Saturday, September 2, 2006

How Maleng Makes Charging Decisions

How does King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng make charging decisions in high-profile cases? When does he seek an extraordinary sentence or the death penalty? A profile in this morning's Seattle Times takes a look: Natalie Singer, Maleng applies patient method to three tough cases, Sept. 2, 2006.

This summer's cases highlighted are: Mary Jane Rivas, who sped through a stoplight and killed a police officer; Naveed Afzal Haq, the man charged in the shootings at the Jewish Federation offices; Conner Schierman, the man who allegedly stabbed four neighbors to death and then burned their house.

Maleng says he alone will ultimately decide how to prosecute them.

Those who have worked with or watched Maleng for many of the 28 years he's been in office — even defense attorneys — say his approach to these difficult decisions is a solid and practiced one.

"Mr. Maleng has been unbelievably fair as to when to decide and when not to decide on the sentence of death. He's taken that question extremely seriously," said Mark Larranaga, former director of the Washington Death Penalty Assistance Center, which works with defense attorneys.
Prosecutors vary in how often they seek the death penalty. In 1981-2004, the death penalty was sought in 26% of the aggravated murder cases in King County. Here's a comparison with other large counties:
King 26%
Snohomish 26%
Spokane 46%
Pierce 52%

The numbers are from the Washington Death Penalty Assistance Center. Its website ( is not active, but you can read more on the version of the site last archived (March 2005) by the Internet Archive. Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has more resources, including a copy of the Washington Death Penalty Assistance Center's study, Washington's Death Penalty System: A Review of the Costs, Length, and Results of Capital Cases in Washington State (2004?).

The article about Norm Maleng reminded me of a profile I read a couple of years ago in Washington Law & Politics. I didn't find it on the magazine's site, but it's excerpted on the National District Attorneys Association site, complete with a picture of Maleng as a teen Future Farmer of America. (By the way, NDAA has an archive of dozens of profiles of prosecutors from around the country.)

UW note: Maleng (class of 1966) is the president of the Washington Law School Foundation.

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1 comment:

Damanick said...

Hi. Nice blog, very interesting, even though im in NYC and not Seattle LOL. Check out my blog at (I hear Seattleites love coffee) I have a nice article about coffee on my blog, check it out. Take care and good luck with the blog:)