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Maybe the decision to take a human life deserves >140 characters?
June 19, 2010 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Utah Attorney General Announces Execution on Twitter. Today marked an evolution of sorts for Twitter. It’s no longer just for following your favorite celebrity rants or for informing your followers you’re having a ham sandwich or just took a shower. And self-promotion on Twitter seems so yesterday. Consider Friday’s tweets from Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. Around midnight, he tweeted that he’d given “the go ahead” to execute condemned inmate Ronnie Gardner.
posted by Fizz (84 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by icanbreathe at 7:27 AM on June 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Whoa. Death by firing squad. That just seems so odd. Tweeting about it is equally odd and I think that fella needs to learn some manners. What an asshole.
posted by madred at 7:27 AM on June 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


If I have to be executed I want to choose the firing squad. It seems like the most dramatic way to go.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:30 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


This was such a horrible story that I couldn't bring myself to coin a Twitter-based portmanteau for it.
posted by Stan Carey at 7:34 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


It’s no longer just for following your favorite celebrity rants or for informing your followers you’re having a ham sandwich or just took a shower.

I don't see the problem with tweeting about it. The problem is executing the dude in the first place, no?

Twitter's just a tool...it's as useful as you make it. As a late newcomer to it, I'm finding it a very powerful tool for keeping abreast of issues/news. The challenge is to find the signals from the noise. I'm amazed at the endless, useless hum from the ridiculously narcissistic, but there's a lot of good stuff there that gets channeled very effectively.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:34 AM on June 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


Textecution.
posted by Rat Spatula at 7:35 AM on June 19, 2010 [16 favorites]


I'm in Utah, and I understand that the state had to give the prisoner the option of Firing Squad because he was convicted before the law was changed.

I think it's disgusting that the AG would post this on Twitter. Does the AG have some kind of God Complex? If I had to be the person to give the 'go ahead' to have somebody executed I would be devestated that I was the one responsible for ending a life. A little humility would be a good thing in this situation.

Don't get me wrong, I'm for the Death Penalty. I just think we need to respect the fact that a life is ending. That the AG would "tweet" about something so important and serious seems callous and attention seeking.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:39 AM on June 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


self-promotion on Twitter seems so yesterday

I can't think of any better way to describe this then calling it self-promotion. It's self-promotion at the expense of someone's life, but the Utah Attorney General certainly isn't the first to do that. At least he was limited to 140 characters.
posted by Hoenikker at 7:40 AM on June 19, 2010


It’s no longer just for following your favorite celebrity rants or for informing your followers you’re having a ham sandwich or just took a shower.

It's never been that.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:40 AM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Than! I meant than! Oh comparative!
posted by Hoenikker at 7:42 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


--I don't see the problem with tweeting about it. The problem is executing the dude in the first place--

That.
posted by peacay at 7:45 AM on June 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


SUM1's gettin XeQshun 2day OMG
posted by spoobnooble at 7:47 AM on June 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


The death penalty is the one major issue I've switched on in my life (was pro, now anti). And looking at it from either side...this was gross and callous. Including a link to "my live press conference"?

Somehow the most galling thing to me is that "my." Like it's a variety show or something.
posted by JoanArkham at 7:49 AM on June 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


Today marked an evolution of sorts for Twitter. It’s no longer just for following your favorite celebrity rants or for informing your followers you’re having a ham sandwich or just took a shower.

Oh noes!

Rude, unlettered, unhip people with bad politics are using my favorite Internet-flavor-of-the-week to say things I don't like!

The party's over. Twitter totally sucks now [add cranky online-declinism boilerplate here]
posted by jason's_planet at 7:50 AM on June 19, 2010


If you're pro-death penalty, and this twittering bothers you, then you really, really need to examine your stance, one way or another.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:53 AM on June 19, 2010 [16 favorites]


Considering that not all that long ago people would turn up by the thousands to watch public executions, this strikes me as a wee bit of an overreaction.

Given that the whole death penalty apparatus exists and given the coexistence of Twitter, well, if you don't think the fact that you just gave the legal and solemn order to snuff a guy is worth a tweet then I'd have to wonder what is.
posted by localroger at 7:56 AM on June 19, 2010


I gave the go-ahead!
and then I made a tweet!
I'm the sickest sonofabitch!
you'd ever wanna meet!
I said "OK men, fire"!
(he'd chosen firing squad)
I'm the UTAH AG, see,
I'm like some kind of GOD!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:58 AM on June 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


Twitter has about 9 more months of relevance.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:59 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


...if you don't think the fact that you just gave the legal and solemn order to snuff a guy is worth a tweet then I'd have to wonder what is.

Death by firing squad. Worth a tweet.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:00 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I naive in thinking it should be 1 live round and 4 blanks? How do 4 live rounds and 1 blank give the illusion of denial for the shooters? "There's a 20% chance I didn't kill that person!"
posted by cavalier at 8:03 AM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


If I have to be executed I want to choose the firing squad. It seems like the most dramatic way to go.

It makes a statement. A violent, ugly death that doesn't give a sense of false peacefulness like lethal injection.
posted by Talez at 8:07 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The most important cultural change is not recent technology but making executions private rather than public...why not have them on Public TV, as in All Things Considered, etc so folks can see where their tax bucks are going. Like the good old days when crowds would gather around to be amused or feel good to see a head lopped off or a hanging in the public square?
We had standards back then. Now our executions are like our wars--hidden.
posted by Postroad at 8:09 AM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


140 bullets.
posted by Artw at 8:18 AM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


more than 1400 characters:

Gardner killed Salt Lake City bartender Melvyn Otterstrom during a botched robbery on October 9, 1984.[1] During his trial for the Otterstrom murder, Gardner attempted an escape from custody on April 2, 1985, killing attorney Michael Burdell in the process.[4][5] In June 1985, Gardner plead guilty to the murder of Otterstrom and received a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Ultimately sentenced to death on October 22, 1985 for the murder of Burdell, Gardner was allowed to select his method of execution — either lethal injection or firing squad.[1] Utah has since eliminated the firing squad option, but grandfathered the option for convicts such as Gardner, who were sentenced to death before its elimination.[3] Since 1976, only two other people have been executed by firing squad in the United States, both in Utah: Gary Gilmore and John Albert Taylor.[5]

On Tuesday June 15, 2010, Gardner ate a last meal of steak, lobster, apple pie, vanilla ice cream and 7-Up, before beginning a 48-hour fast while watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy and reading Divine Justice.[7] According to his lawyers, he had undertaken his fast for "spiritual reasons" (because of his "Mormon heritage", according to Gardner).[8][4] When asked if he had any last words, he responded, "I do not, no."[9]
posted by Hammond Rye at 8:21 AM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Am I naive in thinking it should be 1 live round and 4 blanks? How do 4 live rounds and 1 blank give the illusion of denial for the shooters? "There's a 20% chance I didn't kill that person!"

The problem is that the guy with a live round might not hit the heart perfectly, or it might misfire, leading to a botched attempt. The point isn't that the shooter thinks "odds are that I had a blank", it's that the shooter can say "I don't know that I killed him." Presumably if you're standing on the firing line, you're already at least somewhat okay that you're about to shoot someone.

I'm not really bothered by twittering this. Past a certain point of usage and acceptance, Twitter is just another media stream, and the AG's tweets were reasonably solemn about it. Most of the upset comes, I think, from a preconception that Twitter is for celebrities, teenagers and flash mob organizers, which makes announcing an execution feel weird.
posted by fatbird at 8:22 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Most of the upset comes, I think, from a preconception that Twitter is for celebrities...

I'm upset because a murderer like this mayor is given a voice. It's good that Twitter shows the obscenity of it all.
posted by bhnyc at 8:32 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


*Attorney General
posted by bhnyc at 8:33 AM on June 19, 2010


Twitter is just another media stream

Agreed, and I don't really have too much trouble with the first Tweet. The second one is using what is (at best) a solemn occasion to say "hey, come watch me on TV"!
posted by JoanArkham at 8:38 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can you imagine if he'd posted to Facebook? With a "Like" button?
posted by Nelson at 8:47 AM on June 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think it's a little gouache. Twitter only allows 140 characters, so his post comes off a bit flippant (to me) when we're talking about another human being's life.
posted by too bad you're not me at 8:51 AM on June 19, 2010


Does the AG have some kind of God Complex?

I'm in Utah too, and if I were the AG, I wouldn't want to do this privately. The State, and by extension the people, executed Ronnie Lee Gardner, and I would want the people who elected me to know when I was doing something this serious in their names. Whether the electorate is for or against the death penalty, they should know when it is being used. I think, in fact, that this shows great respect for the fact that the State is ending a life.
posted by rossmik at 9:01 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


An argument for why this isn't necessarily inappropriate for Twitter.

"In the end, this comes down to the usual bullshit combo of "[The current social media] is too frivolous to use for SRS BSNS" and "OMG HOW CAN HE BE PROUD OF SUCH A HORRID THING?" - which happens all the time, right and left. But if you're opposed to the death penalty, you probably are proud of doing things that more conservative folks are horrified by - does that mean you should shut up? Hell no. That's free speech. And if you're offended, you're not offended because of Twitter, you're offended because the guy said something offensive."
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 9:01 AM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm also a little perplexed by the 4 live rounds and one blank. Can't you tell from the recoil?
posted by rossmik at 9:03 AM on June 19, 2010


If I have to be executed I want to choose the firing squad. It seems like the most dramatic way to go.

Well yes, but you have to do it right. As they paint the target on your chest, and, having refused a blindfold, you have to ask for a Gitaine and then, with it in your mouth and with your hands tied, you curse God. That's how it's done properly.
posted by ob at 9:07 AM on June 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'd demand ED-209.
posted by Artw at 9:09 AM on June 19, 2010


Whoa. Death by firing squad. That just seems so odd.

IIRC it's something to do with Mormon theology; spilling your blood as a wicked sinner is more redeemy or something.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:11 AM on June 19, 2010


I'm also a little perplexed by the 4 live rounds and one blank. Can't you tell from the recoil?

Apparently the blanks used for this purpose aren't normal blanks where the slug is removed and the cartridge crimped shut, because yes, the feel is obviously different. Firing squad blanks have a wooden slug that disintegrates after coming out of the barrel, just so the shooter can't tell the difference. Or at least, that's one method of hiding the difference--I don't know how common it is, since executions by firing squad aren't all that common.
posted by fatbird at 9:12 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


>IIRC it's something to do with Mormon theology; spilling your blood as a wicked sinner is more redeemy or something.

Nah, it has nothing to do with Mormon theology (and "blood atonement," which the media are jumping all over).

Example:
The term refers to an arcane Mormon belief that a murderer must shed his own blood — literally — to be forgiven by God.
That's bull.

Actual teaching:
Thus, no “blood atonement” is required of us, since the sometimes necessary sacrifice of our lives has nothing to do with atonement of our sins. Only one infinite and eternal sacrifice could pay for sin, but God may still expect us to sacrifice our lives if the need should arise as we struggle to build up the kingdom of God on earth.
This is simply the media seizing on an awesome-sounding combination of words, a combination they're hoping will save them from having to explain Utah politics. :-)
posted by circular at 9:29 AM on June 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


FYI, murder is unlawful killing. Capital punishment is not pleasant, but it is legal there.

I didn't read that tweet as bragging, just an announcement of duty performed. All the OMGWTF reads to me like a 1920's version of "OMGWTF, telephone? What kind of sick barbarian doesn't use Western Union?"

Death by firing squad seems like a great way to go, if one has to make the choice. If I have to go out, might as well be with a cigarette in my mouth and a shit-ton of adrenalin.
posted by gjc at 9:44 AM on June 19, 2010


I twitter from funerals all the time. In fact, I tweeted my own father's death. From the onset of his cardiac arrest to his last breath. If I had a better way to communicate with my hundreds of friends, I would have, but Twitter was what I had.

I'm against the death penalty, but this tweet doesn't bother me. Maybe the last few weeks have desensitized me to the horrors of this world.
posted by ColdChef at 9:45 AM on June 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


fourcheesemac: "Twitter has about 9 more months of relevance."

Do you have a particular reason for believing this?
posted by brundlefly at 9:48 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, yeah I don't have a problem with this at all. I'm against the death penalty, but I don't see any difference between tweeting about it and making a press release. Different form, different medium, same purpose.
posted by brundlefly at 9:51 AM on June 19, 2010


I dunno brundlefly, back in June 2009 fourcheesemac gave Twitter six months to live. So the trend is encouraged.
posted by Nelson at 9:55 AM on June 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


I see the death penalty as an occasionally necessary evil. I'm not happy about it, and I could never give the order to end someone's life myself. I think that it was inexcusably inconsiderate and disrespectful of human life to announce something as serious as ending someone's life, for any reason, on a piece of social media most often used for expressing incoherent "thoughts" about celebs and #topicofthemoment.
posted by Night_owl at 9:56 AM on June 19, 2010


I think it's OK to Twitter your decision proceed with an execution if you end that Twitter post with "kthnxbye!!"
posted by zzazazz at 9:56 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm glad the firing squad is still in use. No one should be able to forget that the death penalty is the state killing a restrained human being.

I used to wish that the people who sentenced the convicted person and denied his or her appeals would have to do the actual killing. Would it be as easy for Scalia to pretty much say "too bad, so sad, not!" on every proof of innocence or ineffective counsel or prosecutorial misconduct case he sees if it meant he would literally get blood on his hands? But I can picture someone like Shurtleff tweeting "I hit that sonofabitch right between the eyes, LOL!"

I hope I live to see the day people start to realize how fucking barbaric it is that we still do this--to anyone, not just people who might be innocent.

For Gardner: .

For Otterstrom and Burdell: . .
posted by sallybrown at 9:59 AM on June 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


Twitter has about 9 more months of relevance.

I think I may be eating some tasty claim chowder in about 9 months, but I guess we'll see.
posted by pts at 10:02 AM on June 19, 2010


jimmythefish: “I don't see the problem with tweeting about it. The problem is executing the dude in the first place, no?”

ColdChef: “I'm against the death penalty, but this tweet doesn't bother me. Maybe the last few weeks have desensitized me to the horrors of this world.”

brundlefly: “Also, yeah I don't have a problem with this at all. I'm against the death penalty, but I don't see any difference between tweeting about it and making a press release. Different form, different medium, same purpose.”

Well, this has been making the internet rounds since it happened, and I have to say that my own reaction has been that the tweet everybody's freaking out about isn't so bad. He basically just announces what's happened, and it's pretty matter-of-fact; I honestly question his motivation for this tweet (he knew it would be sensationalistic, doubtless, and probably did it for the publicity) but at least it doesn't really contain anything, content-wise, that sets off my creepy alarms.

It doesn't actually get awful and wrong until the second tweet, the one where he's all "Guy's gonna be dead soon! Watch my press conference! Here's a link!" That is self-promotion at an inappropriate time. He even calls it "my press conference." Ugh.
posted by koeselitz at 10:12 AM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Blood atonement.

Mormon religious belief and many others also state that a murderers blood should spill to the ground.

Hence the firing squad.
posted by pianomover at 10:16 AM on June 19, 2010


Twitter has about 9 more months of relevance.

You have spawned a child who will exit the womb clothed in battle armor and fight the Evil Twitter and destroy it once and for all? That's totally crazy.
posted by ORthey at 10:18 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would have preferred "Utah Attorney General Announces Execution of Twitter."

"I just gave the go ahead to Joe Lieberman to proceed with Twitter's execution. May God grant Twitter the mercy it denied its victims."

"We will be streaming live my press conference as soon as I'm told Twitter is dead. Watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J---aiyznGQ (SLYT)."
posted by stringbean at 10:18 AM on June 19, 2010


Nobody ever reads all the comments in a thread, do they?
posted by fixedgear at 10:20 AM on June 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


For those who prefer execution by firing squad, note that this is not your grandpa's firing squad. posted by swift at 10:27 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not if pianomover's comment is anything to go by.
posted by boo_radley at 10:30 AM on June 19, 2010


Dag nabbit I missed that one. Echo
posted by pianomover at 10:41 AM on June 19, 2010


So shoot me.
posted by pianomover at 10:41 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know what's weird to me? This guy committed murder in 1984. He's been on death row for 26 years.

1984 was the same year the Apple II came out. Try to imagine the timeline of the evolution of computer technology leading up to this in the context of this dude sitting in jail waiting for "justice" to be served. The Apple II to Twitter and everything in between. That's everything we've accomplished as a species while sitting around saying we're gonna have our revenge on this dude in a cell.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:43 AM on June 19, 2010 [21 favorites]


> I'm glad the firing squad is still in use. No one should be able to forget that the death penalty is the state killing a restrained human being.

I agree. Lethal injection might actually cause more pain than a firing squad. The notion that it is somehow a kinder and more gentle way for the state to kill someone is kind of laughable.


"My impression is that lethal injection as practiced in the US now is no more humane than the gas chamber or electrocution, which have both been deemed inhumane"

posted by Burhanistan at 10:58 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


This guy committed murder in 1984. He's been on death row for 26 years.

That has always stunned me too. Usually people think in terms of punishing a murderer by either a term of life imprisonment or execution. In the USA, they often get both.
posted by binturong at 11:00 AM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


A.G. Mark Shurtleff loves to make a scene. He's brandished a sword at news conferences, more than once. His lack of decorum for the execution of a murderer was most likely overridden by his thirst for self-promotion. LOOK AT ME MAKE HISTORY ON TWITTER!!
posted by pashdown at 11:08 AM on June 19, 2010


So who was liblering during or around the time of the linked AG announcement?
posted by christopherious at 11:19 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


How did swift get a hold of my Friday night checklist?
posted by dr_dank at 11:22 AM on June 19, 2010


Yeah, like Postroad says, our executions shouldn't be hidden away from us. They should be twittered, live-blogged, youtubed, MeFied, CSPANed, Hulued, netflixed, podcast, newspapered, torrented, shrink-wrapped and endcapped, and maximum exposured.

Let's not hide who we are.

A couple of days prior to the execution, CNN ran a story about the process, which closed like this:
The marksmen fire from a distance of 25 feet. The inmate is blindfolded, strapped to a chair and a target pinned to his chest.
Which seemed ludicrous and I wondered, "Where else would they pin it?" and then I imagined how they could make it more ludicrous.
The inmate is blindfolded, strapped to a chair a target pinned to his chest and a sad clown mask affixed to his face.
That would be TV worth watching.
posted by notyou at 11:29 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actual teaching:

Meaning no offense, but formal doctrine offered by any church need not conform very well to dogma as understood by many members of that faith, and with the LDS church more than most hierarchical churches, formal doctrine now might not match up very well to formal doctrine in place when the firing squad was instituted as a means of execution in Utah.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:46 AM on June 19, 2010


pianomover: “So shoot me.”

"Don't shoot! I'm just the pianomover!"
posted by koeselitz at 11:53 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meaning no offense, but formal doctrine offered by any church need not conform very well to dogma as understood by many members of that faith
No offense taken, just thought I'd clarify. You didn't sound too sure about it anyway, but now you sound more sure.
and with the LDS church more than most hierarchical churches
[citation needed] ...I mean, really?
formal doctrine now might not match up very well to formal doctrine in place when the firing squad was instituted as a means of execution in Utah.
There isn't, and wasn't any formal doctrine on it. The only canon you'll find, now and then, on blood atonement is regarding the atonement of Jesus Christ. The link I posted simply clarifies that. History clarifies that.

No offense, but I believe this is undocumented conjecture on your part. If you think I'm missing some piece of evidence, please put it on the table and I'll give it a look-see.
posted by circular at 12:55 PM on June 19, 2010


But isn't the usual Christian position on atonement that human beings are incapable of it and that atonement is solely through the blood of Christ?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:57 PM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Imagine being strapped down in the execution chamber, clock is ticking down to midnight, waiting for the @Governor to grant #clemency
posted by wcfields at 1:01 PM on June 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


But isn't the usual Christian position on atonement that human beings are incapable of it and that atonement is solely through the blood of Christ?
Yes, thank you. That's the LDS position too.
posted by circular at 1:08 PM on June 19, 2010


To clarify: Here's more information on blood atonement, from an LDS source.

Note: The original blood atonement controversy concerns the assertion that the LDS church favored extra-legal killings. That may be confusing in light of the fact that the current situation is completely in the lap of government.

Currently blood atonement as discussed in the news is raised as the reason that Utah, a Mormon state, still has the firing squad option.

There is no evidence for this, be it concerning Utah, Idaho, or Oklahoma (states with the firing squad), and LDS church doctrine does not teach anything singling out firing squads or any other unusual things as meet for capital punishment. Thinking about that makes me giggle, by the way

It may also help to get a broader view of the history of firing squads.
posted by circular at 1:17 PM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Considering that not all that long ago people would turn up by the thousands to watch public executions, this strikes me as a wee bit of an overreaction.

It's crass. He uses it as an opportunity to grandstand. He talks about the solemnity of the day, then talks about the victims as if he's campaigning for office or something. The death penalty itself has some troubling moral implications, but ideally it shouldn't be about creating martyrs out of victims and ignoring the very serious decision that is being made, to take someone's life. I find it repulsive that he cannot find any words for the man about to be executed. I mean, it doesn't matter, he can do what he wants; but it just says a lot about a person that he can be charged with the responsibility of sending a man to death on behalf of an entire state, and yet fail to recognize the gravity of the situation.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:51 PM on June 19, 2010


our executions shouldn't be hidden away from us. They should be twittered, live-blogged, youtubed, MeFied, CSPANed, Hulued, netflixed, podcast, newspapered, torrented, shrink-wrapped and endcapped, and maximum exposured.

Agreed, although I'm not sure footage of the execution should be broadcast. The bloodthirsty nature of audiences for public executions elsewhere (Chop Chop Square, witchhunts, lynchings, et al) is not something we want to encourage. Putting an announcement like this on twitter, though, gets the news out to a whole cohort who might not have seen the coverage of the executions in the Utah press and, hopefully, gets this new audience thinking, "Whoa...they still do executions?! By firing squad?! With a target hung on the guy's chest?! And it's just done so matter-of-factly?! Oh my..."
posted by msbrauer at 3:14 PM on June 19, 2010


[citation needed] ...I mean, really?

I think it is fair to say that the LDS church changes doctrine and/or governance matters rather more frequently than the Roman Catholic church or the various Orthodox churches, yes. The most obvious examples would be the abandonment of polygamy and allowing blacks into the priesthood, both since 1890.

I didn't mean to imply that there's necessarily anything wrong with changing doctrine or practice, and certainly nonhierarchical protestant churches do it with great frequency, but it does mean that doctrine or practice now in the LDS church is less likely to be congruent to what doctrine or practice was whenever the institution of the firing squad was than would be the case if we were talking about predominantly Catholic or Orthodox polities.

No offense, but I believe this is undocumented conjecture on your part.

If we believe the quote from Doctrines of Salvation on wikipedia, Joseph Fielding Smith said in 1954, while he would have sat on the Quorum of 12 Apostles:

[T]he founders of Utah incorporated in the laws of the Territory provisions for the capital punishment of those who wil[l]fully shed the blood of their fellow men. This law, which is now the law of the State, granted unto the condemned murderer the privilege of choosing for himself whether he die by hanging, or whether he be shot, and thus have his blood shed in harmony with the law of God; and thus atone, so far as it is in his power to atone, for the death of his victim. Almost without exception the condemned party chooses the latter death. This is by authority of the law of the land, not that of the Church.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:33 PM on June 19, 2010


MarkShurtleff 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.



MarkShurtleff 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


Dignified. Somber.

I don't know folks. I'm pretty old, but I don't think this medium is meant to be those.
posted by Trochanter at 4:37 PM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Utah has nine inmates on Death Row; at least two have also selected the firing squad. Utah used to offer a beheading option in the late 1800s, but no one selected it. Bullet holes are visible in this photo (no body or blood) of the execution chamber at the Utah State Prison after Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed. People who participated in the execution will get a commemorative coin.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:09 PM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meaning no offense, but formal doctrine offered by any church need not conform very well to dogma as understood by many members of that faith,

It may still have some currency in FLDS sects, but overall, my experience over decades with the LDS church and its members is that relatively few are even aware of the blood atonement doctrine, and fewer believe in it. I think it's pretty accurate to say that among both the current membership and leadership hierarchy, this is now considered a non-canonical and fringe belief.

and with the LDS church more than most hierarchical churches, formal doctrine now might not match up very well to formal doctrine in place when the firing squad was instituted as a means of execution in Utah.

"Formality" can be a difficult standard in particular for the period of Mormon history we're talking about, but this is otherwise a credible statement. From everything I've read, there was a time (under Jedediah Grant and Brigham Young and to some extent after their respective deaths, while Utah was more or less a theocracy) when the belief was, if not completely canonical, much more widespread among both leadership and general membership, apparently widespread enough that it was practiced both in connection with civil law and as a purported factor in some other killings. There was a big pullback in 1889, though, even before the drubbing by the U.S. government led to the complete dismantling of the Mormon theocracy, and a repudiation in the 1970s where it was not only renounced, a lot of previous statements were reinterpreted in an effort to attenuate any lingering belief based on cultural inertia.

It's probably clear I don't agree with circular (at least to the extent that the perspective he's representing is that this stuff simply isn't part of LDS history), but I do think it's worth saying that there are some confounding factors that make it a bit difficult to say that all of Utah's firing squad killings exist because of the religious history. The origins of the practice were from a time where it would seem to have been widely accepted as a method of execution. And there's some historical work that alleges that firing squads may not have been considered as "good enough" to invoke blood atonement. And then there's the fact it took almost 30 years after its religious repudiation to be similarly repudiated in a civil context, which makes it seem likely there have since been other cultural factors (perhaps conservative politics and western/frontier cultural remnants) at work in drawing it out up until the last few years.

But all told, it does seem credible enough to say that there's a period of time in between there where civil practice of firing squad execution was encouraged / drawn out by LDS religious influences.

I don't know that this is particularly to the shame of Utah so much as Shurtleff's anti-gravitas treatment. I can believe in the concept of capital crimes, and in a state that deals capital punishment with extreme restraint and care, administered by people who understand this is heavy stuff. I'm bothered when we don't seem to live up to that standard. I'm less bothered that not everyone has tried to pretend that when we execute people, we're just humanely putting them to sleep.

(I do recognize that some massively inhumane methods like breaking on the wheel or drawing and quartering or even hanging and electrocution are terrible enough that there's room for some discussion about the relative merits of various approaches. I'm just not sure the distance between firing squad and lethal injection is big enough that the former is clearly more barbaric. But then again, given a choice, I'd probably pick massive narcotics overdose over being shot in the chest.)
posted by weston at 9:31 PM on June 19, 2010


People who participated in the execution will get a commemorative coin.

This country scares the shit out of me sometimes.
posted by pianoboy at 10:02 PM on June 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


This country scares the shit out of me sometimes.

Seriously. A commemorative coin, wtf? Are we in a George Saunders novel?
posted by salvia at 10:27 PM on June 19, 2010


Shurtleff is sort of the Glen Beck of attorney generals.
posted by mecran01 at 10:37 PM on June 19, 2010


If executions were broadcast they would be the most highly rated things on TV and most of you would be even more appalled to find out what Americans like. Would probably lead to even more executions because, hey, whatever gets ratings...

My personal feeling is if you're talking about a guy who murdered two people, managed to stall his execution for 26 years, and then tried to make the argument that it had been too long since the crime for his execution to have a retributive effect, frankly, who cares where they announce it.

More than the stupid tweeting crap, I think the most interesting aspect is that the original death penalty jury says they would not have given him death if life w/out parole had been an option. But it wasn't. So they did.

Seems people think this AG and the people who get the commemorative coins, etc. are the aberrations in the country and should be regarded as some sort of throwback savages or something. Travel around. They are the norm. They are everything between the coasts. They don't think you're being humane; they think you're being soft. They're wrong; but they are close to the majority. Just wait...your executions on TV might get here yet...
posted by umberto at 6:56 AM on June 20, 2010


Unless you want to take the quantum connection view, information does not have a direct connection to its origin. In the same way that we still use medical knowledge gained from murders, stolen bodies, Nazi experimentation, etc. ... the information shared on Twitter is still just the information itself, of the scheduled execution.

You can fault the way the information was shared, and you can fault the fact that the execution is scheduled, but you can't really merge the two all that effectively or logically.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 9:57 AM on June 20, 2010


You can abhor them both...
posted by Trochanter at 1:48 PM on June 20, 2010


I have no issue with that at all, other than the fact that a killer gets top media billing for a couple of days.
posted by loathepiety at 12:34 PM on June 23, 2010


Outside the prison walls, Gardner’s family played “Free Bird” on the car stereo.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:35 PM on June 24, 2010


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