Legal experts have different explanations for why Texas' highest criminal court halted more executions in 2015 than any of the last nine years.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted stays to eight condemned inmates last year, the highest number since at least 2007. That belies its reputation as a tough, conservative court generally unsympathetic to death-row appeals.

The Dallas Morning News reports (http://bit.ly/1JjyQ0O ) that executions nationwide fell to 28, the lowest number in 24 years.

University of Maryland law professor Lee Kovarsky tells the newspaper that a national trend away from the death penalty has affected Texas.

Shannon Edmonds, staff attorney for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, which lobbies for prosecutors, says he thinks exonerations in Texas and nationwide have softened the ground for death-row appeals.

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Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com