Amnesty International's new report on the death penalty, "The Death Penalty Worldwide: Developments in 2005," repeats a well known statistic worth repeating about the death penalty.
In 2005, 94 percent of the 2,148 executions recorded were carried out in four countries: China (1,770), Iran (94), Saudi Arabia (86), and the United States (60).
Nice company, when you can get it.
The rest of the AI report, however, was not as depressing.
The 2,148 executions were more than 43 percent fewer than the number of executions in 2004.
Also, as noted by the Death Penalty Information Center, "(o)nly 22 countries carried out executions in 2005, down from 25 in 2004. This is the fourth straight year this figure has dropped and it has halved in the last 20 years."
In addition to statistics, the AI report also offers updates on the status of the death penalty in other countries, all evidence that the United States is increasingly out of step — except, of course, with China, Iran and Saudi Arabia — in continuing to carry out the death penalty.
In the United States, the key number to remember about the death penalty is 122.
That is how many people have been released from death row on grounds of innocence.
Two men were added to that list in 2005.
Having a justice system that while far from perfect, offers more protection to condemned prisoners than China, Iran or Saudi Arabia does, does not excuse our abhorant behavior.
Neither does the prevalent use of lethal injections in the United States to carry out executions.
A report released Monday, "So Long as They Die: Lethal Injections in the United States," by Human Rights Watch, suggests that lethal injection is not as "humane" as death penalty proponents might wish it were.
Human Rights Watch and other death penalty opponents have called for a moratorium on the use of lethal injections, to allow time to determine how much pain condemned prisoners are suffering as the poisons enter their arm, especially when compared to other execution methods.
DPIC offers a summary of another startling fact about lethal injections found in the Human Rights Watch report.
(Human Rights Watch), which opposes capital punishment, notes that the current three-drug sequence used in the U.S. (sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride) was developed in 1977 by a medical examiner in Oklahoma who had no expertise in pharmacology or anesthesia. This same drug combination is now used in at least 34 death penalty states. In the years since the protocol's development, it appears that no state has consulted medical experts to determine whether the combination could be altered to lessen the risk of pain.
"The U.S. takes more care killing dogs than people. Just because a prisoner may have killed without care or conscience does not mean that the the state should follow suit," said Jamie Fellner, U.S. program director at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report, according to DPIC.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments about the procedures a prisoner can follow to challenge lethal injections, according to DPIC.