Execution rates drop

Capital punishment in the United States has moved into the slow lane, with the number of executions and new death sentences likely to hit lows not seen for more than 20 years.

The last two executions of the year are set to be carried out next week, with Texas scheduled to put convicted murderer Raphael Holiday to death on Wednesday and Georgia scheduled to execute convicted murderer Marcus Johnson on Thursday.

If those lethal injections proceed, there will be 27 executions in the United States in 2015. That would be the fewest since 1991, before a tough-on-crime movement swept the country and led the execution total to hit 98 in 1999, the most since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The death penalty, which is allowed in 31 states, has been hit by the left and right in 2015. Court battles and a scramble to secure execution drugs after a sales ban a few years ago imposed by makers, mostly in Europe, have left about eight states —notably Texas, Florida and Missouri — as those that conduct executions. In 1999, 20 states put people to death.