Death penalty on the line again

Convicted killer Finch returns to court without restraints to face a new fate

By JIM HALEY

Herald Writer

Charles Ben Finch walked calmly into the Ginni Stevens Hearing Room Tuesday wearing a gray sweater vest, long-sleeve sport shirt and dark pants.

There were no handcuffs, leg restraints or jail overalls, only the presence of a Snohomish County Jail custodial officer who sat behind Finch, 51.

Finch’s hair is light gray, and his beard was neatly trimmed. He looked as if he could have been anybody’s father.

He sat calmly, looking out over a sea of about 200 people, 12 of whom will be chosen to decide whether he will spend the rest of his life in prison or be put to death at the hand of the state.

Finch stands convicted of two counts of aggravated murder in the shooting deaths of a blind man and a Snohomish County sheriff’s sergeant in an August 1994 incident near Cathcart.

The 200 prospective jurors were assembled at the opening of the jury selection process in Superior Court. The conviction remains, and the only decision is whether Finch should live or die.

This will be the second time a jury has been gathered to decide Finch’s fate. The first was in 1995 when jurors convicted Finch and then ruled in favor of the death penalty.

But the death penalty decision was overturned last year by the state Supreme Court. The high court ruled the previous jury had been biased when prospective jurors saw Finch in jail garb and in restraints when he appeared in the same Ginni Stevens room.

He stands convicted of aggravated murder in the deaths of Ronald Modlin, who was visiting Finch’s ex-wife, and he later shot Sgt. Jim Kinard, who had responded to the shooting call.

Although the jury will go through just the penalty phase of the trial, the prosecutors intend to present much of the evidence reviewed by the jury that originally convicted Finch. Just the jury selection could take two or three weeks, and the special sentencing hearing will be more like a full-blown trial. It could continue into November, attorneys said Tuesday.

Judge Ronald Castleberry appeared ready to keep tight reign on the proceedings, sternly admonishing the prospective jurors not to discuss the case with friends and relatives "in any way, shape or form."

He told them not to even tell spouses or employers what case they are hearing, and not even to use certain restrooms because they might overhear some idle comment related to the trial.

He even advised them not to read any novels or see any movies for the time being that deal with the subject of the death penalty.

Jurors filled out a questionnaire to give lawyers an idea about their backgrounds, views on the death penalty, whether they have heard or read anything about the case, and whether there are personal reasons why they couldn’t serve.

The first seven were questioned individually Tuesday afternoon. Deputy prosecutors Michael Downes and Helene Bloom, and defense attorneys Bill Jaquette and Susan Gaer zeroed in on individuals’ views concerning the death penalty, and whether jurors could follow the judge’s instructions.

To impose the death penalty again, jurors will have to be convinced unanimously that there aren’t sufficient mitigating circumstances to warrant leniency.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Traffic camera shows Everett and Marysville firefighters on the scene of a crane accident along northbound I-5 near milepost 198 Tuesday evening. (Provided photo)
Two workers fall from I-5 bridge Tuesday evening

The workers were in a “cherry picker” type bucket when it tipped over. One man fell 60 feet into the water and was taken to the hospital.

Lynnwood
Everett motorcyclist dies on Highway 99

Alexis Hernandez Cerritos was riding south on Highway 99 when a car driving north turned in front of him.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Everett’s rival minimum wage proposals: Second group submits signatures

Supporters from Raise the Wage Responsibly said their proposal strikes a balance between employees and employers.

Components of downtown Marysville’s new stormwater treatment facility can be seen from the walkway on Thursday, July 11, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. While much of the treatment and filtering happens out of sight, visitors of the area will see troughs, left, spilling water out onto the surrounding landscape, which soaks up the filtered water before it makes its way into a nearby lagoon. Overflow grates, right, help alleviate flooding during heavy rains. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
At new Marysville water treatment facility, plants filter out pollutants

City officials expect the $14 million project to clean 110 million gallons of water every year, reducing harm to wildlife.

Everett
Everett man sentenced to jail for threatening to bomb car dealership

The sentencing of Michael Harsh comes over two years after he threatened to bomb an Evergreen girls basketball game.

Everett
Everett courthouse garage briefly closed for ‘suspicious package’ report

A man drove his car into the Snohomish County Courthouse garage and reported he believed the package was in his car.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.