For the case against a pardon, Corey Robin (image from Wikimedia Commons):
Pardoning Swartz also would allow the government, effectively, to pardon itself. As my friend Michael Pollak pointed out to me, “Under our laws, Swartz was still innocent. Therein lies the crime of what the state did to him. This would remove it.” I would merely add that even if Swartz would have been (or had been) found guilty under the law, Michael’s stricture would still hold.
I want the death of Swartz, and the prosecution that helped produce it, to hang around the neck of the state for a very long time. If the state wishes to remove it, let it start by curbing its prosecutorial zeal, of which Swartz was sadly only one victim.
A pardon for Swartz, however qualified, would undercut the case for severe punishment (including, possibly, the death penalty) of Bradley Manning and others. It would amount to an acceptance that Swartz’ motivation in seeking the free distribution of information was a noble one, and that his offences should have been judged in that light. Perhaps some people would see it as exonerating the state, but I think more would see it as a signal of a new direction, and a precedent to be followed.