Daily Archives: July 19, 2011

Aaron Swartz is the new Lori Drew: The TOS misadventures

If the Federal government were on Twitter or Facebook (or even that shiny new toy Google+), they’d be the confused old grandfather who’s elated that he’s won the Australian lottery even though his clearly smarter – and younger – wife quizzically asks him if he’s every been to Australia.

The Feds continued their misadventures in Terms of Service land with an indictment handed down today against Aaron Swartz, disputed co-founder of Reddit, the less well known bastard child of Digg.

His crime – described by his acts, not the silly US Code that they’re charging him with (PDF) – is essentially downloading staggering amounts of documents from JSTOR, the online repository of the ivory tower’s pontifications and musings on the life of the bourgeoisie. Seriously. Have you ever tried download anything from JSTOR? Apart from being so damn counter-intuitive, that shit is expensive. So expensive that some universities are charged $50,000 a year for access to the hallowed writings scanned and uploaded to JSTOR.

Swartz, someone whom the Feds have had their eye on for a while, basically used spoofed MAC addresses, guest accounts and the like to get behind their paywall and just download all their files. What was he going to do with it? Who the hell knows. But he did it because he hates paywalls and believes in freedom of information and free dissemination of that information. Or something. Watch out, NYT, you’re next.

Can you imagine if she’d been convicted?

We all know by now that Casey Anthony was acquitted by a jury that understood the meaning of the burden of proof and held the prosecution to that burden. It seems like, of all the parties in that courtroom, they’re the only ones who truly understood and followed their role and responsibilities. The shenanigans on Jose Baez the defense attorney are well known – but whatever they may be, he convinced the jury to deliver what is looking more and more like the correct verdict.

I wonder about the prosecution, though. The prosecution that has the Constitutional obligation under Brady v. Maryland to disclose potentially exculpatory information, that – being lawyers – has the ethical obligation of candor to the tribunal and to immediately correct erroneous information presented to the court or the jury.

I haven’t paid much – if any – attention to the facts of the case. A girl went missing, the mom partied and didn’t report it, a body was found(?) but the cause of death couldn’t be pinpointed, Nancy Grace said she was guilty and Casey googled “chloroform” 84 times.

Wait, you mean she didn’t? Oh:

Assertions by the prosecution that Casey Anthony conducted extensive computer searches on the word “chloroform” were based on inaccurate data, a software designer who testified at the trial said Monday.

The designer [of the software that the police used to validate their conclusion], John Bradley, said Ms. Anthony had visited what the prosecution said was a crucial Web site only once, not 84 times, as prosecutors had asserted. He came to that conclusion after redesigning his software, and immediately alerted prosecutors and the police about the mistake, he said.

The finding of 84 visits was used repeatedly during the trial to suggest that Ms. Anthony had planned to murder her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, who was found dead in 2008. Ms. Anthony, who could have faced the death penalty, was acquitted of the killing on July 5.

Mr. Bradley said he immediately alerted a prosecutor, Linda Drane Burdick, and Sgt. Kevin Stenger of the Sheriff’s Office in late June through e-mail and by telephone to tell them of his new findings. Mr. Bradley said he conducted a second analysis after discovering discrepancies that were never brought to his attention by prosecutors or the police.

And we all know that the prosecution and the police did nothing. The state’s already weak and nebulous case was actually weaker. And yet onward they pushed, to try and get the death penalty against a woman they “knew” in their hearts was guilty, just didn’t have that pesky “evidence” to back up. I can understand that if this information had come up pre-trial, the prosecution could’ve wiggled out of disclosing it by using the well-worn trope that in their opinion it wasn’t potentially exculpatory, but to let the court and jury continue under the false impression that evidence before it was accurate when it wasn’t is a serious violation of their ethical obligations. (See here for a prior post on the prosecutors’ obligations to pursue a prosecution they know they can’t prove).

Nothing will happen to the prosecutors, obviously, other than a few people shaking their heads and tut-tut-ing. It’s a good thing she was acquitted. Imagine if this came to light after a conviction?