By SCOTT NORTH
Charles Ben Finch was scheduled today to meet the people who may decide whether he lives or dies.
Jury selection for Finch’s second death-penalty trial was to begin this morning at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett.
Finch, 51, was convicted more than five years ago of the Aug. 15, 1994, aggravated first-degree murders of a blind man and a sheriff’s deputy near Cathcart. A jury decided he should die.
But the state Supreme Court in 1999 tossed out the death sentence because jurors saw Finch restrained by handcuffs and with a nylon strap hobbling his ankles.
Judge Ronald Castleberry already has ordered that Finch will not be restrained during his new sentencing trial. The judge also has taken the unusual step of ordering that Finch not be photographed as he’s escorted between a holding cell and the courtroom, a precaution he hopes will limit the chance of jurors somehow inadvertently encountering even an image of Finch in handcuffs or shackles.
Roughly 700 people received summonses to appear as potential jurors in Finch’s case. Court officials are expecting 200 to show up for screening this morning.
Potential jurors will fill out a questionnaire about the case and their views on the death penalty.
Finch’s aggravated murder convictions remain intact for the deaths of Sgt. Jim Kinard and Ronald Modlin, and jurors won’t have to determine his guilt, only his punishment, which under the law can only be a death sentence or life in prison without possibility of release. Still, prosecutors intend to present much of the same case they did in 1995 with the trial expected to last anywhere from four to six weeks.
Lawyers have been sparring for months over pre-trial matters, and they spent all day Monday arguing over who will be called to testify at Finch’s sentencing trial and what they will be able to talk about.
Kinard’s parents were in the courtroom, as they have been for nearly every hearing since Finch was first charged six years ago.
Finch, an ex-convict who had served time in prison for rape, went to his ex-wife’s home with a handgun. He first shot Modlin, who was visiting the defendant’s ex-wife, and later opened fire on Kinard as he and other deputies converged on the scene.
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