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bullying justice

January 16, 2013

Should the US prosecutors of Aaron Swartz be charged for his death? Remember the suicide of Tyler Clementi and the criminal case of New Jersey v. Dharun Ravi.

When someone dies they can become symbols for use by others – more powerful than you can imagine. There are so many conspiracy theories in this case because both sides have reasons to see Swartz dead and usable as a symbol. (Personally, I hope he faked his own death and is living it up somewhere under a new name – Ken Lay style).

Already attempts to legislate – See ““Aaron’s law,” Congressional investigation in wake of Swartz suicide – Computer Fraud and Abuse Act would be amended to exclude EULA violations.” by Timothy B. Lee, quoting:

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO).
“The charges were ridiculous and trumped-up,” he told The Hill.
“It’s absurd that he was made a scapegoat. I would hope that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Polis labeled Swartz a “martyr.”

But a matyr for who?

Yes, I’m sure we must clarify so that corporations are not guilty of major crimes every time their bot violates an user agreement. But is that the source of the real injustice here?

Every day in every Criminal Court there is similar bullying of criminal defendants. Trials are always gambles for both sides. The whole system is based on the pressures to take the plea. Defendants are supposedly innocent until proven guilty but if every defendant forced the prosecutors to prove the guilt then the system would grind to a halt; see NYTimes op-ed: “Go to Trial: Crash the Justice System” by Michelle Alexander (March 2012). So if the defendant wants a public trial he has to gamble on the choice between a usually much more lenient plea offer and the possibility of being found guilty with much more severe penalties. It’s an intimidating part of the plea negotiation process that is not well understood by the public discourse.

Justice Breyer discussed similar issues last November (aired on CSPAN3 today) at “Justice Breyer Discusses Constitutionalism in China” referring to the issue created by “95%” of criminal charges resolved by plea deal and that the justice system is supposed to protect people from bullying.

ZombieLaw is reminded of the guilt-ridden zombie judge of the movie “ParaNorman” who is unfairly bullied but also, first wrongly-persecuted a child. Also, and more traditionally, the New England witch hunt stories like “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller.

The entire justice system functions though forms of scapegoating and it is absurd to think that it won’t happen again. And yet, we have no choice but to hope with Justice Breyer that we are already doing the right thing and we simply need to keep working at it and continue “pursuing” (universal) justice.

zombie judge


From → computers, criminal

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