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What's the next move for Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay?

Sebastian Burns pictured inside a Seattle courtroom in 2004.  - Outlook file photo
Sebastian Burns pictured inside a Seattle courtroom in 2004.
— image credit: Outlook file photo

What’s the next legal move for Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay, the former West Vancouver residents who’ve been behind bars for nearly two decades?

According to their lawyer, David Koch, the plan is to take their case to U.S. federal court.

This comes in the wake of last Thursday’s decision by Washington State’s top court to deny the pair’s petition for a review of their failed bid in appeal court last July to overturn their triple-murder convictions.

In 2004, Burns and Rafay were found guilty of the murders of Rafay’s parents and autistic sister inside their suburban Seattle home in 1994 and sentenced to 99-year life terms.

“We are extremely disappointed the Washington Supreme Court refused to review the case. Serious errors tainted the trial and the confessions were coerced by tactics not permitted under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” wrote lawyer David Koch in an email to The Outlook last Friday. “We hope for justice in federal court, which is where this case is headed.”

Last month a panel of five judges heard the pair’s petition for a review but didn’t reach a unanimous decision, triggering an “en banc” hearing — meaning all nine justices of the court vote on the matter.

The supreme court doesn’t release final vote tallies, only saying in this decision that the “majority of the Court voted in favor of the following result.....That the Petitions for Review are denied.”

When Burns and Rafay had their case heard in the Washington State Court of Appeals last July one of the key issues raised by their legal team was the controversial tactics used to gather evidence during the RCMP’s undercover sting operation, known as Mr. Big.

In 2004, Tiffany Burns, Sebastian’s sister,  produced a documentary that investigated the controversial methods used in Mr. Big operations to obtain confessions and recounted several stories of victims who’d falsely confessed and were later exonerated through DNA evidence.

In an email to The Outlook on Friday, she wrote:

“The Supreme Court of Canada is taking another look at the coercive tactics of the Mr. Big undercover police technique, considered unethical and illegal in many countries. Hopefully this will be taken into consideration by the US Federal Court of Appeal in the United States.

“Sebastian and Atif are innocent. We will continue to fight until they are free from their wrongful imprisonment. We will never give up.”

­Twitter.com/justinbeddall

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