those losses as a sign of incompetence. Why incompetence? Because in this legal system you are competent if you win, regardless. Get a clear, knowingly guilty defendant off the hook with some twisted tricks or, as a prosecutor, get a clear not-guilty defendant convicted by any such means as well – both share that need to win, that all-encompassing desire to come out winners. In truth, whenever truth is reached, both lawyers, as well as everyone else, lose. They lose because they kill off their function: to seek the truth in trial proceedings.

    In my opinion, competition has no place in truth-seeking, which is what a trial should be about, but we are collectively what we are, and we need to see a victory everywhere, even if we call it closure or justice, regardless of the facts.

    I find it very ironic that, now reporting to a detail in this case, people were apparently disturbed by people reading Nietzsche, when living in and off a system that uses Hegel’s philosophy of “progress” through competition.

    If you are so inclined, I would really be interested on your take on this, given your experience with these legal systems and actual court proceedings and police investigations.


    • Zyrudin, I think you’ve hit on the central quandary of the law. But, as Rubin Carter used to say, the truth exists on a higher level or plane than the law. The law can only pretend to truth (verdict: literally means ‘to speak truth’) or “truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’. Witnesses can not tell the absolute truth; the sworn oath is an absurdity I would never agree to. Or I’d say: “I do, to the best of my ability.” So many witnesses ‘get it wrong’. So many verdicts result in wrongful convictions.

      This being said, the competition ethic is the foundation of trials. Underfunded prosecutors are no competition for slick law firms. Harried legal aid lawyers are no competition for well funded state prosecutors. The poor defendant is extremely disadvantaged in the legal system. Yet the legal system is the best we can do “on this level of human existence”. Just don’t have high expectations.

      So I agree with you. BUT, if you want to see something really bad, the post-conviction system, where jury verdicts stand a small chance of reversal, even where evidence against that verdict is undeniable, is the most intractable element of the law. The only partial solution for this problem is a conviction review unit that functions independently from police and prosecutors with a vested interest in the verdict.

      • Ah, Ken, quite so. Thank you for your insight.

        How can anyone “speak the truth” of what they saw, think they saw, remember they saw or interpreted they saw? Even two or more individuals who saw the same event? But language and communication is and will always be an approximation, even when with truthful intent. That we will always have to deal with as humans.

        And that’s “only” the philosophical side of it too.

        In more material, practical terms, it is simply and evidently, as you agreed, a competitive game. And note that I do not take any of our legal systems as a special occurrence, quite the contrary: they are competitive, because material existence is competitive. When we need to survive (or to ensure our lifestyles survive, which is a sort of ego-survival more than a bodily one) we will unconsciously always have the tendency to defer to the winning side – the “alpha”, the authority, even the mob – that is, the side that looks more suited to offer us survival. That is why it is so hard for jury members to be absolutely rational, factual and concrete in evidence examination. “What do the winners prefer I decide? What am I supposed to see, to feel, to think?” – all this unconsciously processed, if unobserved by the self, through any kind of prejudice, any kind of bias and any kind of subliminal manipulation.

        As to the post-conviction system, I can’t say I am shocked that it really goes that far as you say, unfortunately, but I am surprised by the sheer stupidity of the system. Still, I reiterate that I am not shocked because the stupid will always take the most absurd (and forceful) measures to prevent from being caught in error, lest everyone see them exposed as… stupid (“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! The Great and Powerful Oz has spoken!”).

        If you overturn, let’s say for argument’s sake, even 5% of all convictions on the basis of previous faulty evidence or new evidence to the contrary, then that would mean that 5 out of a 100 defendants were wrongly put in jail. And what about the guilty that walked away free, too?
        If these systems actually vie to replace the “God(s)” (now in the so-called “Age of Reason”), how many mistakes can divinity make before being questioned? I think that is why they will put a lot of force into resisting overturning decisions: divinity cannot be seen failing, it never did, regardless of the God in question and vogue.

        As I interpret what you quoted from Rubin Carter, they are the “divine” representatives of a truth that is really only pretense, but they see themselves as divine nonetheless. That reminds me of that famous passage in John Milton’s Paradise Lost:

        «Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
        to reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
        Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.»

        Thank you very much for your insight and apologies if I was too lengthy in mine.

        Best regards

        • once again, I’ll refer to Carter. The system is not “stupid”; it is exactly what it has to be on this level of human existence. It uses rationality and logic minus the heart. The law might work better if the heart were given its proper due.
          BTW, the New Yorker estimates that your statistic (5 in 100) is correct. That makes for over 100,000 wrongful convictions, but I believe that a good many of those are the result of plea bargains, where indigent or unsuspecting people plead guilty even when they are innocent because thier lawyers have urged them to do so.

  82. Dear Mr. Klonsky,
    My name is David, I’m a law student from Switzerland and am particularly interested in criminal law and forensic sciences.
    I’m pretty sure I’m not the first to come up with the following question but I wanted to ask you something about some leads and evidences that haven’t been considered by the authorities in the Burns and Rafay’s case.
    After seeing the “Confession Tapes” show on Netflix, something really caught my attention.
    In the documentary, it is said that some hairs and bloodstains, that didn’t belong to Mr. Burns nor the Rafay’s family were found on the crime scene. The documentary also tells us that the FBI itself had sent an informant to the local police who knew about the murder weapon before anyone else, the mobile of the crime and had even brought a list of names of the people who could be the instigators and/or the perpetrators of this murder.
    I admit that I’m not familiar with the rules of criminal procedure that apply in this case and in this jurisdiction. However, I was wondering to what extent it could still be currently possible to get warrants or anything else that could force the authorities to get DNA samples from the people named on this list and then compare those samples with the bloodstains and hairs found on the crime scene.
    For me this is a keypoint of the case and if a match is found, it could definitely prove the innocence of Mr. Burns and Mr. Rafay and allow the collectivity to convict the real murderers for their crime.
    I’m not prentending to have thought about something new here but I’m really curious to know why such a comparison hasn’t been done and if it would still be possible to do it.
    To finish, I wanted to tell you that I really admire your involvement in these innocence projects and how you dedicate your life to help those innocents.
    Best regards,
    David L.

    • Hi David,
      Because Innocence International is located in Canada and the evidence is in the USA, we have relied on another innocence project (in the USA) to deal with the evidentiary items. I have never understood why it has taken so long to do this testing, unless the case has not been a priority. Atif and Sebastian are Canadians, after all. However, the work is now being done along with research into an extremist religious group that was involved in the murders.

      But a caution about evidence testing. You would be shocked about the extent that prosecutor’s offices resist the results of even the most obvious DNA cases. The hair found in Tariq Rafay’s bed was tested soon after the murder. The authorities felt certain that the pubic hair would belong to Sebastian. Case closed. It turned out that it belonged to no one in the house. Would that not make a good case that Sebastian was not the killer? So what does the prosecutor do? They say that the hair is a “stray”, that it was brought into the house on someone’s clothing, as if the people of Washington are shedding pubic hairs all over the state and one just happened to show up in the bed where a man was clubbed to death.

      Wrongful convictions partake of the same tunnel vision. If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.

      • Hi David,
        I didn’t take up the issue of alternate suspects in the previous response. What you say about the FBI informant is absolutely correct. It’s all documented in police and pre-trial reports. The problem is that the judge did not allow the evidence in court. His reasoning was spurious, to say the least. He made reference to the issue of 9/11; what he felt was that 9/11 would somehow interfere with the jury’s ability to judge Islamic fundamentalism in the context of 1994-5. Mertel was unaware, as were most Americans, of previous crimes in Washington (and other locales) committed by the very group who we think killed the Rafays.
        It was an oddly prejudicial ruling, of course sustained by appeal courts who believe in the guilt of Atif and Sebastian. But another ling he made was prejudicial in the opposite way. He refused to allow experts on false confessions and sting operations into the courtroom. His contention was that juries are able to tell the difference between truth and lying without the help of experts in the field. I can only say that the judge was (and is) spectacularly wrong on this account. All scientific evidence leads to the opposite conclusion. Bottom line: Judge Mertel’s rulings were prejudicial and led directly to the convictions. When he condemns Sebastian Burns to an eternity in hell, he speaks as if the issue was never in doubt. For him, it never was; character assassination by the police, prosecutors and the judge, not objective evidence, was key to the convictions.

        • Dear Mr. Klonsky,
          I’d like to thank you for all those further informations.
          Even if I try to accept the fact that the pubic hair could potentially be a “stray”, I still can’t understand how bloodstains found in the Rafay’s home could be considered as such…
          Moreover, to see how a State Prosecution can have such a “tunnel vision”, that will certainly bring someone in jail but not necessarily the right person, really hurts my sense of justice and impartiality.
          It also makes me wonder about the objective of such a judiciary system.
          Do we want a guilty party at all costs, regardless of the factual reality, even by changing the factual reality ?
          For me as an european, it always feels quite strange to learn about such cases even if we of course have our share of judiciray mistakes.
          However when I compare such a case to what could happen in my civil law system, I wonder if a judge could have let that happen since it’s his own responsibility to inquire the procedure and to establish the facts and evidences (the inculpatory as much as the exculpatory ones).
          This whole case also makes me wonder if the role of the appeal bodies really is to independantly review the facts and the law applied in a case or simply to perpetuate previous convictions…
          Anyway I really hope that there will finally be truth and justice for those two men after all these years and wish you the best to help them find it.

          David L.

          • Hi David,
            To your further points, the main one you make is also the truest and most alarming.The purpose of appeal courts is “to perpetuate previous convictions”. Yes, at least in the US and Canada, that is true and, from what I could see in the Amanda Knox case in Italy, true sometimes in Europe as well.
            The major differences are the availability of counsel (our legal systems are overtaxed) and systemic racism. The US has a hugely disproportionate amount of African Americans in prison and Canada’s jails are replete with indigenous peoples. These populations are also suffering from poverty and community and family violence, to say nothing of drug addiction. Hence the ones who get caught up in the justice system can’t defend themselves. They take plea bargains even when they have not committed a crime.
            It goes on from there.

  83. Hi Ken,

    Great read. My heart breaks for these two boys. I have been doing some research for the last week. Probably no where near the amount you have done. I have to admit I am unsure whether they are guilty or not but that is not my call. I believe there was an unjust trial and that evidence should not have been passed through (mr big). Sebastian did get under my skin, especially towards then end, but I don’t really know how I would act if I had gone through something similar. I have a question for you. Are the boys still friends and in the same prison?

    • Oddly enough, Justin, they are in the same prison complex but they can’t have contact with each other. In fact, if an outsider visits one of them, he or she can’t visit the other one. So, no, they have no relationship at all.
      When I say “the same prison complex” I mean that they are both at Monroe Correctional Center but two different buildings where the conditions are completely different. It’s still prison but it’s a question of degree of punitive conditions.

  84. I watched the film and was struck by how much of the police and news media thinking in the programme (and indeed some of the thinking in these threads) seems to be based on a misapprehension of what constitutes real evidence.

    It was the judge’s job to guide the jury and control the flow of evidence to the court, barring that which is irrelevant and prejudicial and allowing in anything pertinent. I feel from the Netflix film at least (and this relies as some have pointed out on us trusting that the editing is fair and balanced) that he did not succeed in this.

    1. Allowing circumstantial evidence to be presented as facts. Most of the posters here allow that circumstantial evidence is at best poor, and at worst worthless. However, some will then go on to argue that as there is so MUCH circumstantial evidence, it does amount to a compelling argument. The truth is that two zeroes still equal zero. So do ten zeroes. So do a hundred. Being a goofy silly kid at a funeral does not make you a murderer. There is no known association at all. It is not evidence of any sort. They can behave however they like and you can think gosh what nasty boys, but that is personal opinion and has nothing to do with the standard of evidence that should be required in a court of law.

    2. Contrary to this, ignoring hard objective substantive evidence in favour of the above meaningless circumstantial evidence. There were hairs and other DNA material found in the house that matched none of the family or Sebastian Burns. This is CRUCIAL! And yet it was ignored whilst the renting of a Chevy Chase movie was held up as evidence of multiple homicides! Furthermore, it seemed (again, there will have been editing) that astoundingly little emphasis was put on the fact that an eyewitness saw them at the cinema at the exact time that 2 neightbours heard loud knocking or banging sounds coming from the house. If they could be certain of the times, and so could the cinema worker, then this on its own is a massive piece of evidence that I would suggest even a confession cannot overcome. If I swear on a bible that I committed a murder but a clearly objective, reliable witness with no reason to lie, can attest without doubt that they saw me somewhere else at the moment the murder was committed then other explanations – my own mental health problems, a compulsion to lie, braggadocio, blackmail – and so on become far more likely than my actually having commited the murder.

    3. Allowing personal feelings to cloud critical reasoning. I personally (and I admit I only have the Netflix films to go on) found nothing arrogant, narcissistic or dislikeable about either of the accused. I thought they were goofy in some of the footage. My lord if I had videos of myself at 18 I would be crawling on the floor in a heap of embarrassment, and I DIDN’T just recently find my entire family / best friend’s family murdered in the family home. But there was nothing more than that. The judge seemed to find Sebastian’s post-verdict speech offensive. Even his father mentioned that he was a little eccentric or something similar. To my ears, he sounded exactly how I would sound if I had been entrapped into a false confession, with good quality evidence of my innocence ignored and a ridiculous trial by media framing me into a monster when in fact, I had committed no crime. Wouldn’t you be a little ranty and upset? However, even if you disagree with me and think the boys are the kind of people you wouldn’t want to share a beer with… that doesn’t make them murderers.

    4. The introduction of the downright bizarre. How in the WORLD was anything to do with Nietzsche even allowed into the courtroom? Why were the jury not laughing in the isles? I have a confession: I have read Lolita. Will the police be round to check me out for child molestation? I have watched Game of Thrones… incest? Crime and Punishment… old lady battering? Of course, if someone’s reading can be shown to have led to a sinister pattern of behaviour, then that is evidence. For example, a defendant accused of a racially motivated attack has a well-thumbed copy of Mein Kampf in his house AND ALSO is a member of an underground white supremacist network. But their reading habits in and of themselves? Really?

    5. The belief that “a confession is a confession” or “innocent people do not confess to crimes”. I wouldn’t know any other way to counter this than to say that it is untrue. There is a very well documented history of provably innocent people confessing to crimes. This occurs due to all sorts of motivations – entrapment, blackmail, braggadocio, delusion, fantasy, a twisted desire for infamy… the list goes on.

    It is simply not the case that someone committed a crime just because they say they did. With that in mind, secondary evidence must be found. In addition, the CIRCUMSTANCES of the admission and the credibility of it must be analysed. Are the circumstances fair? Without coercion? freely made? Has there been any psychological pressure of any kind? Does the confession have internal consistency? If more than one party is involved, are the confessions of each one consistent and congruent with the other’s? I think on every one of these counts, their confessions cannot be taken as credible.

    In Making of a Murderer there was a great piece of testimony from an expert who said something that made total sense to me, which was that the most valuable part of any confession is if the accused is brought to mention a detail of the crime that could only be known to the murderer and the police. At no time did the confession I saw in the film give any specific details – most of it was very vague – and where there were specific details, these were well known to anyone following the case in the news media.

    6. I am not a judge, but legally speaking, the argument that whilst “Mr Big” schemes to obtain confessions are illegal in the US, as the evidence was gathered using a scheme in Canada it can be admitted into the US court seems to me to be very shaky. In the UK, where I live, extracting a confession using torture is illegal. Does that mean if someone has been tortured abroad and a confession obtained, that is admissible in a UK Court? I find it amazing that none of the appeals succeeded on that basis alone

    • Thank you for such a detailed analysis, Chris. You have laid out much of what we consider to be be the flaws in this case. You’ve also given some room for serious discussion.

      One of the most troubling aspects of the Mr. Big sting is that a person is actually encouraged to incriminate himself with no warning about the statements being admissible in a court of law. This practice is impossible in the United States (no great bastion of justice, at present) because it is a clear violation of the 5th Amendment. The appeal pointed out that the trial itself is protected under law against 5th Amendment violations. Why were the so-called confessions allowed by the appeal court? Because, as a Washington judge told me, when appeal judges are faced with a choice between a constitutional violation and their belief in the guilt of the defendant(s), they will usually side with their belief in guilt and the jury’s verdict. I found this admission to be shocking and disillusioning. The Constitution of the United States is a fairly venerable document that is constructed in such a way as to rule out abuses of power. Sad indeed that courts have begun to ignore that aspect and put more restrictions on defendants and habeas petitions. The Supreme Court of Canada has at least ruled that confessions garnered by the Mr. Big sting are inherently false unless backed up by forensic or other hard evidence,

      Sebastian Burns actually provided “holdback” information, i.e. information that the police could not have known about before the interrogation. His desire was to impress Mr. Big that he was trustworthy. He did not want to court their ire and he wanted to maintain his place in the fake criminal organization. (That does not make him a criminal mind, but a kid who needed money and was conditioned to expect it from the gang.) So, when confronted by the unmistakable fact that he and Atif were seen at the movie at the time of the murder, he had to create a reason for what appeared to be an impossible situation, i.e. you can’t be in two separate places at the same exact time. So Sebastian made up the “fact” that he and Atif left the cinema by the side door while the film was showing.

      Justice has completely failed in this case because of prejudicial feelings engendered against Burns and Rafay by the press and the police and prosecutors. These feelings are still out there but, thanks to Kelly Loudenberg at Netflix, far less people feel that way.

      Finally, as to confessions, I tirelessly state the indisputable fact: 25% of all DNA exonerations involved a false confession to the crime. It is far easier to get a person to confess than to do the scientific work to solve a crime. Sadly too, only 5% of all crimes are solved. Most convictions come from plea bargains and many of those who plea are also innocent.

  85. I am a Psychology student and not an expert in law. This case has been haunting me since I watched the confession tapes and one thing that literally came to my mind was the timing of their movie and the fact is that in those days they did not have a CCTV footage of people actually leaving the theater !
    I am no expert but watching a biased documentary cannot make one think they are innocent.
    But again one thing that makes it more complicated is the bizarre behavior of these kids especially Atif. No doubt he was in a state of shock but he just pointed out the walkman and the VCR! Moreover in one of the early investigations he did say that he did not like his sister.In the last statement before the sentence he did not even mention his sister.
    As far as the physical evidence is concerned – Its no doubt the biggest loophole which led to the delay along with other factors of course. The hair found in the bathroom mixed with blood..its all quite twisted and still remains a mystery for at least a common man like me.This does make you wonder whether they are innocent or not.
    In the Mr.Big video initially Sebastian no doubt seems a bit confused finding it difficult to articulate stuff but the way he replied that he had beaten them naked was surprisingly so confident and said with utmost surety one is taken aback! As the author has rightly mentioned in one of his recent comments that the targets are made to act in that way to impress the interrogators but their desperation for that acting was caused by 2 main factors 1. Freedom 2. Money and power.As young people they did want all the easy money which is why they also said that they had murdered for the insurance money. One can again connect the dots to the fact that after calling 911 and the initial interrogation they went back to Vancouver and were enjoying as well as spending money- for a young boy who saw his family murdered in such a brutal way this behavior just does not seem normal whether you are an Ivy league student or a simple high school graduate!!
    In one of the articles about Sebastian’s behavior in high school there have been reports of him stealing , crashing his car etc but also winning a gold medal. Talking about Atif he was a good scholar no doubt ( I read his journal 2011) !
    All i can say is that as individuals who live and are connected with society we simply cannot by watching 2 or 3 biased or neutral documentaries jump to our conclusions hastily! Sebastian and Atif whether guilty or not definitely had some issues – they were these young , energetic high school kids who had almost everything! good academic records , talented , good looks and a tag by some people for them that they were ” extra ordinary ” genius etc etc.. which made them even more hungry for success and easy money ! There is no doubt that they did have a drive for money which is not a wrong thing but may be they were the wrong guys who chose the wrong ways at the wrong time with wrong people!
    Whether they killed the Rafays or not is something only they and Rafays know !
    There could be different scenarios – They killed the Rafays or they did not !
    In both the cases along with the Mr.Big sting – two young boys with confusion , fear and aspirations LOST !
    I am not saying whether they are innocent or not . All I am saying is they were confused , scared and ambitious kids who are where they are because of their own world they had created in their minds !
    Whether they deserve it or not- Legally yes and reality- no one knows!
    Kids be careful of what you want and how you want it !

    • Your reply interests me, Danny, because it details many of the irrelevant (in the legal sense) speculations that have existed in this case from the outset. Had the authorities said at the outset that there are inexplicable factors relating to the two teenagers but that ‘we can find no forensic evidence that would lead to a conviction’ people would have been disappointed but, ultimately, understanding. Their bizarre behavior, the Walkman, the VCR and so forth are supposedly diversions from “normal” behavior. But I have said over and over that there is no normal for confronting the bludgeoning murders of your entire family.

      Yes, Atif may not have liked his sister and yes, it may have been based on her disabilities. And Sebastian (Atif was not part of the sting operation until the very end) was vulnerable to the easy money because he couldn’t find work after the American media sullied his name north of the border (and which the Canadian media was only too ready to parrot). I would agree that kids can fall into the money, fame, power, sex trap quite easily–maybe more easily than adults–and that they ought to be aware of the possible consequences of that behavior. But Atif and especially Sebastian were acutely vulnerable to the RCMP’s gangland scheme.

      None of these factors is legally relevant. Nor is the love of 19th century philosophy. But there were accumulated details that appeared to have some effect on the jury. The problem with the case is that they failed to follow up on more credible leads.

      • Thanks for the response Ken. I couldn’t agree more with you on the points regarding the jury. I think the amount of brainwashing that went into the case is just beyond one’s understanding. The police , detectives have played such a big role in this brainwashing that even till this day and in the future when people will get to know about this case they will be confused !
        As far as Atif’s behavior is concerned we exactly cannot define that normal or abnormal . I can recall even in his essay he has mentioned about how he uses “laughter” as his defense mechanism (to paraphrase).
        Well you are right about the behavior factors I have talked about being legally irrelevant but it was used in the case ex. Sebastian’s ex girlfriend talking about him wanting to kill someone! – The worst part is that this was actually used as one of the important clues. I’d rather say MISUSED. Don’t you think we all have at some point jokingly said something gory and did not mean it ! –
        You are right about the forensic evidence and the lack of forensic evidence is the biggest loophole in the initial steps.
        Its unfortunately the unfair nature of this trial.
        I think the boys deserve some chance ( legal way) . Is there any way there could be some sort of re investigation ??(as the technology has advanced so much)

        • I am not sure about the context of your comment regarding Sebastian’s ex-girlfriend, especially the one who appears in the Confession Tapes. I know she’s never said anything like that to us. Something may be lost in translation there.

          • Quoted from the article “perfectly executed – 48 hours”. In fact, months into the trial, prosecutors brought an intriguing surprise witness from the boys’ past who said she had evidence that could turn the case. But first, they would have to convince the judge to let a jury hear what she had to say.
            Nazgol Shifteh was a friend from the boys’ high school days who had once dated Sebastian. She claimed a late-night conversation she’d had with both Sebastian and Atif years ago in her bedroom had planted the seeds for murder. Away from the jury, she told the court that Sebastian had said, “I want to try to kill someone one day, to see how, how it would feel. Because I think I would find it enjoyable.”

            Sebastian doesn’t deny having the conversation, but emphatically says he wasn’t serious: “I mean, it’s a one-line, paraphrase of a sarcasm from a hippy-dippy 3 a.m. conversation 10 years ago, and I can’t remember enough about it to defend myself against it.”

            It was certainly damning testimony, but the judge decided not to let the jury hear.
            Then came their Japanese friend in the entire picture.
            You see the ex girlfriend incident is the example of brainwashing i am talking about. The extent to which the prosecutors would go.
            I pray for these boys and Rafays. God be with them.
            Ken your efforts have earned my applause and respect ! Good luck.

          • I read that book long ago, Danny, so I don’t remember the quote. However, Sebastian’s words (if he said them) have certain literary echoes. Dostoevsky? Saying stuff like that is the very definition of sophomoric, i.e. behaving like an anti-hero or literary character. As we now know, such carelessness can lead to a lot of trouble. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

  86. I have just watched it on Netflix (I am French so sorry for my bad English).
    Atif never mentionned his sister after the sentence was proclaimed. No regrets?
    He obviously loved his parents but I think theiir parents were so busy with his sister who was autist, that Atif has developed a kind of “hate “ against her and jealousy. It does not mean that he wanted to murder them but Burns was there : you know a teenager with teenagers problems who meets another one with mentally “disorders”.
    I don’t know.
    But it’s weird Atif never mentionned his sister. I think that’s the key.

    • What you say about Atif and his sister may well be true. I think he may have felt that way and could not bring himself to be disingenuous. Even in the courtroom where his doom was being pronounced.

  87. Have a third party administer a polygraph. They would both certainly pass with flying colors right? After they certainly pass this would galvanize support for your cause so there is no reason not to unless someone might a a wee bit worried they will fail in a spectacular manner.

    • Lie detector tests are now seen as inherently unreliable. They have far less weight in a court than they used to. The state and the courts would not be remotely interested in the results unless, as you say, the defendant fails it. I’ve seen where a person passed the test and the prosecutors say that she failed because she’s a sociopath without a conscience. I’m sure that the current president of the United States could pass a lie detector test. So, no, Deeker, passing a lie detector test would not “galvanize” support for us.

      The best test of a case is objective evidence, evidence that is scientifically verifiable, or new evidence, i.e. proof that someone else has committed the crime or that someone has lied on the witness stand or that police have withheld vital evidence.

  88. Just my two cents worth: the 911 call by Sebastian is so obviously contrived. I do not care what anyone says.
    Also, people seem to focus on lack of physical evidence in these cases. While it’s true that it’s hard to understand how someone could be convicted with so little physical evidence against them, this by farrrr does NOT mean they are innocent! I am convinced they are guilty, physical evidence or not. In cases like these It’s a fact that someone was brutally murdered, even if there’s a lack of physical evidence! Lack of evidence does not mean a person is innocent. Also to reply to the previous commenter regarding lie detector tests, sociopaths are actually better at passing them because they have a lack of stress. They are at the opposite extreme of anxious.

    • “I do not care what anyone says.” “I am convinced they are guilty, physical evidence or not.” “Lack of evidence does not mean a person is innocent.”
      Gladys, I think that you must have murdered the Rafay family. “Lack of evidence does not mean you are innocent.”
      Seriously, how are we to know who’s guilty and who’s innocent without evidence? That’s why people focus on evidence.

  89. Hahaha! Are you saying that if there is no evidence left at the scene of the crime or at least any that points to a particular individual, that that means the victim(s) were not murdered by someone?

    If you murdered someone but you were savvy and left zero evidence
    and covered your tracks well, you were able to manufacture an alibi, like being in a theatre, but you snuck out during the movie. Does this mean you didn’t commit the crime? That is what I’m talking about, not whether or not they have any legal standing for their defense.
    From everything I’ve read and watched, I believe they murdered that family. That’s all I’m saying. I realize that it’s difficult to be 100% sure a person committed a crime and that innocent people do get convicted. But sometimes the perpetrators of the crime are found not guilty also.
    How do lawyers do it? I would be horrified to realize I was a part of either situation. I hope to God incorrect verdicts are rare, I have a feeling that they are not, unfortunately.
    That 911 recording though, was just so obvious. Sebastian is a bad actor.

    • If people were murdered, something obviously happened. If the investigation does not point to a particular individual (or individuals), there is no basis for conviction. I mean your own belief is not sufficient to put someone into prison; the verdict must pass the ‘reasonable doubt’ measuring stick. If you want people imprisoned because you think they were ‘faking it’ on a 911 call, then your attitude toward the law is akin to what passes for law in a military dictatorship. Whatever protects one person from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, protects all people. Hence lawyers have no problem defending innocent or guilty people because the state must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s the law.

      Sebastian did not invent an alibi. He told the RCMP agents that he sneaked out of the theater so that they would believe in him; he wanted to show that he was “solid” so that they would make his problem go away. By saying that he left the theater, he was explaining the impossible: how he could be in two places (the theater and the Rafay home) at the same time. They were only too happy that he satisfied their problem, irrespective of the ridiculousness of his story.

      The problem with the Burns/Rafay case is that forensic evidence is absent. Two teens wiping out a family by bludgeoning are not going to leave “zero evidence”. Even according to updated Canadian law, which still sanctions the Mr. Big sting in specific circumstances, the sting itself should not have been employed in this case absent other evidence.

      Incorrect verdicts are not rare. The New Yorker (Ariel Levy) sets the failure rate at 5%. That’s over 100,000 people. Many of them are people who plea bargained even though they were innocent because they did not want to risk a lengthy sentence. The system usually works but there should be an easier path to recognize wrongful convictions.

  90. I suspect Gladys is basing her findings of Sebastian’s bad acting on the snippets that were played on the 48 Hours episode. If that’s so, she’s only heard those snippets the show’s editors used to create that very impression, or at least a stronger impression.
    She should, if she has not, listen to the entire call from proper beginning to end.

  91. I’m not a lawyer, or a law student or even very familiar with the justice system (even though I’m Canadian) however, this case has made me very curious about what the hell is going on. They locked them up for no reason. Sure some odd stuff happened like the underwear in the washer but please would someone actually walk into a crime scene look in the washer and see two pair of underwear and say “I know who the killers are” especially when there is blood in the garage that belongs to nobody!!! Why would they choose underwear in a washing machine over BLOOD ON THE FLOOR! and also saying Sebastian did it cause of the hair in the shower?? What is with that? Was Sebastian not suppose to shower while he was staying there cause “hey there might be a murder here.” I’m actually really mad. I can’t express how sorry I feel for those boys. I can’t believe that their is probably more cases like this and it’s a shame. It has been so many years! Are those boys ever going to be free! What is even more disturbing is that even if those two did get out, there life was already stolen.

    There is no return policy on life.

    • I agree with much of this post, but they did have a reason for locking them up. They confessed on camera and, being adolescents with mindless bravado, they were easy targets. The real killers are elusive and ruthless assassins; this was not their only murder.

      There is a new law being proposed in the Washington legislature which will allow for a review of prisoners who have served fifteen years of their sentences. They can be released on good behavior or a lack of serious infractions. It will be a de facto parole system which does not exist in Washington at the present time. Contact your local representative if you believe that Washington should have parole.

      Here’s why I think a parole system is necessary, even for serious crimes: A certain percentage, anywhere from 2-5%, of all cases are wrongful convictions. Overturning a jury verdict is extremely difficult. By not allowing parole, the State of Washington is going against the law of averages. They claim that even one person suffering a wrongful conviction is intolerable but the system is a brick wall; those who run it do so without humility. They pretend that the law is sacred when the law is simply human in its practice. It is prone to error. Allowances must be made for error because the appeal system does not work as it should.

  92. After I watched the documentary I searched, and searched, and finally was relieved to find that these innocence projects have taken on this case.
    Most people aren’t aware of how police and judicial systems operate. Most people aren’t aware that the US Supreme Court, way back in 1969 ruled that police may legally utilize deceprion through the course of conducting an investigation of a crime in order to gain information. This broad stroke ambiguous ruling has given police free reign to lie in any capacity , directly or indirectly, associated with any case. Most people have no concept of what a police interrogation entails, and how easily they can manipulate a false confession from just about anyone; that, in fact, it’s the rare individual who can withstand the brainwashing techniques used and come out with their claims of innocence still inract.
    These two young men were intelligent and educated just enough to be falsely confident. Their naivete rendered them as helpless as lambs in the middle of a pack of wolves.
    I pray they are permitted a fair trial, at the very least, and are exonerated sooner rather than later.
    I wish you the very best of luck.

    • Hi Cyndi,
      To be fair and accurate, while police are allowed to lie in both the USA and Canada, sting operations designed to produce confessions are illegal in the USA. They are correctly seen as an attempt to circumvent the 5th Amendment. Canadians do not have that same legal right. The big problem with this case from the beginning was that the confessions were extracted in Canada then used in a Washington court. Had those confessions been extracted in the same way in Washington, they would not have been allowed into the trial. The appeals have focused on this apparent contradiction. How can illegally gathered evidence be used in an American trial? How can a judicial ruling in a US court violate the most fundamental right accorded to citizens in the USA? Atif and Sebastian are not US citizens and the evidence was gathered in Canada.The defendants claim that the trial itself should have been protected from this violation.

      So the question remains as to why this appeal has thus far failed. According to information I was given, if appeal court judges think the defendants are guilty, they will be very reluctant to overturn a trail verdict, no matter how egregious the Constitutional violation. It is distinctly possible that the prejudicial belief in their guilt infected the trial judge and has similarly infected the appeal decisions, which, by the way, have NOT been unanimous.

  93. Hi Ken, my name is Jacob and I live in Vancouver. I have been familiar with this case and have had profound interest in it since I was very young. I truly feel as though I have a moral obligation to help, research, and understand why this could happen. I am familiar with your work. If there is any way I can help please let me know, thank you.

    • Hi Jacob,
      For now, I’d look at the rafayburnsappeal.com website and see how you can assist. The easiest way is to contact the Prosecuting Attorney of King County, Dan Satterberg (address provided on site) or even make a monetary donation, however small or large. Knowing there are people out there like you encourages us to continue.

      The biggest problem with wrongful convictions like these is that everyone has a different lens through which the case is seen. The prosecutors and the RCMP have seen Burns and Rafay as the guilty parties almost from day two; there is ample documentation to prove this prejudice. Innocence projects attempt to refute supposed evidence, find new evidence and ask for a new trial or outright acquittal. The state has unlimited funding, much of the public’s support, and a jury verdict. The odds are not in favor of the defendant(s).

      The causes of wrongful convictions are pretty much a syndrome: 1. tunnel vision; 2. false confessions; 3. ineffective assistance of counsel; 4. junk science; 5.suborned witnesses; 6.unreliable witness identification; 7. corrupt or overly ambitious police and prosecutors and so forth. More than two of these “symptoms” indicate that the conviction might be questionable or “unsafe”. So what happens is that the authorities circle the wagons rather than admit that they may have erred or that a jury was deceived. They hang on to convictions, even in the most obvious of cases, because they’re less interested in truth and justice and more in their own reputations and the reputation of their departments. They say they are upholding the law when often they are hiding behind it. Those who are released have squeezed through the eye of a needle. People don’t understand just how miraculous it is when a wrongly convicted prisoner walks out the door of a prison a free person.

  94. Hello from Australia,
    I’ve just watched the Netflix series and would like to know where I can find reliable information on the case in greater detail? For instance, why the defense was not allowed to mention certain things that would have otherwise strengthened their case, or what exactly happened in each of the appeals.

    I am heavily leaning on the side of innocent based on the show, however I like to have all the information available. Not that my opinion carries any weight, legally speaking!

    • Hi Tiana,
      “Reliable” information, especially in this case, is in the eye of the beholder. But what does reliability mean in terms of a conviction? I would say scientifically gathered evidence. Even then, mistakes are made by forensic experts who want their work to bear fruit. Everyone has a stake in getting a perpetrator behind bars. However, some evidence is better than others. Eyewitness identification is notoriously unreliable as are jailhouse snitches and interrogations of young suspects by seasoned interrogators without the presence of a lawyer. DNA or ballistics or fingerprints or clothing with traces of blood are more reliable.

      In Rafay/Burns, there is no forensic or scientifically gathered evidence that would have led to a conviction. Zero! What led to their arrest, trial verdict and life sentences is assumption about who they were, two arrogant, devious rogues who tried to pull off the perfect crime. And two confessions brought about by police who were masquerading as ruthless gangsters. And a friend who was levered into giving false evidence.

  95. Thanks Ken :-)
    Perhaps I used the wrong wording. What I meant is that I’d like to read more about the actual court case in greater detail than was shown in the series, and by “reliable” I meant I’d like to have access to the actual materials, testimonies, police reports, those sort of things that were used in the investigation and/or court case rather than opinions. I’ve watched the series and read lots on forums and sites, comments both for and against their innocence but I’d like to read more about the actual court case itself, from an unbiased point of view. Hope I’m making sense, I can’t think of a better way of putting it!

    • I did understand your request for information, Tiana, but I also know that the word “reliable” depends on the source of the information. I think the state is unreliable here and I also think the verdict is unreliable but that comes from me. When you ask for “actual materials” you need to know that the record runs to thousands of pages. Your request is too broad. The best place to start would be the defendant’s appeal and the appeal court’s decision. If you can’t access these as public documents, please let me know and I’ll try to supply you with the documents. However, these are legal documents dealing with constitutional issues and court proceedings and do not speak to alternate theories about the case. Police reports are also public and we’re speaking of hundreds of pages.

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