Trial by Ordeal: A Model of Trial Choices and Policy Restrictions Open Access

Krauskopf, Max (Spring 2020)

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Ordeals were a common trial method around the world, and particularly in western Europe, for hundreds of years. Despite this prevalence, ordeals as a trial method are often dismissed or ridiculed. This thesis explores the backgrounds and effects of 13th century legal systems that incorporated trials by ordeal. I hypothesize that the use of trials by ordeal enhances the efficiency of these legal systems. I use a game theoretical model to demonstrate how rational actors navigate a legal system containing ordeals. I expand on this model by further demonstrating how policymakers can use these rational responses to ordeals to maximize their utility, which I align with societal benefits. The outcomes and insights on behavioral effects from my model are applicable in informing policy recommendations on judicial reforms around the globe.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Background and Literature Review 2

Methodology 6

Game Theory 6

Model 8

Equilibrium Trial Choices 15

Equilibrium Menu Choices 19

Discussion 24

Ordeals in 13th Century England 24

Ordeals In Present Day Liberia 25

Corruption 28

Conclusion 29

Appendix A - Future Empirical Studies 31

Appendix B - Future Field Studies 34

Appendix C - Parameter Ranges 35

Bibliography 37

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