Finch wept after killings, death penalty jury told

Herald staff

The men and women who must decide whether Charles Ben Finch lives or dies heard from friends and former co-workers Tuesday that he showed remorse in various ways for taking two lives in 1994.

The testimony came at the beginning of the defense case, in which it hopes to show there are circumstances to spare Finch from returning to Death Row at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

The attempt was to portray Finch, who shot to death a blind man and a Snohomish County sheriff’s sergeant, as a human being who should remain behind bars for the rest of his life instead of being executed.

A previous jury convicted Finch of aggravated murder and found there was no reason to spare him the death penalty. The state Supreme Court threw out the penalty phase of the trial because jurors saw him in restraints. The aggravated murder conviction remains intact.

A new jury was empanelled earlier this month to hear evidence on the death penalty.

Witness Charles Hill of Sedro-Woolley told jurors he first met Finch when Hill volunteered to help with a 12-step program for alcoholics at the Twin Rivers unit of the Monroe Correctional Complex. Finch was an inmate at the time.

When Finch was released, Hill saw him several times a month for years. Under questions from defense lawyer Susan Gaerc, Hill said he and some other friends visited Finch in the Snohomish County Jail after the fatal August 1994 shooting of Sgt. Jim Kinard and a blind man, Ronald Modlin.

Modlin had been visiting Finch’s estranged wife, and Kinard was one of the deputies who responded to a call for help.

During the jailhouse visit, "Charlie began to weep," Hill told jurors. "I knew in his heart he felt he had let everybody down."

George Henson, also of Sedro-Woolley, accompanied Hill on the jail visit. He also had known Finch for years, and this "was the only time I’d ever seen Charlie … never make eye contact with me."

Helene Blume, deputy prosecutor, emphasized that Finch didn’t actually say he was sorry for killing Modlin and Kinard during that visit.

Blume also asked the witnesses if they were aware that Finch had left a suicide note in September 1994 saying he was sorry for "not finishing the job," meaning killing his estranged wife.

In another letter, Blume pointed out that Finch referred to Kinard as "a lousy cop" and Modlin as that "idiot blind person."

Several of Finch’s relatives are scheduled to testify today. Lawyers said they expect closing arguments on Thursday.

The jury selection began in late September, and jurors have been hearing evidence since Oct. 12.

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