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Utah uses Twitter to announce execution

Mark Shurtleff, attorney general of Utah, shows that he believes Twitter to be an appropriate way to announce his state has executed a convicted murderer.

This might incite an emotion or two. So I'll keep it simple. Or at least try.

The state of Utah believes it is an appropriate punishment for a convicted murderer to be executed. And Mark Shurtleff, Utah's attorney general, believes it is appropriate to announce the murderer's execution on Twitter.

At Twitter.com/MarkShurtleff, he offered his more than 7,000 followers tweets as to the progress of the state's most recent execution.

Thursday 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"

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

A few hours later he tweeted: "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 convicted murderer was Ronnie Lee Gardner. He was executed by firing squad. It was the first execution in Utah in 14 years. Gardner was sentenced for killing an attorney in 1985, while trying to escape from a courthouse.

The family of Michael Burdell, the attorney Gardner was convicted of killing, reportedly opposed Gardner's execution.

With Twitter being used for so many communications of an immediate nature, who can be surprised that an attorney general might choose to use it to communicate such, to him, and perhaps to the majority of Utahans, good news?

Shurtleff explained in a tweet after the event: "I believe in an informed public. As elected official I use social media to communicate directly with people."

What is perhaps most positive about the use of Twitter is that it leaves no doubt about the information and little doubt as to the animus of the person tweeting. There is a certain clarity and immediacy that other media might not offer. The tone of every word speaks loudly.

Did Shurtleff need to add the word "Justice" at the end of his tweet? He did. He wants you to know how he feels. He clearly chose Twitter over his Facebook page, where he posted yesterday about health care reform (yes, he is against it) but not about the execution.

But perhaps one slightly difficult aspect of Shurtleff's use of Twitter is that one tweet can be juxtaposed a little uncomfortably with another.

After tweeting about the execution, his next offering to his Twitter followers was: "WARNING! This page informs on real world of crime and punishment. "If u can't stand the TWEET, get out of the TWITCHEN" Harry Truman #utpol"