Review of Confession Tapes True East

Confession Tapes episode one True East
Rating *****

Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafy

The new Netflix documentary series Confession Tapes is an eye opener for anyone who does not believe in false confessions. The first episode tells the story of Atif Rafy and Sebastian Burns, two young men tricked into confessing and who remain in prison.

The filmmakers allow the story to develop without spinning it to a particular viewpoint. Viewers get to listen to the rationale of lead detective Bob Thompson and prosecutor Roger Davidheiser try to defend how they put two innocent people in prison for the rest of their lives.

As you listen to these two men tell in great detail how they went about setting Atif and Sebastian up for murder, you want to scream at the TV. Okay, I admit it, I screamed at the TV. Detective Thompson can’t hide his dishonesty. He admits to leaking details of the investigation to the press. Like the time when he told the press that Atif Rafy and Sebastian Burns had fled the country. The truth is they were free to leave the country and they told the police where they were going. If you were to look up the definition of tunnel vision, you would see pictures of Bob Thompson and Roger Davidheiser.

Prosecutor Roger Davidheiser

I won’t get into the dirty tricks these two men played to get their supposed confessions, but I will mention a few of the more despicable acts they undertook. One that stands out was the move Roger Davidheiser made by personally calling the employer of a person whose testimony he wanted. What he got was a perjured statement, made under threat, that sealed the fate of the two defendants. Next, we have detective Thompson explain away his unwillingness to follow a lead that was hand delivered to him, a lead that pointed to the best suspects.

Let’s not forget trial judge Charles Mertel, who allowed in the confessions, gathered through illegal means (in the U.S.), and denied the defendants every opportunity to put up a defense.

This case is disturbing on so many levels, from the juror whose only comment was on how well dressed the prosecutor was, to the judge who made questionable rulings that prevented a fair trial, to the lead detective and prosecutor who pursued their suspects even after learning the identity of the people most likely responsible for the crime.

Atif and Sebastian have exhausted their appeals. I pray that the right people will view this film and allow the truth to set them free. I’ll comment on the other episodes in this excellent documentary series as I see them.

Read my review of Season two here.


  1. True east was one of distressing, saddest stories of injustice I have ever seen. You could just by the 911 tape they were innocent. The railroading, scheming, slime detectives and prosecutor and judge will rot in hottest corner of hell for this injustice.

  2. Hervert César says

    In my life known of a trial in which solid evidence is thrown out for no reason, physical evidence, testimonies, mobile, is incredible. The evidence to accuse them is reduced to an inconsistent confession obtained under threats and staging and their intellectual “arrogance”. All my support for the families and Sebastian and Atif. I hope from the heart that they obtain their freedom after so much damage.

    As Innocence International director Ken Klonsky said:

    “The problem with Atif and Sebastian back then was they were intellectuals, and there’s a prejudice in society against young intellectuals. I think the police felt like, ‘these guys aren’t going to outsmart us. We’re going to get ’em.’ And that’s why the RCMP was so willing to pick up the case when they came to Canada”.

  3. The real criminal in this case is Judge Charles Mertel, who deserves 100 years solitary confinement.
    What a f**king moron. Hope he burns in hell.

    • Elliot, I couldn’t agree with your assessment of Judge Mertel more. I would also include the Prosecutor and the Police Detectives.
      While I have been critical of the failings in both prosecutions and investigations in New South Wales and Victoria (Australia), my whinges do not come close to the manifest incompetence of all participants in this farce of an investigation and trial.
      When you consider that the roles of the District Attorney and Superior Court Judges (along with the Supreme Court Judges) are quite political in nature (Judges are elected to the roles by the public, DA’s are launching grounds for want to be politicians) you can see Washington State Justice System is as big a travesty and this case.

  4. Richard Jansen says

    This case was very interesting from a law and psychology point of view. Mertel’s attitude was quite odd, and one wonders how the fact that he previously was a prosecutor and had a remarkable age difference with the defendants influenced his reasoning. There might have been a subconscious bias here or there, with all white men being involved sharing the same intellectual and moral beliefs. They for sure don’t seem to understand Nietzsche, nor the idea that even if you have read a book, that doesn’t imply that you necessarily agree with everything the author has said or how the work is later read.

    The judge and prosecutors should be ashamed of themselves, but much like the criminals they say they fight, they probably suffer from cognitive dissociation and tell themselves they did the right thing.

    Humans can be horrible, and society far from perfect. I feel so sorry for Sebastian and Rafay. Those guys are modern day martyrs for a system of justice that is yet to be created.


  1. […] covered the first case involving Atif Rafy and Sebastian Burns in an earlier post. I’ve now had a chance to watch all seven episodes. While each case […]

  2. […] start with season two of The Confession Tapes. You can read my review of season one and the True East episode on this site. Season two is only four episodes long, but each packs a punch. As the title […]

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