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Empathy and Objectivity in the Legal Procedure: the Case of Swedish Prosecutors
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3522-4963
2016 (English)In: Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention, ISSN 1404-3858, E-ISSN 1651-2340, Vol. 17, no 1, 19-35 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The role of empathy, the capacity to read someone else’s emotions, in the legal context has previously been studied in relation to primarily judges’ decision-making, often with a concern for objectivity. Our purpose is to study professional emotion management in the legal process through an analysis of Swedish prosecutors’ use of empathy. An ethnographic data collection took place between 2012 and 2015, including shadowing, observations and interviews with 36 prosecutors from 3 prosecution offices. The analysis shows that during the investigation, empathy helps identify the prerequisites of a crime and deciding if and how to prosecute. When preparing for trial, empathy is used to anticipate the situation in court. During the trial, the empathic process includes management of the emotions of others in order to stage credible testimonies, convince the judge and calm victims. The empathic process is oriented and restricted by the emotive–cognitive judicial frame through which prosecutors are rewarded by emotions of comfort and pride in demonstrating expertise of legal coding. We conclude that empathy is integral to prosecutors’ professional performance, including the requirement to be objective. The study points to the problems with silencing emotions and maintaining a positivist notion of objectivity in the legal system.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 17, no 1, 19-35 p.
Keyword [en]
Empathy, objectivity, prosecutors, emotion management, courts, Sweden
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-148946DOI: 10.1080/14043858.2015.1136501OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-148946DiVA: diva2:1156642
Projects
Emotioner i domstol
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2011-1553Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2011-0671
Available from: 2017-11-13 Created: 2017-11-13 Last updated: 2017-11-22Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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