Sunday, May 05, 2002

NYTimes takes a look at the Lone Star state's attempt to take back it's crown.

Executions in Texas Up Sharply After Lull free reg. req.

After a sharp decline in executions last year, Texas appears likely to become the nation's death penalty capital again. This month alone, seven of its prisoners are to be put to death, a number that would have been eight except that the United States Supreme Court granted one a late reprieve on Wednesday.

Texas has accounted for 10 of the 23 executions carried out across the country this year, and in addition to the seven set for May, seven more are scheduled through July. "It suggests it's going to be a pretty busy year as far as executions in Texas," said Larry Fitzgerald, spokesman for the state's Department of Criminal Justice.

The increase follows a decline to 17 Texas executions last year (when Oklahoma had the most, 18) from a record 40 in 2000.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a group critical of capital punishment, noted that the number of executions nationally, and the number of death sentences, had declined for the last two years.

Such changes, Mr. Dieter said, have come slower in Texas, which since restoring capital punishment in 1982 has carried out 265 executions, more than any other state.