A court reprieve that halted the scheduled December lethal injection of a Texas prisoner means that 23 inmates were executed in the U.S. this year, up from 20 the previous year but half of what it was a decade ago, the Associated Press reports. The year-end numbers show that Texas will regain its standing as the nation’s most active state in carrying out capital punishment. Texas inmate Juan Castillo, who had an August execution date postponed because of Hurricane Harvey, was set for lethal injection December 14 for a 2003 robbery and fatal shooting in San Antonio. However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals sent the 36-year-old Castillo’s appeal back to his trial court to review arguments from defense attorneys that a witness presented false testimony in his 2005 trial.
Castillo’s was the last execution scheduled for 2017 in the 31 states that impose the death penalty, said the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington, D.C. group that opposes capital punishment. Texas put seven prisoners to death this year, matching the state total from 2016. Arkansas carried out four executions, followed by Alabama and Florida with three each, and Ohio and Virginia with two each. Georgia, which topped the nation in 2016 with nine, executed one prisoner this year, as did Missouri. Oklahoma, which typically has one of the busiest execution chambers, went another year without putting any inmates to death as the state struggles with implementing a new execution protocol. Oklahoma put executions on hold two years ago after several mishaps, including a botched lethal injection in 2014 and drug mix-ups in 2015.