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Published Oct. 24, 2008

The crowd on death row is thinning out.

A dozen condemned inmates in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's so-called death watch cells are being executed at a scheduled rate of two a week over six weeks.

Two were executed the week of Oct. 13. Two were scheduled for this week, and two more for next week. Then six more in November, adding to Texas' standing as the nation's most active death penalty state.

"It's just the way of Texas," death row inmate Alvin Kelly said in the days before his Oct. 14 execution. Kelly, convicted of shooting a family of three, including a 22-month-old boy, was the first in the current string of inmates to be given a lethal injection.

The steady stream of executions is relieving a logjam created when the U.S. Supreme Court effectively halted lethal injections around the country while it decided whether the killing method was unconstitutionally inhumane. It ruled in April that the method was constitutional.

Despite the death chamber's revolving door in October and November, this is hardly a record year for executions in Texas, with a total of 21 scheduled for 2008.

In the years George W. Bush was governor, Texas executed an average of 25 convicts a year, culminating in 40 executions in 2000.