Ask yourself this: If on January 10, Steve Heymann and Carmen Ortiz at
the Massachusetts US Attorney’s office had called Aaron’s lawyer and said
they’d realized their mistake and that they were dropping all charges — or
even for that matter that they were ready to offer a reasonable plea deal
that wouldn’t have marked Aaron as a felon for the rest of his life — would
Aaron have killed himself on January 11?
The answer is unquestionably no.
Is it really, unquestionably, no? If for two years he was enjoying life (As the OP explained) and that he was actively working on a new project (Again as the OP explained), I find it very odd that he committed suicide because of the charges.
It has to have a straw that broke the camel's back. Oh well, I guess so. Or I don't know. But I find it very sad.
This would imply that the US Attorney's office made a mistake in charging him for the crimes he committed. In reality, this would have been letting him off the hook because ZOMGAARONSWARTZ.
Aaron died because he forgot that civil disobedience is not about sticking it to The Man, but about getting into the sort of vulnerable position that makes it possible to win people over with dialogue. It's about paying the price, not doing the deed, and he wasn't prepared for that. This is not something he should be martyred for.
Furthermore, even if that statement is true does it mean we should blame the prosecution? The analogy I have been using is getting fired or going through a breakup. Those type of events are sometimes catalysts for suicide, but I don't think anyone would blame the employer or significant other for that. People are responsible for their own actions. They are responsible for how they react to adversity or tragedy. Aaron was the one who killed himself. The charges likely played a role in his decision, but that doesn't mean his "death was caused by [the] criminal justice system."
I think you're asking people to oscillate between two poles of a continuum.
The indictment of Aaron Swartz was very clearly, and i think uncontroversially, a life altering experience for Swartz. So I think that Taren, the OP and Aaron's GF, are probably correct on the substance. I think that even if you want to say that the prosecution wasn't the only factor, it is something that moved the needle in Swartz's life, and pushed everything not just a little bit closer (e.g. this was not a straw), but a lot closer to a suicidal event.