By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Two U.S. inmates convicted of murder as teenagers are scheduled to be put to death on Tuesday and early Wednesday at a time when the number of executions in the United States is on pace to be the lowest in two decades.
Texas plans to execute Miguel Paredes, 32, who was convicted with two co-defendants of killing three people in 2000.
In Missouri, Mark Christeson, 35, is scheduled to die by lethal injection early on Wednesday. He was convicted of killing a woman and her two children 16 years ago.
The number of executions is likely to total about 35 in the United States this year, which would be the lowest number since 31 inmates were put to death in 1994, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which monitors capital punishment.
There were 39 executions in the United States last year.
The yearly number of executions since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 peaked at 98 in 1999.
Difficulties with carrying out the death penalty and the high cost of prosecutions have helped drive the numbers lower in recent years, analysts have said.
Troubled executions in Oklahoma, Arizona and other states this year forced officials to review new combinations of lethal injection drugs and caused lawyers representing death row inmates to question whether the new mixes violated U.S. constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
Oklahoma has delayed until 2015 three executions planned for this year to implement new death penalty protocols following errors in an April execution.
Paredes and two co-defendants were convicted of fatally shooting rival gang members Adrian Torres, Nelly Bravo and Shawn Cain. The victims' bodies were rolled in a carpet, taken to a remote area near San Antonio and set on fire, the Texas Attorney General's Office said.
READY TO DIE
Parades was 18 at the time of the killings and was jailed as a minor for murder. His co-defendants received life sentences.
Paredes told the San Antonio Express-News he was ready to die for his crimes.
"For me, what matters is that people really get to see the reality of the death penalty, that it's affecting people that are invisible, like my son, my loved ones, my family. They're the ones really carrying that burden," he told the paper in an interview published over the weekend.
Christeson was convicted of killing Susan Brouk, her 9-year-old son and her 12-year-old daughter in 1998 near her home in southern Missouri.
Christeson and his cousin broke into the home and raped Brouk, according to court documents. They then took the Brouks to a pond where Christeson cut the throats of the mother and son and threw them into the water. They suffocated the daughter and threw her into the pond.
Christeson's attorneys argued in an appeal to the Supreme Court on Monday that his court-appointed attorneys had abandoned him and failed to meet deadlines for appeals.
Seventeen former judges have filed a brief with the Supreme Court supporting a stay of execution based on problems with Christeson's court-appointed attorneys. (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas and Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Mo.; Editing by Peter Cooney)