Opinion | Was the Alex Murdaugh Guilty Verdict Too Hasty?

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To the Editor:

Re “Murdaugh’s Quick Conviction Worries Me,” by Farhad Manjoo (column, March 4):

Mr. Manjoo is concerned that the jury took only three hours to convict Alex Murdaugh of murdering his wife and son. I tried over 100 jury trials as a California prosecutor and can safely say no one can predict how long a jury will deliberate.

Mr. Manjoo wonders how the jury could have reviewed the trove of digital data so quickly. Well, the O.J. Simpson jurors reviewed complex DNA evidence and reached a verdict in less than four hours.

Mr. Manjoo is also off base in saying there was little forensic evidence to tie Mr. Murdaugh to the crime. One type of forensic evidence was very damning. Although the murder weapons were never found, the experts said that shell casings found at the murder scene came from the same gun that was fired at other locations on the family property. The Murdaughs owned such a weapon.

Finally, the circumstantial evidence did not point at Alex Murdaugh; it engulfed him. There was no other reasonable interpretation. Because of all of Mr. Murdaugh’s financial crimes, and multiple lies given to investigators, jurors were entitled to reject his testimony entirely.

Without a credible explanation to establish a defense, the jurors followed the law and convicted Mr. Murdaugh. It was not even close.

Greg Jacobs
Sebastopol, Calif.

To the Editor:

I might be more inclined to agree with Farhad Manjoo had the defendant not testified. When he did, the sole issue became his credibility.

As a former prosecutor, I learned that a Monday morning quarterback is not the equivalent of a juror, who is in the courtroom, facing the defendant, observing his every move daily for weeks from his entrance to his exit from the courtroom. The jurors, as some have revealed, clearly based their verdict on six weeks of observation and judgment of the credibility of the star witness.

Had the defendant not testified or had they been on the fence about his credibility, the column would be more apt.

Deborah K. Greenberg
Richmond, Va.

To the Editor:

Re “Footnotes: True Crime Addicts” (Sunday Opinion, March 5):

This commentary asks the wrong question about the Alex Murdaugh trial, “one of the most closely followed stories in the country.” Instead of asking, “Why are we so obsessed with these stories?,” it should have asked, “Why did the media choose to spend so much time on it?”

Why not more coverage of poverty in America, gross income inequality, the quality of American health care, the lack of decent housing that Americans can actually afford?

Maurice Wolfthal

Regulating A.I.: The U.S. Needs to Act

To the Editor:

Re “A.I. Regulation Can Be Puzzle to Lawmakers” (front page, March 4):

The recent coverage of Washington’s response to artificial intelligence is a welcome shift toward an overdue policy debate. But the challenge ahead is not so much about educating lawmakers about new technology — technologies are always changing — as it is about establishing the necessary safeguards to protect the public.

At the Center for A.I. and Digital Policy, we have closely examined A.I. policies and practices around the world. Europe has taken the lead with the proposed European Union A.I. act. The Council of Europe is drafting the first global convention on A.I.

UNESCO, with widespread global support, is beginning the implementation of the Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. China is moving forward with both an aggressive research agenda and a comprehensive regulatory strategy. Most countries have established national A.I. strategies.

In contrast, the absence of a coherent national policy for A.I. in the United States is striking. While President Biden has taken several steps to promote cooperation among democratic nations on A.I. policy and establish rules to govern A.I., Congress appears to be taking a wait-and-see attitude, holding closed-door meetings without public hearings that could explore the challenges ahead.

This strategy poses a real risk to principles of fairness and accountability, public safety and national security. Lawmakers need to act now to protect the public from the dangers of unregulated A.I.

We need to prioritize laws that promote algorithmic transparency and limit algorithmic bias. We need to ensure fairness, accountability and traceability across the A.I. life cycle. With A.I.’s ability to amplify risk to a catastrophic scale, waiting until harms emerge may be too late.

Marc Rotenberg
Merve Hickok
Mr. Rotenberg is president and founder of the Center for A.I. and Digital Policy, a global research organization. Ms. Hickok is the chair and research director of the center.

To the Editor:

I have seen much consternation about the recent advent of A.I. language simulators and their negative effects on reading and writing instruction.

Let me offer a different perspective: We can now generate pieces of any length, at any level, in any style, on any subject. At will.

To all my fellow educators who have had 12-year-olds with a fascination for a Hertzsprung-Russell diagram plotting stars and could find them nothing to read: Our prayers have been answered.

Andrew Ridge
West Hartford, Conn.
The writer is a sixth-grade teacher.

Appreciating Joe Biden: ‘I Can Go Days Without Thinking About Him’

To the Editor:

Re “What Biden Has Going for Him in 2024,” by Ezra Klein (column, Feb. 19):

My favorite thing about Joe Biden’s presidency is the decreased urgency I feel about reading the news. When Mr. Biden’s predecessor was in office, every day felt like a new precipice on a new civic cataclysm, and every outrage felt like a challenge to our collective moral conscience and to the rule of law. My news consumption was at an all-time high, but living that way was absolutely exhausting.

My favorite thing about President Biden is that I can go days without thinking about him. My news consumption has dwindled from hours to minutes. And I now have the bandwidth to pursue and enjoy other things.

What most alarms me right now is the creeping awareness that the American people tend not to notice the good until it is gone. Many if not most of us will not fully appreciate just how effective Mr. Biden has been and how much of our own lives he has given back to us until we take stock of any eventual successor — either in the form of a Republican provocateur who riles us up or a Democratic heir who proves nowhere near as up to the challenge of holding the Democratic coalition and the country together.

Michael Way
Richmond, Va.

My Espresso Maker’s Loyalty Program

To the Editor:

Re “Food Chains Raise Price of Loyalty” (Business, March 3):

In the face of ever-rising prices and higher bars to get free food and drink through loyalty programs, perhaps more people would consider becoming loyal to themselves, learning to prepare their own victuals?

I am loyal to my simple espresso maker, and it rewards me with a tasty triple espresso every morning. Yes, it takes a few minutes to prepare, but my out-of-pocket cost is a few bucks every two or three weeks for a 10-ounce vacuum-sealed package of espresso roast coffee. And there are fewer credit card transactions to verify every month.

Ben Myers
Harvard, Mass.

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