Utah Atty. Gen. Mark Shurtleff tweeted last week's execution of convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner. "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," Gardner wrote in one of his controversial tweets. On Faith panelist Mathew N. Schmalz characterized the tweets as "play-by-play commentary" and wrote that "tweeting death trivializes life."
Was the attorney general wrong to use the popular social media tool, or religious language, to describe an execution? With all our technology, are we losing sight of our humanity? Should matters of life and death be reduced to a tweet?
(PHOTO: The execution chamber at the Utah State Prison after Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad Friday, June 18, 2010.)
Sally Quinn and Jon Meacham on June 21, 2010 1:47 PM
The death of any human being is an awful thing. It is momentous and sacred. Reporting on it requires thought, compassion, and a human touch. This is why it was wrong for a government official to "tweet" the news of an execution.
Posted by John Mark Reynolds, on June 24, 2010 6:40 PM
Using 140 characters to announce the death of a human being by state decree is to deny the history, the philosophical, moral and legal complexities of the moment; it is to rush too fast past religious prohibitions against retribution and to evade alternative reasoning.
Posted by Valerie Elverton Dixon, on June 23, 2010 4:15 PM
Asking about the social etiquette of administering the death penalty is like inquiring after the etiquette surrounding rape or robbery with violence. What has happened to the conscience of a great nation with (some) deep Christian roots?
Posted by Nicholas T. Wright, on June 22, 2010 11:39 AM
This controversy is as irrelevant to the basic issue as all of the quibbling over whether a firing squad (in this case, the method selected by the prisoner according to Utah state law) is more barbaric than execution by lethal injection. Death is death. Killing is killing.
What's more moral--stealthily executing a condemned man in the dark of night to spare the sensibilities of a certain segment of society, or killing the man publicly to satisfy the blood lust of others? What's more honorable, a volunteer firing squad that shoots a convict, or a screaming mob of citizens that stone a half-buried prisoner?
Posted by Herb Silverman, on June 21, 2010 6:00 PM
Tweeting doesn't necessarily cheapen the message of the tweeter, but it sure does shorten it. Technology's capacity for immediacy is affecting us all, and producing an anxious, brittle and volatile culture.
Posted by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, on June 21, 2010 5:43 PM
An expression of contempt by Atty. Gen. Shurtleff for someone that society has asked him to kill (or play a big role in having killed) is a mere reflection of Shurtleff's humanity. He would have to believe that Gardner deserved to be executed or he could not carry out his job.
Posted by Ronald Rychlak, on June 21, 2010 4:56 PM
There is something very wrong with turning capital punishment into public spectacle, but without knowing what the state is actually doing in their name, people cannot make an informed decision on the righteousness of this ultimate sanction.
Perhaps the Attorney General should have thought more carefully about the appropriateness of dismissing a human life with a "tweet," but I am far more concerned that he spend more than 140 "bits" of his thinking on the moral reasoning behind capital punishment.
An execution is not a sporting event. It is not a sighting of Lindsay Lohan at the local Barney's. The attorney general's behavior is bluntly, shockingly thoughtless. Tweeting an execution? From a state official? What have we come to?
Posted by David Wolpe, on June 21, 2010 2:28 PM
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Navin1: It seems that the most solemn way to convey that the death sentence is being executed is by slow somber march. Reminds me of Kafka's the Emp...
cianwn: To me, these tweets are more evidence that the U.S. should join the rest of the modern world and abolish the death penalty.
This public of...