California to keep death penalty

san quentin dealth penalty
Death row convicts are still slated for execution at San Quentin State Prison, pictured here, after Californians voted not to abolish capital punishment.

Voters in California rejected a referendum to abolish the death penalty, despite widespread complaints about the state's expensive and dysfunctional capital punishment system.

The majority of Californians, 53%, voted "no" on Proposition 34, compared to 47% who voted in favor of the referendum, which would have gotten rid of the death penalty if approved. This tally is based on 95% of the votes having been counted.

With the referendum rejected, California will maintain its death row status quo. That has cost the state $4 billion since 1978, even though only 13 convicts have been executed in that time.

Supporters of Prop 34 wanted to switch the 700-plus residents of death row to life without parole. They estimate that this could have saved the cash-strapped state $130 million per year.

Related: Is California's death penalty too expensive?

The supporters, including the group YES on 34 and former San Quentin State Prison warden Jeanne Woodford, highlighted the problems with the broken system. They note that the state hasn't executed any of its death row inmates for six years, even though some of them have been awaiting execution since the 1970s.

But the advocates of capital punishment, such as the organization Californians for Justice and Public Safety, argue that the ultimate punishment was only applied to the "most violent and heinous killers." Many advocates say that the appeals process should be limited in order to curb costs.

Some of the more notorious residents on California's death row include mass murderer and serial rapist Richard "Night Stalker" Ramirez, serial killer Charles Ng and also Scott Peterson, who murdered his pregnant wife Laci Peterson.

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