LOS ANGELES — A federal judge ruled California’s death penalty unconstitutional Wednesday, writing that lengthy and unpredictable delays have resulted in an arbitrary and unfair capital punishment system.

The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney follows a similar ruling that has suspended executions in the state for years.

Ruling in a case brought against San Quentin state prison’s warden by a prisoner who was condemned in 1994, Carney called the death penalty an empty promise.

“Inordinate and unpredictable delay has resulted in a death penalty system in which very few of the hundreds of individuals sentenced to death have been, or even will be, executed by the State,” Carney wrote.