Norm Maleng, chief prosecutor in Seattle’s King County for 28 years and one of the most respected leaders in the state’s criminal justice system, died last night night of cardiac arrest, reports the Seattle Times. He was 68. Maleng’s death was praised as a towering figure who even-handedly shaped the criminal-justice landscape in King County and throughout the state. Maleng, a Republican who was elected prosecuting attorney in 1978 and had won re-election ever since, was widely viewed as a thoughtful and consummately professional prosecutor.
In the Green River murder case, Maleng struck a deal in 2003 that spared Gary Ridgway from the death penalty in exchange for his guilty plea to killing 48 women and helping find the victims’ remains. Robert Lasnik, the chief U.S. district judge in seattle, who worked closely with Maleng as chief of staff, called him as “the heart and soul of justice in this community for more than 30 years.” Maleng was an architect of the state’s Sentencing Reform Act, which brought more uniformity to sentencing. He worked for tougher state laws concerning sex predators and repeat offenders. He supported reducing sentences for some drug crimes and expanding treatment options for addicts.