By Corrie MacLaggan
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Nine states executed inmates in 2012, the fewest number in 20 years, as several Southern states that usually carry out executions did not put any inmates to death, according to a report released Tuesday by a nonprofit that tracks death penalty data.
"There are still 33 states with the death penalty, but very few are actually regularly carrying out executions," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center and author of the report.
Forty-three inmates were executed this year, the same number as 2011, according to the report by the Washington, D.C.-based organization. Last year, 13 states executed inmates. No more executions are scheduled for this year.
Four states - Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma and Mississippi - accounted for more than three-quarters of the executions. Texas executed 15 people, and Arizona, Oklahoma and Mississippi each executed six. Ohio and Florida each executed three inmates. South Dakota executed two, and Delaware and Idaho each executed one. All of the executions were by lethal injection.
Several states that allow the death penalty and have traditionally had high numbers of executions did not carry out any in 2012. Among those was Virginia, which is second to Texas in the number of executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Missouri also had no executions in 2012.
"Even in the traditional death penalty areas, the death penalty is not being used as much," Dieter said.
"It's not seen as a normal or regular punishment for a crime," he added. "It's very expensive, it takes a long time to get to a death sentence, many are overturned and executions take place 20 years after the sentence. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to invest in something so speculative and far off."
But in Texas, Governor Rick Perry's office has said the governor "supports the death penalty as a fitting and constitutional punishment for the most heinous crimes."
Connecticut this year repealed the death penalty, bringing to 17 the number of states without the punishment. Illinois repealed its death penalty last year, while New York, New Jersey and New Mexico also did so recently.
This year in California, which has not carried out an execution in nearly seven years, voters declined to repeal the death penalty.
Next, Dieter said he expects to see efforts to repeal the death penalty in Maryland, Colorado and New Hampshire.
The number of new death sentences in 2012 was projected to be 78, the second-lowest since 1976. The lowest year since the reinstatement was 2011, with 76 sentences.
(Reporting By Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Greg McCune)