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Thursday, May 13, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Murder defendant Burns accused of perjuring self
By Sara Jean Green
King County Superior Court Judge Charles Mertel initially denied the state's request, but later decided to dismiss the jury early so he could hear arguments from both sides to determine what the state will be allowed to ask Burns. After lengthy pretrial hearings last year, Mertel issued a ruling limiting the evidence the jury would be allowed to consider in the triple, aggravated first-degree murder case against Burns and his co-defendant, Atif Rafay.
On Tuesday, the state rested its case after nearly six months of testimony. Burns' attorneys then called their client to the stand.
Burns testified he and Rafay didn't bludgeon Rafay's parents and sister to death with a baseball bat in the Rafay family's Bellevue home on July 12, 1994. He also said under oath that he and Rafay later confessed to killing the family to two undercover Canadian police officers they thought were high-rolling criminals because Burns feared the faux thugs would kill him if he didn't.
Prosecutors are expected to cross-examine Burns this morning and have indicated they will call at least two rebuttal witnesses. Attorneys for Rafay have said they won't decide if Rafay will testify until after Burns' cross-examination.
Before Mertel dismissed the jury for the day, jurors heard testimony from Detective Bob Thompson, who led the Bellevue Police Department's homicide investigation of the deaths of Tariq, Sultana and Basma Rafay. Thompson previously testified for the prosecution.
Burns' attorney Jeffrey Robinson grilled Thompson about tips Bellevue police received from other law-enforcement agencies suggesting there was a religious motive for the homicides. Part of the defense's case is that Thompson and other police officials were so convinced of Burns and Rafay's guilt within a day or two of the killings that they failed to investigate other suspects, including Muslims who opposed Tariq Rafay's religious beliefs. Tariq Rafay, a structural engineer, had become a controversial figure after writing a paper and developing a computer program that indicated North American mosques were incorrectly positioned toward Mecca, the jury has heard.
Thompson testified the tips weren't credible, but he later acknowledged he didn't speak about a possible religious motive for the killings to anyone but the Rafays' extended family relatives who didn't live in the area. "You didn't talk to any Muslims in the Seattle-Bellevue area with religious beliefs in opposition to Dr. Tariq Rafay's, did you?" Robinson asked. "No," Thompson said. Later, Robinson asked, "You didn't talk to anybody who disagreed with the paper Dr. Rafay was writing about the right way to pray, did you?" Again, Thompson said, "No."
In another development, Robinson told the judge that Burns and Rafay's cells inside the King County Jail were searched soon after Burns testified on Tuesday.
"These were not jail officials, your honor," Robinson said, adding that those who conducted the search were in plainclothes. It wasn't clear yesterday what, if anything, was taken.
The judge was expected to question a jail official this morning about the reason for the search.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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