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Texas still leads in U.S. executions

  |   Jan. 1, 2012 at 4:45 PM
WASHINGTON, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- The Death Penalty Information Center says Texas, which led the nation in executions last year, is still "the capital of capital punishment."

Texas, which has set six executions for the first three months of 2012, conducted 13 out of the nation's 43 executions despite international outcries against capital punishment and questions concerning wrongful convictions of inmates and a sometimes recalcitrant judicial system, the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram reported.

The number of people executed in Texas represented a 15-year low for a state known for supporting capital punishment.

"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.

"The high number of death sentences ... [has] led to the high number of executions. Ultimately, this stems from strong public support for the death penalty in Texas," Dieter said.

"In almost every other state, the death penalty is used more selectively, more cautiously and with greater protections for defendants."

At its peak in recent years, Texas executed 40 inmates in 2000. Since then, the number has fluctuated, the Star-Telegram said Saturday.

"It's clear that people are troubled by the possibility of incarcerating or possibly executing innocent people," said Rick Halperin, the Amnesty International state death penalty abolition coordinator.

"Some day we will look back and shake our heads that we thought this was the best we could do -- kill people," Halperin said.

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