Judicial Torture as a Screening Device

44 Pages Posted: 27 May 2009

See all articles by Kong-Pin Chen

Kong-Pin Chen

Academia Sinica - Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences; National Taiwan University - Department of Economics

Tsung-Sheng Tsai

National Taiwan University - Department of Economics

Angela Leung

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: May 26, 2009

Abstract

Judicial torture to extract information or elicit confession was a common practice in pre-modern societies, both in the East and the West. Moreover, often it was applied not only on the suspects, but also on the witnesses and plaintiffs as well. This paper proposes a positive theory for judicial torture. It is shown that torture reflects the magistrate's attempt to balance type I and type II errors in decision-making, by forcing the guilty to confess with higher probability than the innocent, and thereby decreases type I error at the cost of type II error. In that case, torturing the witnesses or the plaintiff might also serve the same function, as it helps to screen the cases so that only those with greater merits enter the court. When the information revealed during investigation improved as a result of technological advance, a judicial system based on torture became inferior to one based on evidence. This result is then used to explain the historical development of the judicial system.

Keywords: Torture, Type I and Type II errors, Evidence

JEL Classification: K4, D82

Suggested Citation

Chen, Kong-Pin and Tsai, Tsung-Sheng and Leung, Angela, Judicial Torture as a Screening Device (May 26, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1410598 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1410598

Kong-Pin Chen (Contact Author)

Academia Sinica - Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences ( email )

RCHSS
Academia Sinica
Nankang, Taipei, 11529
Taiwan
886 2 2789 8160 (Phone)
886 2 2785 4160 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://idv.sinica.edu.tw/kongpin/

National Taiwan University - Department of Economics

21 Hsiu Chow Rd
Taipei, 10020
Taiwan

Tsung-Sheng Tsai

National Taiwan University - Department of Economics ( email )

No. 1, Sec. 4, Roosevelt Rd.
Taipei, 10617
Taiwan

HOME PAGE: http://homepage.ntu.edu.tw/~tstsai

Angela Leung

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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