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2020 Honors Thesis: Max Krauskopf


Max Krauskopf

Title of Thesis:

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


Blake Allison, Kelli Lanier, Jeffrey Morrison (Political Science)


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 of13thcentury 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 policy makers 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.

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