Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Belarus sentences two to death for Minsk metro bombing

Dmitry Konovalov
and Vladislav Kovalyov
(Reuters) - A Belarus court Wednesday sentenced to death two men for carrying out a bomb attack at a central station of the Minsk metro in April this year which killed 15 people and injured scores of others.

Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalyov, both 25, were arrested three days after the April 11 explosion which took place on a packed platform at evening rush-hour.

The two men, friends since childhood, were said by the prosecution to have dabbled with explosives for years and been behind explosions in 2005 in their home town of Vitebsk and a separate bomb attack at Independence Day celebrations in Minsk in 2008.

Rights activists had called on authorities in the ex-Soviet republic not to impose the death sentence. Belarus is the only country in Europe to have retained the use of capital punishment. Execution is carried out by a shot from a pistol.

Describing the accused as "an extreme danger to society," judge Alexander Fedortsov said: "The court sentences (them) to the extreme measure of punishment, death by execution."

Source: Reuters, November 30, 2011

Rights activists appeal for lives of men blamed for Minsk bomb

A court in Belarus could today sentence two young men to be shot in the back of the head for blowing up the Minsk metro system in April, after a trial that observers say has been a farce that threw up more questions than it provided answers.

Rights activists have called on Belarusian authorities not to impose the death sentence on Dmitry Konovalov and his apparent accomplice, Vladislav Kovalyov, with the latter's motherissuing an emotional video appeal this week protesting her son's innocence.

The bomb, detonated at rush hour one evening in April, killed 15 and injured hundreds. The country is run by the dictator Alexander Lukashenko, and although there is an opposition movement, it has never resorted to terrorism, nor is there any religious or ethnic conflict.

Police quickly arrested Konovalov and Kovalyov, however, and the former confessed to making the bomb and detonating it, while the latter admitted he knew his friend's plans and did nothing to stop him. The pair also admitted to a number of smaller attacks. Konovalov said that he carried out the attacks "to destabilise the situation in the Republic of Belarus" and because he disagreed with Mr Lukashenko's policies, but the bizarrely stilted admission, which mirrors an official legal definition, left many suspicious, as did the fact that Konovalov appeared to be entirely apolitical.

During the two-month trial, Kovalyov has said he only implicated his friend after being pressured by investigators, and Konovalov has said nothing. Besides the confessions, the prosecutors have offered little substantial evidence against the two men.

Although the verdict has not yet been delivered, Mr Lukashenko has already publicly rewarded officials for solving the case, and state-controlled media have frequently referred to the two men on trial as "terrorists". With experts seeing little hope of a not-guilty verdict, the main question now is whether the judge will hand down the death sentence. Belarus is the only country in Europe to retain the death penalty.

"I know that my son and Dima are not guilty," said Lyubov Kovalyova, Vladislav Kovalyov's mother, in a video released this week. "I ask just for one thing – that you do not kill my son, and instead find those that are really guilty."

Source: The Independent, November 30, 2011

Press release - AP125(2011)
Belarus: PACE rapporteurs express dismay at the death sentence on Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalev

Strasbourg, 30.11.2011 – Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) rapporteurs on Belarus, Andres Herkel (Estonia, EPP/CD), and on the death penalty, Renate Wohlwend (Liechtenstein, EPP/CD) have expressed their dismay at the death sentence handed down today on Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalev by the Belarusian Supreme Court, which found them guilty of the fatal bombing in the Minsk Metro on 11 April 2011.

"It is outrageous that Belarus continues to blatantly ignore the international community's calls for a moratorium on the death penalty. Such an irreversible, cruel and inhuman penalty is unacceptable in any civilised society, however heinous the crimes of the perpetrator. Moreover, many human rights defenders who monitored the proceedings in this case raise doubts about the defendants' guilt", stressed the rapporteurs.

"It is also deeply regrettable that the work of the death penalty study group of the National Assembly of Belarus, initiated some time ago, has not borne any fruit and that parliamentarians in Belarus do not dare to speak up against the death penalty ", Ms Wohlwend added.

Mr Herkel is preparing a report for the Political Affairs Committee, due to be adopted on 14 December with a view to an Assembly debate in January 2012.

Parliamentary Assembly Communication Unit

Press release - DC148(2011)
“Death is not justice!” says Secretary General following announcement of new death sentences in Belarus

Strasbourg, 30.11.2011 - Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland today made the following statement: “I urge the Belarus authorities not to carry out the death sentences pronounced today against Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavalyou. The crime they were found guilty of was barbaric, but their punishment should not be the same. Belarus is the only country in Europe which still executes people and I would urge the authorities to introduce an immediate moratorium with a view to its ultimate abolition. The victims of the 11 April attack and their families deserve justice, not revenge".

Council of Europe Directorate of Communication

Help save two innocent men from execution in Belarus
Lyubou Kavalyova is living a mother's worst nightmare -- her son was just sentenced to death for participating in a terrorist attack in Belarus in April. But Lyubou believes strongly that her son and his friend, who was also sentenced, are actually innocent -- it is clear now that their confessions were procured through torture.
Without valid confessions, there's no evidence to support the accusations against these two young men. But political pressure has forced the Supreme Court to sentence Uladzislau Kavalyou and his friend Dzmitry Kanavalau to die for a crime that 88% of Belarussians -- and even victims of the attack -- believe they did not commit. But you can stop it.
As part of her tireless campaign to save her son's life, Lyubou started a petition on Change.org to Belarussian authorities. Now, she's taking her campaign to the European Union. Will you sign Lyubou's petition and demand that EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Catherine Ashton save these two young men from wrongful execution in Belarus?
Now that the Supreme Court has sentenced Uladzislau and Dzmitry to death, they could be killed at any moment. Belarus executed two men in 2010 without informing their families of the time and method of their executions. And their bodies were never returned to their families.
But Uladzislau and Dzmitry's case has been the largest news story of its kind in Belarus, Russia and other parts of Europe, garnering overwhelming public support to save Uladzislau and Dzmitry. Since Belarus is the last country in Europe with the death penalty, action from Catherine Ashton could make Uladzislau and Dzmitry's fate a European issue, and put the brakes on their execution.
Lyubou's heart is breaking, but she's willing to sacrifice everything to save her son. "Even the victims of the attack believe that these two boys are innocent and should not be murdered," she has said. "But if they want more blood, I want them to send me to death instead of my innocent son; I have lived enough."
Please sign Lyubou's petition to save the lives of two men, including her son, from being wrongfully executed by the Belarussian government, and then send it to everyone you know:


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