Decision on Finch expected Monday


Herald Writer

Lawyers and the judge conducting the Charles Ben Finch trial won’t know until Monday whether the trial will proceed with the defendant lying critically injured in a hospital.

Finch, 51, apparently attempted suicide Wednesday night by jumping from the railing of a second-floor balcony in the Snohomish County Jail. He struck his head on a concrete wall and fell about 15 feet to a hard tile floor.

He had been on trial before a Snohomish County Superior Court jury, which will decide if he will have to face the death penalty for the shooting deaths of a blind man and a sheriff’s sergeant in 1994.

Jurors had been hearing testimony since Oct. 12, and the attorneys were to give closing arguments the morning after he leaped.

"His condition is really up in the air at this point in time. It’s difficult to assess his mental condition because he’s under such heavy medication," said Susan Gaer, one of his defense attorneys.

She said she’s been told Finch’s condition is still grave. Even if he survives, and that’s not certain, Gaer said there’s "a good probability of some (paralysis), but we have no idea how much."

Deputy prosecutor Michael Downes said the attorneys and Judge Ronald Castleberry will be in court over the weekend to hear an update on Finch’s condition from his doctors.

The doctors will be asked to give their judgment about his chances of survival, the possibility of paralysis, his current mental state and how long it might be before he could return to court, Downes said.

On Monday, Downes said he expects the judge to consider a prosecution request to continue the trial without Finch, as well as a defense motion for a mistrial.

In most cases, the law requires defendants to be present for all trial proceedings. Finch’s trial would not have been complete until after closing arguments and after the jury had rendered a verdict.

Finch was being treated at Providence Everett Medical Center.

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