Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Men and Supermen: The Nietzsche Syndrome

Legal Conclusions

On March 29, 2001, Rafay and Burns were brought to Washington State. Both pled not guilty to all charges. The trial was set to being in March 2003, with public defenders. One of them, Theresa Olson, was reported by guards in the prison for having sex with Burns in a conference room. She was dismissed from the case, along with her co-counsel. Burns got a new team, Jeff Robinson and Song Richardson.

Atif Rafay
Atif Rafay

On November 24, opening statements were made in court, with James Konat and Roger Davidheiser on the prosecution team. The police, who timed Rafay's drive home on the night of the murder, believed that he could only have been in the house for three minutes before calling 911, which seemed an incredibly short time to have noticed the bodies and also notice that there had been a robbery.

Sebastian Burns
Sebastian Burns

During the trial, a former friend of the two men came in from Japan to testify about what he knew. Jimmy Miyoshi had tried to avoid snitching, but his boss had urged him to do the right thing. He said that before the crimes, Rafay and Burns had discussed getting insurance proceeds once they had killed the family. In fact, they had told him about several ways they had considered doing it, from gas to a baseball bat. Miyoshi said he heard one of them say that a baseball bludgeoning would be quick and painless. Once the deed was accomplished, Rafay and Burns told Miyoshi about it afterward, saying that Burns had bludgeoned the victims while Rafay stood by.

In addition, although Burns had said he was afraid he'd be killed if he didn't confess, he told his "criminal employers" on tape that he'd have no trouble being a hit man. He admitted that the weapon used on the Rafays had been a metal baseball bat and said that he'd done the whole thing naked and then had taken a shower, just as the police believed. Atif said that it had been his idea after he'd come home from the university and that he'd staged the place to look as if someone had broken in.

Blood spatter evidence did indeed indicate that someone had stood in one place during the attack on Tariq. Burns, Miyoshi went on, had indicated that it hadn't been easy or pleasant, but once the first blow was struck, there was no going back. They had devised an alibi by going to various public places, including a movie and leaving early. They had wanted people to see them out and about. They'd even done things to make people notice them, such as leaving a large tip and being obnoxious.

Defense attorneys insisted that Miyoshi had changed his story several times, had admitted to lying, and had clearly struck a deal for immunity, which made his testimony suspect. They also attempted to show that the Canadian police had coerced a false confession from their clients, but the judge did not allow the expert testimony of Richard Leo to assist them. In addition, the neighbors had heard the murders at a time when the boys were out watching a movie, and a hair found on Tariq's bed did not match their DNA. But would their objections be enough for reasonable doubt?

The case ran for six months, using over one hundred witnesses. Then on May 21, the jurors began their deliberations. They found both Burns and Rafay guilty on all three counts. In October, they both received three consecutive life sentences. The case remains controversial and Web sites have been set up ( to criticize the investigation, insist that other good leads were never investigated, and attest to the innocence of both defendants.

But whether or not they did plan the crimes as "a perfect murder," many others have done so in similar fashion. Just how do such philosophies inspire murder?

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