>Would you prefer the US charge more innocent people with crimes to bring down the conviction rate?
Don't be ridiculous. What I would prefer is that more of the innocent people who are currently charged not be convicted or coerced into a guilty plea by the prospect of outrageous penalties and soul-crushing legal fees.
>People indicted by Grand Juries should end up getting convicted the vast majority of time, otherwise Grand Juries (and the prosecutors that bring cases before them) aren't serving their function, and their findings of probable cause are erroneous.
It is pretty obviously the case that they fail spectacularly at this function.
"a grand jury would 'indict a ham sandwich,' if that's what you wanted." - New York State Chief Judge Sol Wachtler
And until that changes (if it even can), the conviction rate should not be anywhere near as high as it is.
>too many things are illegal (and felonious in particular), and the penalties are too severe.
> What I would prefer is that more of the innocent people who are currently charged not be convicted or coerced into a guilty plea by the prospect of outrageous penalties and soul-crushing legal fees.
Swartz was guilty. Even Lessig's post decrying Swartz' treatment intimates as much. Again, perhaps the things he did shouldn't have been crimes, or at least not felonies, and the penalties shouldn't have been so severe, but you need to distinguish between innocent people being wrongly prosecuted for things they did not do and bad law making criminals out of good people.
> "a grand jury would 'indict a ham sandwich,' if that's what you wanted." - New York State Chief Judge Sol Wachtler
Judges, prosecutors and legal academics in general exhibit hostility towards juries, grand and petit alike. There are rare exceptions, such as Antonin Scalia. But in general, the legal profession resents the continued involvement of the common man in the judicial process, especially in as crucial a role as pre- and post-trial arbiter of fact.
Whatever perceived defects exist in the grand jury process, such as its secrecy or the absence of the accused, these can be remedied while still keeping intact the basic structure of 23 average citizens making, by majority, a determination of probable cause.
In fact, rather than being part of the problem, if juries were so emboldened, they could mitigate many of the injustices of our system themselves through the use of jury nullification.
>Swartz was guilty. Even Lessig's post decrying Swartz' treatment intimates as much.
I didn't read it as such. I read it as Lessig saying that what prosecutors accused him of doing was a crime, but that Swartz may have informed him of contrary facts in confidence which he was not at liberty to disclose.
Moreover, we don't know that someone is guilty until after they have been convicted, right? Swartz was never convicted (and obviously at this point never will be), so he is innocent until proven guilty.
But your point about distinguishing between guilt under the law and moral culpability is well-taken. I much more strongly care to ensure that the sort of thing Swartz was accused of doing not be illegal than care whether Swartz in actual fact did the thing that I believe should not be illegal.
>In fact, rather than being part of the problem, if juries were so emboldened, they could mitigate many of the injustices of our system themselves through the use of jury nullification.
I don't disagree with that, and it isn't the jury I blame for the outcomes, it's the process. As you mention, the Grand Jury hears from only one side in a sealed proceeding. The outcome of that is entirely predictable. And changing it would be quite welcome, but unless and until we change it, we can't assume that as-implemented it works as the theory says it should, contrary to all available evidence.