You can now read 10 articles a month for free. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

letters | us attorney under fire in swartz case

Defendants bend under tyranny of plea deal

MOST of us know that we have a criminal justice system that rewards confession with leniency. Many are less aware of the coin’s other side — that the few who contemplate asking a judge and jury to decide whether they are guilty are threatened with far greater punishment solely for exercising their right to a trial.

In the Aaron Swartz case, the US attorney apparently offered six months but threatened many years. Such a disparity has nothing to do with determining guilt and appropriate sentencing, and everything to do with protecting the overwhelming power of the prosecution and its interest in coercing the vast majority of defendants to plead guilty.

Continue reading below

The system is omnipresent in the federal courts, and if Carmen Ortiz deserves criticism, then so does every other US attorney. It’s shameful that it took a suicide to bring the issue to broad public attention.

Michael Meltsner

Boston

The writer is a professor at Northeastern University School of Law.

Loading comments...

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week