ORLANDO -- A report by a national nonprofit group that studies the death penalty found that Florida put more people on death row in 2012 than any other state.
The Death Penalty Information Center's report says only nine states executed prisoners this year. Texas, with 15, executed the most defendants. Florida executed three.
However, Florida far exceeded other states in new death sentences: 21 defendants were sentenced to die in Florida through mid-December, the report says. That's more than twice Texas' figure for the comparable period. California, with 14 death sentences, was the only other state to reach double digits.
Overall, the report found that death-penalty use in 2012 "continued to decline, with fewer states endorsing capital punishment, relatively few death sentences being imposed, and executions being carried out at only half the rate of the late 1990s."
Nationally, the number of death sentences in 2012 was the second-lowest since 1976, said the center, which has no explicit stance on the death penalty but is generally critical of its use.
"The death penalty has been declining in use for about a decade and that continued in 2012," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the group. "There are now less states with the death penalty, as Connecticut abolished it this year."
Dieter said that the majority of new death-penalty cases in 2012 were in a small minority of states, with Florida, California, Texas and Pennsylvania accounting for 65 percent of new death sentences.
Often, he said, the inception of those cases is even more local, with prosecutors in individual jurisdictions contributing larger quantities of death-penalty cases. For example, several of Florida's new death cases in 2012 came from Duval County, the center's research shows.
"That's reflective of the philosophical position ... of the prosecutor about how to proceed, and what's the threshold for a death-penalty case," Dieter said.
Three people were executed in Florida in 2012:
n Robert Waterhouse, convicted of raping and murdering 29-year-old Deborah Kammerer in Tampa Bay;
n David Alan Gore, a serial rapist who admitted to killing four women and two teenage girls in the 1980s;
n Manuel Pardo, a former police officer who killed nine people in the late 1980s.
There are 406 people on death row in Florida, according to Department of Corrections records.