Utah’s Attorney General Tweets a Death

Yesterday, Utah’s Attorney General, Mark Shurtleff, used his Twitter account, to notify the world that he had OK-ed the execution of a prisoner.

“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 Tweet elicited some shock and moral outrage. Any shock I initially felt was, I think, more due to this announcement being made via a medium better known for less life-altering announcements, like personal lunch menus and the unboxing of electronics.

The issue here is less one of the capital punishment’s morality – Twitter is not responsible for the decisions made by representatives of the state of Utah – and more the way this public servant chose to use the service. The tone of Attorney General Shutleff’s subsequent Tweets seem strident and unprofessional. All other things being equal, that is any Twitter user’s right. But not if you are representing your government, your state and its people. Then, it strikes a terribly discordant note, as the Tweets below mightillustrate.

The first Tweet comes off flippant and the second angry. Neither is appropriate when juxtaposed with the murder of one man – a police officer – and the execution of another. If I were Governor and this man were my AG, the very least I’d do would be to take away a Twitter account he clearly is not responsible enough to use.

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