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Sassywood

  • Leeson, Peter T.
  • Coyne, Christopher J.

This paper analyzes trial by poison ingestion, or “sassywood,” as an institution of criminal justice in contemporary Liberia. We argue that effective criminal justice institutions must satisfy three conditions: they must be accessible to citizens, incentivize judicial administrators to pursue justice instead of private ends, and generate useful information about accused criminals’ guilt or innocence. Liberia’s formal criminal justice institutions fail to satisfy these conditions. Sassywood does a better job of fulfilling them. Sassywood is more accessible than Liberia’s formal criminal justice institutions. It provides judicial administrators stronger incentives to pursue justice. And, unexpectedly, it is capable of generating useful information about criminal defendants’ guilt or innocence where Liberia’s formal criminal justice institutions didn’t. The theory this paper provides offers a plausible explanation of why sassywood is a sensible institutional substitute for formal Liberian criminal justice.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Comparative Economics.

Volume (Year): 40 (2012)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 608-620

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jcecon:v:40:y:2012:i:4:p:608-620
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622864

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  1. Leeson, Peter T., 2007. "Better off stateless: Somalia before and after government collapse," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 689-710, December.
  2. Rafael LaPorta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silane & Cristian Pop-Eleches & Andrei Shleifer, 2003. "Judicial Checks and Balances," NBER Working Papers 9775, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Peter T. Leeson, 2007. "An-arrgh-chy: The Law and Economics of Pirate Organization," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(6), pages 1049-1094, December.
  4. Simeon Djankov & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "Courts: The Lex Mundi Project," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1951, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  5. Peter T. Leeson, 2009. "The Laws of Lawlessness," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(2), pages 471-503, 06.
  6. Edward L. Glaeser & Andrei Shleifer, 2001. "Legal Origins," NBER Working Papers 8272, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson, 2003. "Unbundling Institutions," NBER Working Papers 9934, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2000. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 7771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," NBER Working Papers 8460, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Peter Leeson, 2009. "The calculus of piratical consent: the myth of the myth of social contract," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 139(3), pages 443-459, June.
  11. Posner, Richard A, 1980. "A Theory of Primitive Society, with Special Reference to Law," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(1), pages 1-53, April.
  12. Leeson Peter T. & Williamson Claudia R., 2009. "Anarchy and Development: An Application of the Theory of Second Best," The Law and Development Review, De Gruyter, vol. 2(1), pages 77-96, July.
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