Orange County’s ‘Hanging Judge’ Now Fights The Death Penalty

ORANGE COUNTY (CBS) — Retired Judge Donald McCartin, nicknamed “The Hanging Judge”, is now one of California’s leading opponents of the death penalty.

Judge McMartin retired from the bench nearly two decades ago and to say he was tough on crime and criminals would be an understatement.  Donald McCartin sent many to death row — nine in fact.

Of his harsh stanch on crime he once said, “I would make Attila the Hun look left wing.”

The judge is now one of California’s leading opponents of the death penalty but it wasn’t a change of heart.  And he doesn’t believe in sparing the lives of people who kill.  These days, he just doesn’t believe the death penalty makes dollars or sense for California.

He says the death penalty, at this point, is nothing more than a charade.

“That we are going to give the victim’s family finality by killing the killer. Ain’t true,” says the judge who expects to die long before any of the men he sent to death row are killed.

Last month, McCartin wrote Governor Brown a letter urging him to end the death penalty.  Housing the State’s 718 death row inmates costs $70 million. And he argues, that taxpayers pay for both sides of the appeals, prosecution and defense. That’s another $60 million.

The financial reason, is one which opponents of the death penalty now use to argue their case in a cash-strapped California.  They argue that is much cheaper to house a prisoner for life than it is to try to kill him.

Marc Klaas, father of Polly Klaas, doesn’t care how long it takes for the state to execute the man who killed his daughter nearly 20 years ago. He believes ending the death penalty will make it that much easier for those sent away for life to find freedom eventually.

Judge McCartin still insists his new thoughts regarding the death penalty are more about finances and less about emotions.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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