The death penalty is fading away throughout much of the United States, with just a handful of states actually carrying out executions these days. Texas, which has executed the most inmates in U.S. history, is one of those states.
On Wednesday evening, Texas carried out its first execution of the new year. Arnold Prieto was put to death nearly two decades after he was convicted of murdering three people and robbing them. Prieto went with two other men to the home of an aunt and uncle of these men before stabbing the aunt, uncle and a 92-year-old woman who was there with screwdrivers, according to the office of Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general. Prieto was killed by lethal injection in Huntsville.
He was pronounced dead at 6:31 p.m. local time, according to the Associated Press.
Prieto’s execution was the fourth so far this year in the United States.
It was the first of more than a dozen that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice currently has on the calendar between now and early May. Some of these could be delayed or halted due to state or court action, of course; two executions set for this month have already been postponed.
Even if some of the executions do not occur, it still seems likely that over the course of the year, Texas will carry out at least as many executions as any other state. A sizable portion of the country’s experience with capital punishment has occurred in this state. Since 1976, there have been nearly 1,400 executions in the United States.
More than a third of those have taken place in Texas. The state has nearly five times as many executions (518) over that period as the place with the second-highest number of executions (Oklahoma, with 112), according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
The number of executions and the number of states actually executing inmates continued to decline last year. There were executions in just seven states, about a third as many states carried out executions in 1999.
Texas executed 10 inmates in 2014, tying Missouri for the most in the country. Last year was the 18th consecutive year the state executed at least 10 inmates; Missouri is the only other state to reach that number so far this decade.
[This post has been updated now that the execution took place. First posted: 4:08 p.m.]