Judge postpones ruling on mistrial for Finch

Associated Press

EVERETT – A Snohomish County Superior Court judge ordered closing arguments to proceed today at the penalty hearing for a convicted double-murderer who has been on life support since an Oct. 25 suicide attempt.

Charles Ben Finch, 51, has been paralyzed from the neck down and unconscious since he leaped from a nearly 15-foot balcony in jail the night before closing arguments were scheduled to start at the penalty phase of his trial.

Public Defender Bill Jaquette had asked Judge Ronald L. Castleberry to consider a mistrial – and to consider deciding himself whether Finch should be executed or sentenced to life in prison – the only question remaining.

Castleberry today declined to dismiss the jury and said he would decide the mistrial question later.

In addition to his other injuries, Finch has developed a lung infection that resulted in dangerously low levels of oxygen in his blood, but his condition has improved slightly in recent days, doctors said.

Jaquette argued for a mistrial Thursday on grounds that Finch could no longer understand the proceedings or assist in his defense.

Deputy Prosecutor Michael Downes countered that the trial should continue because Finch’s injuries were self-inflicted.

“As cruel as it may sound, however it may sound, he’s voluntarily absented himself from these proceedings,” Downes said.

Finch was convicted of aggravated first-degree murder in 1995 and sentenced to die for the fatal shooting of sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Kinard, 34, and Ronald Modlin, 38, a blind friend of Finch’s estranged wife. The death sentence was overturned on appeal because jurors had seen him shackled and handcuffed to the defense table.

Jurors who began hearing testimony in his second sentencing hearing Oct. 12 were told of the suicide attempt Monday.

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