The sensitive prosecutor: Emotional experiences of prosecutors in managing criminal proceedings

Shira Leiterdorf-Shkedy, Tali Gal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For over three decades, therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ) has produced rich scholarship highlighting the inseparable connection between law and personal wellbeing. Only recently, however, have TJ scholars begun to explore the influence that the law has on those practicing it. The current research aims to contribute to this developing area of study. It explores the “emotional map” of public prosecutors in relation to defendants and crime victims, their awareness to these emotions and the impact that these emotions have on their professional decisions. The research involves in-depth interviews with 14 public prosecutors handling criminal cases in Israeli courts. The qualitative, phenomenological analysis of the documented interviews revealed three exposure levels in which interviewees discussed the emotional aspects of their work. The tension between resisting emotions and accepting them was lurking upon each one of the subjects. Their descriptions of specific raw emotions emerged at the deepest level of exposure, and at that level, anger was the most prominent emotion. Our findings raise some skepticism regarding the prosecutor image as a completely rational and provide the insight that prosecutors’ emotional world is boiling underneath the surface. Moreover, the exposure of the continuous tension between acceptance and rejection of emotions provides an explanation for the prosecutors’ difficulty in acknowledging their emotions in full. This tension negatively impacts the prosecutors’ personal and professional lives in ways that resemble psychological symptoms of secondary trauma. The findings may contribute to the development of a “knowledge base” of emotional experiences of prosecutors that could enable the creation of models for regulating and managing emotions of legal agents, for the benefit of litigants, legal agents, and the legal process more broadly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-17
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Law and Psychiatry
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


  • Anger
  • Emotions
  • Prosecutors
  • Qualitative research
  • Secondary trauma
  • Therapeutic jurisprudence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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