Texas death chamber execution gurney. (credit: AP)

Texas death chamber execution gurney. (credit: AP)

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – According to a new Amnesty International report, the United States can count itself among the top five countries in the world that carry out executions.

In this region, the USA has a very dubious distinction. “The only country in the Americas that carried out an execution last year,” explained Brian Evans, interim Director of the Death Penalty Abolition Campaign for Amnesty International USA.

The United States carried out a total of 43 executions in 2012, which was the same number carried out in 2011. “In terms of known executions, that puts the United States in 5th place, behind China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and ahead of Yemen,” Evans said.

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Three quarters of all executions in the U.S. occurred in only four states: Texas, Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma. In 2011, 13 Texas prisoners were put to death; that number increased last year. Evans said, “Texas had 15 executions, which would put them in 8th place if they were a separate country in the world — between Sudan and Afghanistan.”

The number of death sentences carried out in the Lone Star State are expected to be even higher in 2013, with some 12 executions scheduled over the next four months. But even those numbers would be down from the record 40 lethal injections performed in the year 2000.

The Amnesty International report sites an overall decline in the use of the death penalty and outright abolition of the punishment in some states. Evans said another contributing factor for fewer death sentences is the expanded use of DNA and juries now receiving the option of handing down sentences of life with the possibility of parole.

Amnesty also noted that Americans are becoming more concerned about the discriminatory application of the death penalty and its possible use on someone who has been wrongfully convicted – with nearly three dozen exonerations occurring in Dallas County alone.

While all executions carried out in the United States were done by lethal injection, other methods for the 682 executions known to have been carried out worldwide included hanging, beheading and firing squad.

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