Double murder case set for retrial

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ordered a retrial for a man convicted of committing two murders on Coast Guard base Kodiak.

In April 2012, two coast guard employees at Communications Station Kodiak were found dead by gunshot: Richard Belisle, a retired Coast Guardsman, and James Hopkins, an active duty Coast Guardsman.

Investigators tied a blue SUV to their coworker, James Michael Wells.

In 2014, Wells was found guilty of the murders in federal court, and this week, a panel reversed the convictions.

Among the issues Judge Donald Walter listed in the legal opinion was that the United States attorney was able to use criminal profile testimony from a forensic psychologist expert in [quote] “targeted, intended workplace multiple-homicide violence.” The judge found the evidence to be insufficient to have sentenced Wells.

The opinion determined that “…the  Government’s  actions,  unchecked  by  the  district  court  at  critical  points, so tipped  the  scales  of  justice  as  to  render  the  trial  fundamentally  unfair.”

The panel determined that Well’s conviction should be reversed and the case scheduled for retrial.

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