How To Tweet An Execution

Early Friday morning, just after midnight, convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner, was executed by the State of Utah — by firing squad. That hasn’t happened for 14 years in the US.

Before and after the execution, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff gave updates on the proceedings. That’s standard procedure, but in what might be a first, Shurtleff tweeted those updates.

Here’s a tweet he sent out just before the execution:

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

And two that Shurtleff tweeted afterward:

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.

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

Whether you think it’s right or not, it’s definitely something to discuss. Is anything ever too sacred, or solemn, or serious to be tweeted?

A few weeks ago, at the funeral of civil rights icon Dorothy Height, several news reporters, from respected news outlets across the country, live-tweeted the event from the church pews they were sitting in. Is that really OK?

The New Yorker followed a fictitious man’s tweets from his wedding in a hilarious piece this past April.

And if you google “what/when not to tweet” you’ll see that a lot of folks have specific rules on when Tweetdeck should be put away for a while.

But I doubt those humorous warnings will work. We should not expect this to stop. If social media has taught us anything over the last few years, it’s that we can over share, and over share frequently, abundantly and often inappropriately.

Oh, and that Utah Attorney General? Here’s what he tweeted just before his series of execution updates — a retweet:

mikelee2010 Tomorrow is the last day 4 Early Voting so be sure to vote today! Locations http://www.mikelee2010.com/earlyvoting #utpol

There is obviously no official rulebook for Twitter.

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