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knowtheory 442 days ago | link | parent

Dude, you're being that guy. Don't be that guy.

Why shouldn't a prosecutor consider the personal circumstance of the accused? Certainly this is done in a variety of ways in the law, the decision as to whether a crime has been committed, the decision as to whether to charge an individual, what charges are brought against that individual.

Particularly in the case where prosecutors have wide discretion, such as in the case of computer crimes, the question really should be, on what basis are prosecutors making decisions?

And in the event that prosecutors are making capricious or unjust, or disproportionate decisions, then shouldn't they be faced with the consequences of their actions? Shouldn't they consider that they can both ruin and in some cases contribute to the end of someone's life?

Even if you don't think this is part of jurisprudence per se, do we not have an obligation to our fellow man?



rayiner 442 days ago | link

"That guy" in what sense? The one that thinks that it's not justifiable to accuse someone of causing someone else to kill themselves? I'm making a moral argument, not a jurisprudential one. We are responsible for the consequences of our actions, but our obligation to our fellow man is circumscribed by context and reasonable expectations. There may be situations in which it is reasonable to expect someone to kill himself, but this was not one of those situations. Carmen Ortiz cannot be held responsible, morally, for someone's unreasonable reaction to her actions. There are things you can hold her responsible for, morally, but suicide is not one of them.

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knowtheory 442 days ago | link

"That guy" in the sense that the case you're making sounds very much as if you are contradicting people who do have intimate knowledge of Aaron Swartz's situation.

Your case is that the culpability for Swartz's death rests solely with Swartz. Swartz's friends and family have asserted with unanimity that Swartz's life was dominated by this prosecution. Ergo, the series of events culminating in Swartz's suicide would not have happened had he not been prosecuted, or, more importantly, prosecuted in this particular way.

When you assert that Ortiz's office is not culpable, it sounds very much like you are contradicting the prosecution's role in Swartz's life and death.

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rayiner 442 days ago | link

Evaluating whether Ortiz is culpable according to our common morality does not require understanding the specifics of his situation. For any given event, there are an infinite number of causes without which that even would not have happened or would not have happened in that way. Ortiz's prosecution was certainly one of those causes. But it was obviously not the only one, because if it were then that would mean that aggressive prosecution was by itself sufficient to cause someone to commit suicide, which cannot be true because the vast majority of people do not commit suicide in response to aggressive prosecution.

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wglb 442 days ago | link

Except that this was the second suicide of someone under prosecution by this office.

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tptacek 442 days ago | link

It is not reasonable to presume that people are likely to commit suicide over the threat of a 6 month prison sentence. You know that I think the Heymann prosecution was way out of line, but your argument here is a caricature.

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rayiner 442 days ago | link

Out of how many umpteen cases the office handles each year? A big district like D. Mass has tens of thousands of active criminal cases at any given time.

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thaumaturgy 442 days ago | link

Referencing your earlier comment (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5165258), this is a perfect example of what happens when lawyers stop thinking about people and start thinking about cases: it becomes OK that people involved in the case are killing themselves, so long as it doesn't exceed some percentage of cases.

I try really hard not to be one of those laymen that regards all lawyers as soulless, but this right here is the kind of thing that leads to that opinion of the law profession.

"But they handle tens of thousands of cases" should never be used as a defense in the death of a litigant -- a person. At the very least, the death of a litigant should force all parties involved to examine their actions and see if they might have been able to do anything reasonable to prevent it. Justifying it in the abstract, saying essentially that it's OK as long as it's not too many, is despicable.

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rayiner 442 days ago | link

Your ad hominem-fueled rage is clouding your reading comprehension. If you read down from that sub-thread, you'll see I'm talking about Carmen Ortiz's moral culpability being bound by her reasonable expectations about the situation. One previous suicide out of tens of thousands of prosecutions in her office is insufficient to show that she should have reasonably expected aggressive prosecution could have led to another suicide. You can't blame people for consequences they couldn't reasonably have been expected to see coming, and suicide is almost always such a consequence.

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anthonyb 442 days ago | link

Except that the prosecution was warned that Aaron might be suicidal.

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tptacek 442 days ago | link

"That guy" appears to mean that because Bill Lederer knows Aaron's parents not to have been depressed, and because Aaron's girlfriend believed him not to have been depressed, it is unreasonable to question whether someone who committed suicide over a 6 month prison term was depressed.

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