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Aaron Swartz’ Case Highlights Imperfect Legal System

Photo Source: edenpictures on flickr

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is a powerful weapon in a prosecutor’s arsenal.  Though imperfect in some ways, it provides a way for citizens and the Government to seek redress for wrongs that previously had no crime attached to them.  Much has been made of the Department of Justice’s prosecution of Mr. Swartz in the wake of his death.

What many people do not know is that for the vast majority of people accused of crimes, the criminal justice system can be a meat grinder.  Most of the time, the outcomes are just and fair based upon the alleged actions of a Defendant.  All of the time, the path to that resolution is not easy.  Almost inevitably, prosecutors take a strong stance to enhance a bargaining position and such a back and forth is not easy for Defendants to watch.  Certainly, with a Defendant like Aaron Swartz, who already suffered from depression, that back and forth was probably too much to handle.

If nothing else, this case may be a good lesson in how parties should handle these negotiations.  And while many complain that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act has become too expansive, I would argue that is not the case so long as the prosecutors charged with seeking redress for violations of the law act with appropriate discretion.  It appears what happened here was just another case of the meat grinder of justice.

Perhaps that meat grinder should come to a halt.

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