Two indigent defendants facing murder charges in unrelated slayings have sued Weber County alleging it has failed to adequately fund the public defender's office.

Richard Quentin Gunn, 54, and Norman Cochran, 50, allege in a federal court suit that a lack of funding of the Public Defenders Association of Weber County has deprived them of their right to effective counsel.

The suit filed by Ogden attorneys Michael J. Boyle, who was once Gunn's public defender, and Daniel S. Drage, claims excessive caseloads and inadequate resources prevent defenders from conducting necessary legal research, factual investigations and witness preparation.

The Weber County Public Defenders Association fired Boyle effective Nov. 1 after he filed a motion alleging the public-defender funding was so low as to be unconstitutional.

Earlier, a judge had removed Boyle from Gunn's defense team after Boyle said the association caseload did not allow him or any other association member to provide Gunn an adequate defense.

The suit said each of the nine public defenders handles thousands of cases each year and one part-time investigator has up to 4,000 cases each year.

It said the defenders' caseloads far exceed standards set by the National Advisory Commission.

The suit also names as defendants the county commissioners, the commissioners' attorney, the public defenders' office and its chairman, Michael Sterrett.

Gunn, who is charged with capital murder, is particularly harmed because "the workload demands of capital cases are unique," the suit said.

The plaintiffs and any future plaintiffs in the proposed class-action case seek $500 for each felony client and $250 for each misdemeanor client that the public defenders' office has represented over the past six years. Gunn is accused in the stabbing death of former roommate Charles W. Leff on Nov. 2, 1999.

Trial began Monday for Cochran, who is charged with first-degree felony murder in the shooting death of fellow transient Edward Taplin on Nov. 2, 1999. His public defender, Tony Miles, contends the shooting was in self defense.