Emotions in Legal Decisions : The Construction of Objective Narratives in Italian Criminal Trials

Abstract: Drawing on ethnographic data collected in Italian courts and prosecution offices, this dissertation offers new perspectives on legal decision-making by highlighting the importance of emotions for constructing and evaluating legal narratives. Focusing on criminal cases, it describes and dissects how judges and prosecutors use emotions in reflection and action tied to lay narratives and legal constraints. The analysis shows that legal professionals engage in different types of emotional dynamics when dealing with stories; first, they develop gut feelings, which are either endorsed or kept at distance by means of emotional reflexivity, to comply with legal ideals of objectivity and impartiality. Second, empathy emerges as a crucial tool to direct the interaction with lay people and to interpret legal prerequisites, such as credibility, and intent. Finally, the dissertation shows that lay stories lead legal professionals to become passionate and committed towards the correct application of the law, the restoration of the moral order, and the achievement of justice. In light of the empirical findings, this thesis strives to develop a theoretical understanding of legal decision-making as narrative work that includes emotional dynamics consistent with rational, objective action.

  This dissertation MIGHT be available in PDF-format. Check this page to see if it is available for download.