America had 5th most executions of any nation in 2011, Amnesty International says

By: Associated Press
Austin American-Statesman
Monday, March 26, 2012

The United States was the only Western democracy that executed prisoners last year, even as an increasing number of U.S. states are moving to abolish the death penalty, Amnesty International said Monday.

America's 43 executions in 2011 ranked it fifth in the world in capital punishment, the rights group said in its annual review of worldwide death penalty trends, even though U.S. executions were down from 46 a year earlier.

"If you look at the company we're in globally, it's not the company we want to be in: China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq," said Suzanne Nossell, executive director of Amnesty International USA, citing the four nations with the most executions.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks U.S. trends, told The Associated Press that last year 78 prisoners received death sentences, down from an average of more than 300 annually a few years ago. "Executions peaked in 1999 at 98," he said. "By all measures, the death penalty is on the defensive."

Dieter attributed much of the decline to the introduction of DNA testing, which has exposed some mistaken convictions.

Texas accounted for nearly a third of all U.S. executions in 2011, with 13. Alabama had the second-most executions with six.