Monday, August 31, 2009

Lockerbie Compassionate Release Decision by Sortition or Plebiscite

I viewed last night on Cspan, the Scottish Parliament grilling Kenny MacAskill over the release of Mr. al Megrahi. As I suspect all my readers know, Mr. Ali was serving a life sentence for bombing Pan am Flight 103. He had terminal prostate cancer. He returned to his native Libya and received a "hero's welcome."

I heard Mr. MacAskill said it is "was his decision alone." The Members of Parliament grilled him, did he consult with the family members of those who lost their lives, why would a minister talk individually to a single prisoner--would any prisoner get the right to talk one-on-one in their cell with a Minister of Justice, was there a quid pro quo for dropping his appeal or for the Libyan government investing in the UK, would any person, "no matter how heinous their crime" be released at the end of their life if their condition was terminal?

I heard Mr. MacAskill point out the role of compassion in the Scottish government and character and the opinion of church leaders on this issue. I heard about his discussion with the chief of police about the possibility of moving Mr. Ali to a hospice or other facility. And an estimate that it would take fourty-eight police to deal with that situation, even without other "problems." And Mr. MacAskill was concerned about the needs of other patients who were at any hospice facility that might be used.

It is not the role of this blog to second-guess the decision. I am sure that is being done on many blogs in Scotland and around the world. It is this blog's role to discuss how that decision was made.

How would things be made if the decision was sent or better yet, "punted" to a sortition randomly-chosen jury? And that jury heard all the concerns and even considered any investment that Libya might make in Scotland. And that jury voted yea or neigh. Would the the people working in the hospice that might have been used, the police officers who might have been asked to guard him had he be kept in Scotland or if the decision was made to release Mr. Ali would the family members and the Scottish public have been able to accept that decision.

Is that better than having a single minister, albeit with advisors, or even a panel of jurists make such decisions?

An entire population cannot vote on every single speeding ticket, research grant, asylum application, or even every treaty with a foreign government. But what if each such decision was decided by a randomly-selected jury that had the power by a certain percentage of its members to kick the decision to the whole population. Thus, Scotland's population as a whole would have voted on what to do about Mr. Ali, our entire population might vote on any petition for compassionate release for Mr. Madoff at the end of his life, and the entire population of Iraq would have voted on the disposition of Mr Hussein after his capture.

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