Boggs killer: Counsel was ineffective

Michael Backus, convicted in 1995, wants his sentence overturned

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A man serving a life sentence for the 1993 murder of Gerald Boggs is seeking to have that sentence set aside, arguing his defense counsel was ineffective.

Judge Robert Brown is hearing Michael Backus' case this week in Routt County District Court. Backus claims he had ineffective assistance of counsel during his 1995 trial. Leonard Davies represented Backus.

Backus and his girlfriend at the time, Jill Coit, were convicted of first-degree murder and in May 1995 were sentenced to life without parole for killing Boggs, who was Coit's husband at the time of his death. Judge Richard Doucette presided at the original trial.

Coit and Backus also were fined $1 million each to prevent either from making money from the murder through book or film deals.

The case drew international attention from newspapers and tabloid TV shows until it was eclipsed by the O.J. Simpson case.

The morning before Backus was sentenced, Davies argued Backus deserved a separate trial because more than half of the evidence presented applied only to Coit, not Backus. The Coit-only evidence may have prejudiced the jury, he said. Davies and Joseph Saint-Veltri, who represented Coit, called for new trials for several additional reasons.

Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James argued Monday that Backus does not deserve a new trial.

"This is a man who is serving a sentence for an atrocious crime," St. James said. "He wants out; I want to keep him in."

Attorney Nancy Holton is representing Backus in this case. Brown will continue hearing the case today.

Coit and Boggs were married April 4, 1991, but the marriage lasted only eight months. Prosecutors said Coit apparently faked a pregnancy at the time of the marriage, and Boggs later learned that she had been married at least eight times.

Coit, a former beauty queen who once held the title of "Miss Eskimo Pie," was married to her seventh husband when she wed Boggs. Coit was a prime suspect in the shooting death of one husband, Williams C. Coit, in Houston in 1972.

At the time of his death, Boggs was preparing to sue Coit for fraud and was involved in a lawsuit with her over her ownership of a local bed and breakfast inn. Coit and Backus conspired to shoot Boggs in his home on Hillside Court and then killed him in October of 1993.

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