Animal cruelty trial delayed again

The trial of a woman accused of cruelty to horses, cats and dogs has been delayed once again.

The trial of a 59-year-old North Whidbey woman accused of cruelty to horses, cats and dogs has been delayed once again.

Kristi Finch appeared in Island County Superior Court Monday for a readiness hearing, but her attorney, Eric Lewis, said they weren’t ready. Finch pleaded not guilty last year to two counts of animal cruelty in the first degree, five counts of animal cruelty in the second degree and tampering with a witness.

A new trial date was set for August.

The delay marks the tenth time the defense has asked for the trial date to be reset. But this time, the prosecution didn’t object.

Lewis explained that Finch has hired an expert witness who needs time to go over the evidence. On May 17, the attorney filed a motion to authorize public expenditures for a forensic veterinarian “to review the discovery from the State, and provide analysis and opinions regarding the condition of the animals and the cause of those conditions, in order to defend against the charges of animal cruelty.”

“In order to properly defend Defendant Finch in this matter, counsel will require an expert witness capable of addressing the allegations and evidence presented by the State’s expert and lay witnesses regarding the condition of the animals as alleged in the Amended Information,” the motion states.

The motion adds that Finch is indigent and doesn’t have the financial means to pay for the expert witness.

On May 20, a court commissioner granted the motion authorizing up to 10 hours of an expert’s time at $280 an hour, for a maximum of $2,800.

The Island County Sheriff’s Office started investigating Finch on Christmas Eve in 2022 after two horses were found starved to death on her property, according to court documents. At least 11 horses, 24 dogs, 31 cats, two pigs, four chinchillas and some rabbits were living on the property at the time and many of them were emaciated or living in undersized cages, a deputy’s report states.

Lewis was the third attorney assigned to represent Finch. Her first attorney had a conflict and the second attorney asked to withdraw due to a disagreement about defense strategy.