Executions in U.S. Down by 22% in 2001

Oklahoma Put the Most Convicts to Death

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WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 9, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The number of executions in the United States fell by 22% last year, says a study by the U.S. Death Penalty Information Center.

A total of 66 individuals were executed in 2001, compared with 85 the previous year.

Oklahoma was at the top of the list with 18 executions, displacing its neighbor Texas. For the past five years, Texas had the highest number of executions; the state executed 17 people in 2001.

In third place was Missouri, where seven individuals were given a lethal injection. North Carolina is in fourth place, with five executions, and Georgia is fifth, with four executions.

According to the study, a series of legislative changes in the United States has contributed to the restriction of capital punishment.

In 2001, laws were enacted in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Missouri and North Carolina to end the execution of mentally retarded people. And almost all the 38 states that allow capital punishment took measures to protect those who might be wrongfully convicted and condemned.

Since 1973, a total of 99 people have been exonerated from capital punishment in the United States, following subsequent evidence of their innocence, the center reports.

In 2001, five people were found to be innocent and removed from death row. A new case was reported Jan. 3, when Juan Melendez was released after spending 17 years in death row in Florida.

Melendez was condemned to death in 1994 for the 1983 murder of Delber Bakerel, owner of a cosmetics laboratory. During a retrial in December, one of the witnesses retracted his statements. It also became clear that there were no physical evidence linking Melendez to the crime.

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