Two reports issued this week offer news that's both sobering and encouraging about crime and punishment in America, especially regarding the justice system's ultimate penalty and the continuing trend of righting wrongs through exoneration.A study by the Death Penalty Information Center shows that numbers of both capital sentences and executions are down significantly. Meanwhile, the Innocence Network released reports on 22 more people -- including one in Tarrant County -- who have been exonerated of the crimes for which they were convicted.It's troubling that Texas leads the nation in both categories.While findings in the reports speak to an evolving and improving system of justice, the statistics show that making the criminal justice system truly just must be an ongoing process.Capital punishmentThis year saw the fewest states in 20 years administer capital punishment, with 43 executions in nine states, according to the DPIC. Texas had 15 -- by far the most -- followed by Mississippi, Oklahoma and Arizona, with six each.The number in 2012 was the same as in 2011. The peak year since the resumption of capital punishment was 1999, when 98 people were executed nationwide. The lowest number since 1999 was 37 in 2008. (bit.ly/T8nMHI)The DPIC also reported that 78 capital sentences were handed down in 2012, a dramatic drop from the 315 in 1996. (bit.ly/TA99LY)Texas juries chose the death penalty in nine cases in 2012, the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty said in a separate report. (bit.ly/127YU6e)That decrease appears to be largely a result of a "life without parole" law enacted in 2005, giving an alternative to capital punishment. Five years before that law passed, Texas sentenced 49 people to death. In 2010 and 2011, the number had dropped to eight.At a time when much of the nation is rethinking the issue of capital punishment, it's worth Texans considering whether continuing to be first on the death penalty is something to brag about.Virginia, which has the second-highest total number of executions since 1976, had none in 2012, the DPIC reported; Connecticut became the 16th state to repeal capital punishment.Debate about the death penalty -- its legal, moral, fiscal and practical considerations -- should go on, especially considering the flaws that continue to be exposed in the justice system.ExonerationsDavid Lee Wiggins was convicted by a Tarrant County jury and sentenced to life in prison for the 1989 rape of a 14-year-old girl in Fort Worth. Twenty-four years old at the time, he served 24 years before he was exonerated this year because DNA testing proved him innocent.His case is one of 22 profiled in the year-end report of the Innocence Network, an affiliation of 64 organizations that investigate cases of inmates who claim to have been wrongly convicted. (bit.ly/T8qgWp)Not all the cases involve DNA testing, but since 1989 there have been 301 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States (234 since 2000), according to the Innocence Project in New York.Forty-eight of those have been in Texas, where those falsely convicted spent an average of 13.5 years in prison.The Innocence Project of Texas says 12 people from the Lone Star State are among the 141 who have been released from death rows nationwide since 1973.Efforts to make convictions more reliable resulted last legislative session in a law to improve eyewitness identification evidence. For 2013, Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, has pre-filed SB 87, to require that police electronically record interrogations in cases including murder, kidnapping, human trafficking and sexual assault. Texas must keep trying to perfect justice.