Death penalty

As public support for the death penalty wanes, the number of executions and projected death sentences in 2017 rose only slightly, remaining at nearly 25-year lows, according to the annual report released Thursday by the Death Penalty Information Center.

There were 23 executions this year, the center says. Over the past 25 years, only last year's total, 20, was lower.

From Texas Standard:

In 1985, Pedro Solis Sosa was sentenced to death for kidnapping and killing a sheriff's deputy in Wilson County. Prosecutors alleged that Sosa killed Ollie Childress Jr. with the officer's own pistol after robbing a bank.

Amnesty International says there were fewer executions worldwide last year than the year before — but the number of death sentences handed down is the highest it has ever recorded.

In its annual report, Amnesty estimates that China carried out more executions than all the other countries put together. The human rights group says China put thousands of people to death. The exact figure is classified as a state secret and is not included in Amnesty's worldwide total.

Death penalty laws are on the books in 31 states, but only five carried out executions last year. Now Arkansas is rushing to execute death row inmates at an unprecedented pace this month, before the state's supply of lethal drugs expires.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear the Texas death penalty case of a Honduran national who is arguing that a federal appeals court wrongly denied him resources to investigate and provide evidence of substance abuse and mental illness.

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