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Compassion Strikes Again


Advocates of sober sentencing are often scolded for their lack of "compassion."  Those of us who hear this again and again have come to understand what "compassion" actually means:  A Get-Out-Of-Jail (or Never-Go-To-Jail) card for strong-arms, thugs and swindlers.

The plea  --  or, more frequently, the surly demand  --  for compassion is typically accompanied by a claim that the criminal is himself a victim.  The usual sources of victim status have become legion  --  the abusive father (from 30 years ago), poor education, previously undiscovered brain lesions, or, famously, excess consumption of twinkies.  The supply is limited only by defense counsel's imagination, which is to say it has no limit.

One of the most genuinely appealing entreaties for compassion is that the criminal is terminally ill.  Something like that is hard to fake.

On the other hand, "hard" doesn't mean "impossible."  Hence today's tidbit from far-away Libya, via Lockerbie, Scotland.  

About seven months ago, CNN reported this about the Lockerbie bomber:

Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, suffering from terminal prostate cancer, was freed from prison in Scotland, with Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill citing compassionate grounds for the release and saying al Megrahi was "going home to die."

A large crowd, waving flags and honking horns, greeted al Megrahi at the military airport in Tripoli.

The 57-year-old has three months to live, according to Scottish authorities.

"Our justice system demands that judgment be imposed but compassion available," MacAskill said. "Our beliefs dictate that justice be served but mercy be shown."

Yes indeed, Minister MacAskill.  Only today, we see the following report:

The health of the freed Lockerbie bomber has 'greatly improved' now he is home in Libya, Colonel Gaddafi's son boasted yesterday.

He said Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi was doing much better since being released seven months ago by the Scots on compassionate grounds because he had 'only three months to live'.

In words which will confirm the suspicions of Lockerbie victims' families, Saif Gaddafi - widely tipped to succeed his father as Libyan leader - also finally admitted that the convicted killer's release had dominated trade talks with Britain.

This one can't be blamed on craven defense counsel.  This one goes directly to a craven government.

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