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Published January 01, 2012, 06:13 PM

Texas remains No. 1 in executions

FORT WORTH, Texas _ With six executions scheduled for the first three months of 2012 _ and more than twice as many executions as any other state last year _ Texas continues to continue leading the nation in executions.

FORT WORTH, Texas _ With six executions scheduled for the first three months of 2012 _ and more than twice as many executions as any other state last year _ Texas continues to continue leading the nation in executions.

Despite dropping to a 15-year low in 2011, Texas continues to lead the nation in the number of executions with 13 even as questions are raised nationwide about the wrongful conviction of inmates and petitions call on the U.S. to abolish capital punishment. Last year, 43 prisoners were executed nationwide.

"Clearly, Texas is known as the capital of capital punishment," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center.

"Ultimately, this stems from strong public support for the death penalty in Texas," he said. "In almost every other state, the death penalty is used more selectively, more cautiously and with greater protections for defendants."

Alabama, which had the second-most executions, put six to death in 2011. Other states with more than one execution were Ohio with five, Georgia and Arizona each with four, and Oklahoma, Florida and Mississippi each with two, center statistics show.

The numbers are down from 2010, when there were 46 executions nationwide (17 in Texas) and from 2009, when there were 52 (24 in Texas), according to the center.

"Executions have dropped by about 50 percent since the late 1990s," Dieter said. "With a growing concern about whether some of those convicted are actually innocent, jurors, prosecutors, judges and legislators (are) more cautious about the use of the death penalty."

That gives some hope to opponents of capital punishment that Texas and other states at some point will end executions.

"I think that we are in the very beginning phases in Texas of the end of the death penalty," said Rick Halperin, the coordinator of Amnesty International's campaign against state death penalties. "It won't happen in this state anytime soon, but we are reaching a point where, sooner or later, it is going to end."

Texas has executed more people than any other state _ 477 since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. The states closest to Texas in total number of executions are Virginia, with 109, and Oklahoma, with 96, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

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