WASHINGTON (AFP) - Only nine of the 50 US states carried out executions in 2012, the fewest in 20 years and the latest indication of a decline in the use of capital punishment, a report said Tuesday. The study by the Death Penalty Information Center found that the number of new sentences had declined by 75 per cent from a peak in 1996, with just four states accounting for over three-quarters of executions nationwide. “Capital punishment is becoming marginalized and meaningless in most of the country,” said Richard Dieter, the director of the center and author of the report. “In 2012, fewer states have the death penalty, fewer carried out executions, and death sentences and executions were clustered in a small number of states.”