With the Supreme Court set to hear arguments Jan. 7 about lethal-injection procedures, figures show that US states executed just 42 people this year, a 13-year low. The case before the court has prompted states using lethal injection to execute inmates to stay pending executions; on Monday, New Jersey became this first state since 1965 to abolish the death penalty.
If the high court rules that a three-drug "cocktail" used in lethal injections represents an unconstitutional "cruel and unusual punishment," states might need years to meet more stringent standards for execution. Texas continues to lead the nation in executing its prisoners, putting 26 people to death in 2007. Ten states carried out executions; all but six executions came in the South.