I personally find the death penalty abhorrent, but all moral issues aside, the California Death Penalty system is just ridiculous.
More inmates on death row commit suicide than are actually executed. The cost of maintaining the death penalty in the state is $137 million per year; it would cost $11.5 million for a system without the death penalty. There are 743 inmates in California on death row. Most are in a continual state of appeal of their sentence, costing the taxpayers huge amounts for court time and attorney's fees. Commuting those sentences to life in prison would stop the appeals and save the taxpayers millions.
But it's also a moral issue. A death row inmate, Richard Boyer, has been sitting on death row for over three decades. He took the state to court, citing cruel and unusual punishment as a violation of his 8th Amendment rights.
The Supreme Court today decided not to take his case. LA Times:
The U.S. Supreme Court, over a dissent from Justice Stephen Breyer, turned down a challenge to California's death penalty system from an Orange County murderer who said that waiting decades on death row results in "psychologically inhumane stress."
Richard Boyer was sentenced to death in 1984 for the robbery and murder of an elderly couple in Fullerton. The state Supreme Court overturned his conviction because of a police error, but he was tried and convicted again and sentenced to death in 1992.
Last year, Breyer, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said he believed capital punishment as practiced in America was unconstitutional because the system has proven to be unreliable and random.
Citing the tremendous cost to taxpayers, advocates pushed for an abolition of the death penalty in a 2012 ballot initiative, Prop 34. The proposition was defeated 52-48%.