Friday, September 22, 2006
Steamboat Springs The murder conviction of Michael Backus was upheld. Thursday by the Colorado Court of Appeals
Backus and his girlfriend, Jill Coit, were convicted of the 1993 murder of Steamboat Springs hardware store owner Gerald Boggs. Backus had appealed his life sentence, arguing that his defense attorney was incompetent.
"Today, the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's denial of Michael Backus' post-conviction appeal on his convictions for first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder," Attorney General John W. Suthers said. "This decision keeps a dangerous criminal behind bars."
Boggs was Coit's ex-husband. They had been involved in a bitter post-divorce court case involving their co-ownership of a Steamboat Springs bed and breakfast.
Boggs was found tortured and murdered in his Steamboat Springs home. Backus and Coit claimed they were camping near Fort Collins at the time of the crime. Witnesses, however, testified that Coit made attempts to find someone willing to kill her ex-husband and that Backus and Coit made statements indicating they had committed the crime.
Backus and Coit each were sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison.
Coit had been married to at least seven other men and was a prime suspect in the 1972 shooting death of one husband, William C. Coit, in Houston. The Boggs murder was dubbed the "Black Widow case" because of Coit's history.
Backus had argued that his original attorney, Leonard Davies, was ineffective. He said Davies did not fully investigate the facts of the case, that he did not present proper reasons for separating Backus' trial from Coit's trial and that he didn't present important evidence about Backus' alibi and character.
Backus' legal action was taken under a state law that allows convicted people to request a new trial or a different sentencing. One routine claim made under this law is that the convicted person's lawyer was ineffective.
In 2003, Judge Robert Brown heard Backus' appeal in Routt County. Brown found that Davies' counsel was effective in all but several instances, such as some of his pretrial investigations, his failure to review the prosecution's physical evidence before the trial and his inattention during some testimony.
According to the law, Brown had to find not only that Davies' counsel was ineffective but also that the ineffectiveness resulted in prejudice during the trial. Brown's order said that he could not - except in flagrant instances - rule that the ineffectiveness resulted in prejudice.
The Court of Appeals upheld Brown's ruling.