Thomas Sowell: The Scott Peterson murder trial is more than a single criminal case. It is a painful reflection on the media, on the law, and on where our society has gone.

The 24/7 coverage of this case, which seems to have been going on forever, has been inescapable for anyone who watches television news to follow what has been happening in the world at large. Even when there has not been a speck of new information about the Peterson case, TV news has broadcast all sorts of speculations about what the prosecution, the defense, the jurors, or the judge might be thinking.

Worse yet, the law itself has turned the trial into a soap opera, even after the jury reached a verdict of guilty, by subjecting the court to an emotional orgy of testimony by the parents of the murdered woman and by Scott Peterson’s mother, tearfully pleading for her son’s life.

Why has our law degenerated into such wrenching spectacles, which have nothing to do with justice? Does not the very fact that there are laws against murder on the books presume that both the murder victim and their loved ones have been wronged? Do we need the victim’s mother to confirm what the law already presumes?

Does anyone doubt that a mother does not want to see her son executed? Must she and jurors both be reduced to tears over something too obvious to require proof? What is accomplished by putting everyone through an emotion wringer, except to generate material for the media?

It is more than enough to take people out of their homes and jobs for months to serve on juries, in order to determine innocence or guilt. Why needlessly subject them to the strain of spending still more time going through the process of determining something that a judge can determine without them — namely the sentence?

Is there a speck of evidence that sentences are more just, or more widely accepted, as a result of putting laymen through an emotional wringer doing something that a judge — a trained and experienced legal professional — can do without them?

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