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August 24, 2009

Intriguing NPR piece on compassionate release of Lockerbie bomber

This afternoon's NPR program Talk of the Nation included this interesting half-hour segment titled "'Compassionate' Release For Lockerbie Bomber."  Here is the official summary of the segment:

The only man convicted of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, was freed from a Scottish prison on what Scottish authorities call "compassionate grounds." He is terminally ill with cancer.  Guests examine the limits of compassion.

Though I've only heard half the segment so far, what I have heard raised lots of interesting and important matters worthy of consideration and reflection for all sentencing law and policy fans.

August 24, 2009 at 07:11 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Did you see the milquetoast complaints of the Obama Administration? Pretty funny. Hilarious, too, that Mr. Holder decided to weigh in, given his blessing of the release of FALN terrorists. Is there any limit to the general scumminess that is our AG?

Posted by: federalist | Aug 24, 2009 7:52:02 PM

I find the post interesting because on this side of the Atlantic,we are given the impression that Americans are talking about little else (though I notice it has not exactly been making front page news on the main US newspapers). Incidentally, the FBI director weighed in last week and the text of a his very strongly-worded letter to the relevant Scottish minister was published in full on the Daily Telegraph webite. There was a very interesting, though politically fraught, debate in the Scottish Parliament today (August 24) which convened for a special meeeting on the matter, and it did raise interesting questions about justice, mercy, due process and so forth. But the case still raises very interesting questions, for those of us interested in comparative sentencing law, on the role of compassionate release and the conditons on which it should be granted.

Posted by: Tom | Aug 24, 2009 8:08:48 PM

The release was based on compassion, but I understand that many groups in Scotland and England believe that there is some question about his guilt. This would make the decision to release him a bit easier politically.

Posted by: beth | Aug 24, 2009 10:52:39 PM

NPR is a biased hate speech propaganda organ. It never allows dissent from left wing criminal lover orthodoxy. For example, even the extreme left wing BBC gave interview time to an Lockerbie American family. Not the NPR. It should be boycotted by everyone who is not a freak.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 25, 2009 12:38:29 AM

I do think it's interesting because it raises the question: at what point in time do we stop thinking about what's best for the victims and think of what's best for the criminal.

I also wonder how much anyone would have really cared if there wasn't such a big celebration back home. I suspect that lots of people would have preferred it to just go away quietly.

Posted by: Daniel | Aug 25, 2009 1:03:38 AM

Daniel: How big does a crime have to be for you to stop being a criminal lover and apologist? MacAskill must resign immediately, and Brown must apologize to the families of the murdered.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 25, 2009 2:01:29 AM

The Lockerbie Bomber, if indeed that's what he was, presumably will be dead within a few months one way or another.

The compassion that retribution zealots find so abhorrent isn't for the "bomber"...it's for his family.

Posted by: John K | Aug 25, 2009 9:49:15 AM

"The compassion that retribution zealots find so abhorrent isn't for the "bomber"...it's for his family."

I hardly think that opposing this release makes one a "retribution zealot". Perhaps, Doug, who is so fond of excoriating me for calling federal judges like Judge Clay a hack (even though he richly deserves such appelation, see Bobby v. Bies), can police that comment.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 25, 2009 3:10:04 PM

"The compassion that retribution zealots find so abhorrent isn't for the 'bomber'...it's for his family."

The retribution that compassion zealots find so abhorrent isn't for the family, it's for the bomber.

If the feelings of the family were supposed to be driving the train, why imprison the bomber at all? There is no evidence the family did anything wrong. Why punish them?

The truth is that imprisonment always "punishes" the family. This is not exactly news. But if we are to give a pass to wrongdoers because accountability will hurt those close to them, we might as well take that principle where it leads and end accountablilty, and punishment, altogether. Why should little Johnny suffer a single day because the authorities insist on imprisoning his daddy, simply because daddy decided that sticking a switchblade in someone's neck to get his wallet was easier than getting a job?

How can we be so cruel?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 25, 2009 4:41:44 PM

My observation is that judging or determining guilt is performed with varying degrees of precision throughout the world. the next step, sentencing, probably obtains more rigamorale in America than anywhere. Punishment, in terms of corporal punishment is more severe in some cultures than here. We think it a bit lame to cut off the hand of the thief. Non corporal punishment such as prison nn the other hand is a bit more severe here in America than anywhere. No country imposes such long prison terms as we do and few impose life without parole sentences with such frequency than occurs in the US of A. Even upon children. In the middle east, the public stoning of a female who commits adultry is a rather cursory yet efficient method of judging, sentencing, and executing sentence. Too cursory we hold. Some islamic countries bestow honor upon this. "That is a lynching!", Americans decry. We ought to know. The release of the Lybyan terrorist coincided with the anniversary of the lyching of Emmett Till. That story was also the subject of CNN coverage the same night of the terrorist's release.

If I was the Scotish minister I would not have let him out. Not because of the anquish in the hearts and minds of the victims families, but because of the inspiration given to the young wannabees in the crowd during the hero's welcome at that airport.

But I am not the Scotish minister. Americans want our view of judging, sentencing, imposition and forgiveness to be the be the world view. If that had been accomplished 50 years ago then the world would have adopted lynchings.
Public lynching and public stoning is not that far removed from the stone age. And neither are we. Smugness does not become us.

Posted by: mpb | Aug 25, 2009 10:50:32 PM

mpb, your post is gobbledygook masquerading as insight . . . .

Posted by: federalist | Aug 25, 2009 11:49:49 PM

Thanks for your inspiring response.

Posted by: mpb | Aug 26, 2009 12:40:31 AM

mpb -- "Americans want our view of judging, sentencing, imposition and forgiveness to be the be the world view. If that had been accomplished 50 years ago then the world would have adopted lynchings.
Public lynching and public stoning is not that far removed from the stone age. And neither are we. Smugness does not become us."

There is a difference, nowhere acknowledged in your remarks, between smugness and confidence. Smugness does not become anyone, but confidence becomes those who have earned it. This country has earned it by having a criminal justice system awash in procedural protections for the accused. It has earned it still more by having social and economic mobility that surpasses that of -- dare I say it? -- our smug critics abroad. This is one reason, but scarecly the only one, that tens of thousands of people every year surrender their homes in other lands to come here. Not infrequently they do so at great cost, and sometimes at the risk of their lives. Neither this fact, nor, apparently, any other deters you from the undocumented (and false) sneer that the United States is but a step away from the stone age.

Your statement that, 50 years ago, lynching represented the America view of justice is not merely incorrect but preposterous. It is also a calumny against the nation. Lynching was almost completely confined to one area of the country (six or seven Deep South states), and even there was condemned far more than it was accepted, much less practiced.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 26, 2009 7:38:26 AM

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