The Leader of Europe's 'Last Dictatorship' Is Facing an Unprecedented Challenge. Here's What It Could Mean for Belarus

Europe’s longest serving leader Alexander Lukashenko has long worked hard to seem invincible. He has dominated past elections that the U.S. has deemed neither free nor fair and brokered no dissent and suppressed protests. Now, he is facing an unprecedented challenge as he runs for a sixth term as president of Belarus in elections on August 9. A former teacher and political novice, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, has emerged as his main rival, pledging to topple Lukashenko’s regime and restore democracy.
Tens of thousands have rallied across Belarus in some of the country’s biggest opposition protests in a decade, amid mounting frustration over the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, combined with grievances about the economy. Referring to Lukashenko, protestors chanted ‘stop the cockroach’ and held placards reading ‘change!’.
“For the first time in his 26-year rule, Lukashenko knows the majority don’t support him,” says Aleksandr Feduta, a former aide to the incumbent, who was i…

USA | Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Death Sentence Overturned By Federal Appeals Court

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
BOSTON (CBS/AP) — A federal appeals court on Friday tossed the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the man convicted in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new penalty-phase trial, finding that the judge who oversaw the case didn’t sufficiently vet jurors for biases.

“But make no mistake: Dzhokhar will spend his remaining days locked up in prison, with the only matter remaining being whether he will die by execution,” the judges said.

The April 15, 2013, attack killed three people and injured more than 260 others.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers acknowledged at the beginning of his trial that he and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, set off the two bombs at the marathon finish line. But they argued that Dzhokar Tsarnaev is less culpable than his brother, who they said was the mastermind behind the attack.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in a gunbattle with police a few days after the bombing. 

Dzhokar Tsarnaev is now behind bars at a high-security supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

Tsarnaev’s attorneys identified a slew of issues with his trial, but said in a brief filed with the court that the “first fundamental error” was the judge’s refusal to move the case out of Boston. 

They also pointed to social media posts from two jurors suggesting they harbored strong opinions even before the 2015 trial started.

The appeals judges, in a hearing on the case in early December, devoted a significant number of questions to the juror bias argument.

They asked why the two jurors had not been dismissed, or at least why the trial judge had not asked them follow-up questions after the posts came to light on the eve of the trial.

The judges noted that the Boston court has a longstanding rule obligating such an inquiry.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers say one of the jurors — who would go one to become the jury’s foreperson, or chief spokesperson — published two dozen tweets in the wake of the bombings. 

One post after Tsarnaev’s capture called him a “piece of garbage.”

Tsarnaev was convicted on 30 charges, including conspiracy and use of a weapon of mass destruction. 

An email was sent to his lawyer seeking comment.

“I’m not surprised,” said WBZ-TV Security Analyst Ed Davis, who was the Boston Police Commissioner at the time of the bombings, about the ruling. “I am concerned though that the victims have to relive this incident by this ruling.”

Source: boston.cbslocal.com, Staff, July 31, 2020

Appeals Court Tosses Out Six Death Sentences For Boston Marathon Bomber

Boston marathon bombing
A death penalty sentence against confessed Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was thrown out Friday by a federal appeals court in Boston.

Citing errors by a lower court, a three-judge panel from the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent the widely publicized case back to the federal District Court that had convicted Tsarnaev in 2015 and ordered six death sentences for him as well as 11 concurrent life sentences.

In the ruling, that court was ordered to impanel a new jury and hold a sentencing retrial for the death penalty convictions.

"A core promise of our criminal-justice system is that even the very worst among us deserves to be fairly tried and lawfully punished," Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson wrote in the 224-page opinion, noting the District Court judge had failed to vet the trial's jurors adequately for bias.

Attorneys for Tsarnaev have acknowledged that he and his older brother Tamerlan, who was killed during the manhunt that followed the 2013 bombing, detonated two homemade pressure cooker bombs that killed three people and wounded at least 260 others near the finish line of the annual foot race.

"I am sorry for the lives I have taken, for the suffering that I have caused you, for the damage I have done, irreparable damage," Tsarnaev told the courtroom on the day he was sentenced, adding "in case there is any doubt, I am guilty of this attack, along with my brother."

Tsarnaev, who is now 27, is being held at the high-security supermax federal prison near Florence, Colo.

While the appellate court vacated the death sentences against the younger of the Tsarnaev brothers, it also made clear that he would never again be a free man.

"Dzhokhar will remain confined to prison for the rest of his life," Thompson wrote, "with the only question remaining being whether the government will end his life by executing him."

An impartial jury

The higher court noted that the judge who presided over Tsarnaev's trial had rejected the defense team's request for a more distant trial venue where prospective jurors might be less likely to be prejudiced against the Chechen immigrant. That judge did so, the ruling maintained, promising that local jurors would be adequately screened.

But the three-judge panel ruled that the trial judge had failed to impanel an impartial jury.

Jury box
"The judge stopped Dzhokhar's counsel from asking prospective jurors questions like '[w]hat did you know about the facts of this case before you came to court today (if anything)?' " Thompson wrote, "and '[w]hat stands out in your mind from everything you have heard, read[,] or seen about the Boston Marathon bombing and the events that followed it?' "

In another part of the opinion, Judge Juan Torruella wrote that the District Court judge relied on "self-declarations of impartiality" by prospective jurors, calling that "an error of law and an abuse of discretion."

"Tsarnaev presented a colorable claim that Juror 286 knowingly withheld from the court the fact that she posted twenty-two online comments mourning the death of [8-year-old bystander] Martin Richard," Torruella wrote of the woman who would become the jury's foreperson, "praising law enforcement officers (three of whom would later testify at trial), expressing 'BOSTON STRONG' civic pride, and calling Tsarnaev a 'piece of garbage.' "

Torruella also noted that three of the 12 jurors who voted admitted before the trial that they were convinced Tsarnaev was guilty, while another two said they believed he took part in the bomb attack.

"With a jury so intensely impacted by the charged crimes," the appellate judge continued, "and so exposed to inflammatory pretrial publicity — including reports detailing the extreme anguish of their neighbors and repeated calls for Tsarnaev to be sentenced to death — I cannot say with any degree of certainty that the jurors did not possess a 'predilection toward that penalty.' "

"In sum," Torruella concluded, "the government cannot show that the jury that convicted Tsarnaev and recommended that he be put to death was impartial."

Sourcenpr.org, David Welna, July 31, 2020

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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