Twice in my career I've been asked to serve as an expert witness on the defense team of an obscenity trial, where the prosecution was spearheaded by the U.S. Justice Department.
I was naive enough— both times— to think that I had a chance to further the cause of the First Amendment. I hoped to bring some objective sex information to bear on the puritanical overreach of US pornography laws.
Well, that's pretty high-minded stuff compared to the details of each case. The prosecution's strategy was beneath contempt— and had nothing to do with even the simplest understanding of law or ethics.
In my cases, the defendant were low-hanging fruit, who were targetted because of their helplessness and vulnerabilty— not because of their "crimes" or "victims."
I remember the day, on my last case, where the Defense team showed me all their files that they'd been shy to show me before. I dropped their papers to the floor halfway through my review: "What are we talking about here? This defendant is developmentally disabled... ISN'T HE? He can't even talk on the stand because he sounds like a disoriented three-year-old!"
The attorneys stared at me— that's when I realized they were inured to this. The Justice Department was bagging obscenity law trophies by going after the poor, the suicidal, the insane, the cognitively impaired— because that's the way they rack up numbers and status. That's the way their fuel their careers at the Justice Department— not by taking on constitutional issues, or injustice, or fat cats who believe they're above the law.
Oh no, they've got a different plan: They find someone who's drooling, or depressed, or friendless— and then throw the book at them. It doesn't take long because the "defendant-target" is overmatched.
These cases were so upsetting to me— in the second instance, I withdrew in time and had a bit of a meltdown with the Defense. "How can you look in the mirror and call in an "obscenity" expert! You need a doctor, not a scholar— If you don't bring in a psychiatrist's evaluation and get this case pulled, you're essentially killing a man for being mentally retarded."
Yeah, and that's how mad I was at the Defense team... for even playing along with this charade. If I'd ever gotten close enough to the Prosecutor, I would've spat green bile. It was the same feeling I've had concerning death penalty cases for defendant whose IQ wouldn't admit them to kindergarten but is plenty good enough for the electric chair.
Upon hearing of Aaron Swartz's suicide, on the even of his trial, facing 40+ years in prison— for what would be called "nothing" in some circles and " peerless heroism" in others— I crumpled. Like many of us, I feel in debt to this young man's genius and activism, his stake in democracy.
Now we know that Swartz battled depression— he was open about it, eloquent even. Clinical depression affects people no matter whether the sun is shining or not, at any stage of life, hopeful or dim. But when life takes a threatening turn and you face the rest of your life in prison, in brutal circumstances— treatable depression takes a perilous dive.
And here's what I have to say to the prosecuting federal attorneys in the Case: you have blood on your hands and I bet you KNEW it was a possibility all along.
I wager the Justice Department understood Aaron's suicidal and depression vulnerabilities better than ANYONE— because they make a living, a strategy, going after the weakest links, exploiting psychological deficit and isolation at EVERY TURN. Aaron had more to give the world than their whole "Just-Us"department wrapped up in a bow, but that's the least of their concerns.
You've done enough, you shitheads. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?