Finch comes out of his coma


Herald Writer

A convicted double murderer who was in a coma for a month after hurling himself from a jailhouse balcony in an apparent suicide attempt has regained consciousness and has met with his attorneys in his hospital room.

Charles Ben Finch, 51, has sufficiently recovered from injuries to his brain and spine that he was able to communicate with his lawyers Monday in the critical care unit at Providence Everett Medical Center.

Finch was responsive to questions, but remained bedridden with obvious signs of paralysis, said Bill Jaquette, Snohomish County’s chief public defender.

Nonetheless, it appears that Finch is recovering from his brush with death, Jaquette said, adding, "We are pleased."

Finch remained under guard in the critical care unit Tuesday. Doctors have disconnected him from a machine that had been breathing for Finch since he was brought to the hospital more than a month ago, hospital spokeswoman Cheri Russum said.

"He is off the ventilator, and he is doing better," she said.

Finch’s Oct. 25 leap came near the conclusion of his second penalty trial for the August 1994 aggravated murders of sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Kinard, 34, and Ronald Modlin, 38, a blind man.

The trial continued even though the defendant was hospitalized and in a coma. Jurors were unable to unanimously agree whether he deserved a death sentence.

Under the law, that means Finch faces only one possible penalty for the Cathcart-area killings, life in prison without possibility of release.

Finch was convicted of murdering Kinard and Modlin and sentenced to die in 1995. But the state Supreme Court tossed out the sentence in 1999 because jurors had seen him in handcuffs and a hobble.

The underlying convictions were not affected.

Prosecutors will consider the case closed once Finch is formally sentenced again, deputy prosecutor Michael Downes said Tuesday.

But Finch can’t be formally sentenced until he is sufficiently recovered for a court hearing. Superior Court Judge Ronald Castleberry last week suspended any action in Finch’s case until the man’s medical condition improves enough that he can participate.

The judge also ordered Finch’s doctors to provide the court with regular updates on his medical condition. The first update is scheduled for Monday, Downes said.

Jaquette said that when he met with Finch Monday, his client still was attached to the ventilator, and a tube in his throat made it impossible for Finch to speak. Communication was possible, but Jaquette said he couldn’t provide details.

"I can’t reveal what was said," Jaquette said.

Finch was able to move his head and had considerable movement in his right arm, but only limited movement in his left arm.

Finch landed on his neck when he jumped at the jail, causing damage to his spine. Doctors previously told the court that his legs are paralyzed, and he likely has some paralysis in his arms.

Costs associated Finch’s hospitalization are being covered at public expense.

Exact figures are not available. But Russum said earlier that in general the daily cost for an average patient in a critical care bed is $1,985. That means the minimum cost for Finch’s medical care so far would be close to $70,000, not including emergency treatment or other care.

County corrections officials said earlier they ran up roughly $10,000 in overtime costs guarding the comatose Finch at the hospital. State corrections officers have been handling the duty since the jury’s verdict at a cost of roughly $650 a day, state officials said earlier.

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