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James Michael Wells files Notice of Appeal in CommSta double-murder case

Volunteers look for a murder weapon near Kodiak’s CommSta antenna field, April 12, 2012. James Wells would later be convicted of the double homicide. (Jennifer Canfield/KMXT)

The Kodiak man who was recently convicted and sentenced for the 2012 double murder at the Coast Guard Communication Station in Kodiak filed a notice with the court on Friday that he plans to appeal the case.

James Michael Wells was convicted in the murder of two co-workers in an October 2019 trial, and sentenced for life on each of six counts earlier this month.

On Friday, Wells’ attorney, Gary G. Colbath, a federal public defender, filed a Notice of Appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, is the largest of 13 appeals courts. It is the court that has jurisdiction over appeals cases from Alaska.

This is Wells’ second appeal of a conviction in this case. The original 2014 trial was thrown out by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals based on comments the judge made. A new trial with a new judge was ordered. That new trial was the one held in October 2019.

Wells is appealing something related to the October trial. The document filed with the court on Friday merely notifies the court of the intent to appeal and does not give specifics as to what the appeal is based on.

A jury convicted Wells of shooting to death two co-workers who the prosecution say were a threat to Wells’ career advancement.

Petty Officer 1st Class James Hopkins, an electronics technician, was 41-year-old, and Richard Belisle was a 51-year-old civilian employee at the time of the killings.

Wells has always maintained his innocence.

CORRECTION Jan. 24, 2020

This story was updated to correct the word ‘accused’ in the text.

James Michel Wells was convicted in October and was sentenced this month for the murders of Petty Officer 1st Class James Hopkins and Richard Belisle.

We inadvertently said Wells was ‘accused’ of the murders.

He has in fact been convicted, but is appealing the ruling with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.