By SCOTT NORTH
A convicted double murderer who is paralyzed and in a coma continued to create legal headaches in a Snohomish County courtroom Tuesday.
Charles Ben Finch, 51, remains unconscious and receiving life support treatment at an Everett hospital. He’s been that way since Oct. 25, when he leaped from a second-floor balcony in an apparent suicide attempt at the county jail in Everett.
Finch’s leap came near the conclusion of his second penalty trial for the August 1994 killings near Cathcart of sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Kinard, 34, and Ronald Modlin, 38, a blind man.
Jurors were unable to unanimously agree whether Finch deserved a death sentence. Under the law, that meant he faces only one possible penalty: life in prison without possibility of release.
But Finch can’t be formally sentenced while he is in a coma, lawyers on both sides of the case agreed Tuesday.
Superior Court Judge Ronald Castleberry suspended all further action in the case "until such time as Mr. Finch can participate."
Finch has remained under 24-hour guard in a critical care unit at Providence General Medical Center, racking up tens of thousands of dollars in medical and guard costs.
Finch’s attorneys told Castleberry that since the trial, they’ve had difficulty getting detailed information about their client’s medical condition.
The judge said he’ll remedy that situation by signing a court order requiring regular updates, including immediate notice if his condition markedly improves or suddenly declines.
Finch is receiving the same quality of medical care from Providence staff that anybody else would with similar injuries, hospital spokeswoman Cheri Russum said.
"The only difference is he has a guard sitting by his bed," she said.
County corrections officials said earlier that they ran up roughly $10,000 in overtime costs guarding the comatose Finch at the hospital after his jailhouse leap.
State corrections officers are now handling that duty, at a cost of about $27 an hour, said Les Ryder, superintendent at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe. That cost is running roughly $650 a day.
Finch’s medical costs will be covered by state taxpayers. It is impossible at this point to calculate exactly how much that has been so far, in part because Finch’s medical records are private.
Russum said, however, that in general, the daily cost for an average patient in a critical care bed is $1,985. That minimum cost would come to about $60,000 so far, not including the initial cost of emergency treatment.
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.
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