"I just gave the go ahead to Corrections Director to proceed with Gardner's execution. May God grant him the mercy he denied his victims."
The above statement, issued by Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff just before the execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner, seems rather innocuous. Most would call it a reasonable and respectful way for the Attorney General to announce impending execution convicted killer. But does the context change when the words are tweeted instead of spoken?
In a profound contrast of technology, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff announced the execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner on his twitter account, @MarkShurtleff, just before Gardner was executed by the firing squad at 12:15 a.m. Moments before the execution, Shurtleff tweeted "We will be streaming live my press conference as soon as I'm told Gardner is dead. Watch it at www.attorneygeneral.Utah.gov/live.html" he wrote. An hour earlier he tweeted: "A solemn day. Barring a stay by Sup Ct, & with my final nod, Utah will use most extreme power & execute a killer. Mourn his victims. Justice"
Shurtleff's tweets have sparked a debate between those who believe it is inappropriate and unprofessional to dispense sensitive information on Twitter and those who feel that Twitter is a legitimate method of communication for any kind of information. As more and more professionals use Twitter, a debate is taking shape as to when and where it is appropriate, if there are limitations at all.
Gizmodo.com wrote that Shurtleff demonstrated a complete lack of tact and respect as well as self-righteousness. Shurtleff responded to the criticism on Friday in an interview with the Associated Press: "Obviously they have the wrong idea about what it's about. They just feel Twitter is a frivolous play thing. I've never used it as a play thing....I was very careful in what I said. I wanted to express the somberness of the moment -- the mood. It was nothing that wasn't said in the press conference." Shurtleff went on to explain that despite speculation that he was in the prison when he sent the tweets, he was in fact 20 miles away at the Capitol.
On Saturday, Shurtleff once again took to Twitter, this time to comment on those who had criticized him: "Astonishing that no retweet whiner express outrage that Gardner shot 2 men in the face, & a cop; nor one word of empathy for their families."