Avani Mehta Sood, Psychology

‘Unpoisoning’ the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree:  Motivated Applications of the Exclusionary Rule

Wed, 02/22/2012
Noon, 438 Robertson Hall
Event Category: 
Graduate Students

Our next LEGS seminar will be on Wednesday, February 22, where Avani Mehta Sood will present '‘Unpoisoning’ the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree:  Motivated Applications of the Exclusionary Rule."

Abstract:  This paper describes experimental investigations of motivated reasoning in the application of a specific legal doctrine—the Exclusionary Rule—that restricts the admissibility of criminal evidence obtained through an illegal search.  Contrary to assumptions of the legal system, we found that the ways in which legal decision-makers applied the Rule depended, without their full awareness, on the retributive desire to punish.  Those who were judging a more morally serious offense were more motivated to punish the defendant, and were therefore significantly more likely to admit tainted evidence and invoke the “inevitable discovery” exception to the Exclusionary Rule in order to achieve their desired punishment outcomes within the terms of the law.  We discuss the legal and psychological implications of our findings."

Avani Mehta Sood is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology.  She received her B.A. degree in Psychology, summa cum laude, from Princeton University in 1999, and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 2003. After law school, Avani worked as a litigation associate at Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP; clerked for Judge Kimba M. Wood in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York; and worked as a Bernstein Fellow on international human rights projects in India and Kenya. Her current empirical research at Princeton focuses on the interplay between psychology and the law.

LEGS, or "Law-Engaged Graduate Students," meets during the academic year to discuss a work in progress by one of our Graduate Associates. Academic papers, dissertation proposals, and dissertation chapters have been presented at these meetings, to an audience of fellow graduate students.