The U.S. may record the fewest executions this year since the mid-1990s because of concerns over lethal injections and the Supreme Court’s pending review of the issue, reports the Associated Press. Yesterday, the court blocked Virginia’s plans to kill Christopher Emmett, 36, hours before he was to die by lethal injection. Courts in Nevada and Texas this week postponed executions scheduled this year.
Fewer than 50 executions will take place this year, even if several states pushing ahead with lethal injections defeat legal efforts to stop them. The last time executions numbered fewer than 50 was in 1996, when there were 45. Since executions resumed in 1977 after a Supreme Court-ordered halt, 1,099 inmates have been put to death. The highest annual total was 98 in 1999, says the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment. So far this year, 42 people have been executed. The reprieves for the dozen or so men whose dates to die had been set are likely to be temporary. Officials in Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi are continuing plans to carry out death sentences despite the high court’s review.