Convicted Steamboat murderer wins another appeal
Steamboat Springs — The man convicted of murdering a Steamboat Springs woman in May 2000 has won an appeal and has been granted a new trial, again.
Thomas Lee Johnson was originally sentenced to life behind bars Jan. 16, 2002, for killing Steamboat resident Lori Bases by stabbing her more than 20 times. Authorities believed he killed the 31-year-old woman because he thought she was interfering with his relationship with Kim Goodwin, a good friend of Bases.
Johnson claimed he killed Bases in self-defense. Because of faulty instructions given to the jury, Johnson won an appeal and was re-tried in 2009. After less than three hours of deliberations, a jury again found Johnson guilty.
During his most recent appeal related to the 2009 trial, Johnson claimed he was denied his Sixth Amendment Constitutional right to defend himself. The three judges from the Colorado Court of Appeals who reviewed Johnson’s case agreed and ordered Johnson be given a new trial.
Johnson is currently serving his life sentence without the possibility of parole at the Centennial Correction Facility.
Both of Johnson’s previous trials were held in Larimer County after requests for change of venues. Both trials were prosecuted by the Routt County District Attorney’s Office, and Johnson was represented by public defenders.
Current District Attorney Brett Barkey was not involved in the previous trials. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Leading up to and during Johnson’s second trial, Johnson several times asked to represent himself. Prosecutors asked the court to honor Johnson’s request.
“I just see this, judge, as being the issue on appeal if Mr. Johnson were to be convicted,” the prosecutor said to the judge.
While being questioned by a judge, Johnson said he felt that he could “do a better job” and resolve things more quickly without his attorney, who had just recently been appointed. Johnson said he had 7 1/2 years of experience on his case.
“Though he did not have experience with any other felony trials, he was ‘familiar with court procedures,’ and, as a ‘jailhouse lawyer,’ he had spent as much time as he could studying in the law library and helping other inmates with pro se filings,” the appeals court opinion states.
The court ultimately denied Johnson’s request to represent himself, finding that although the request was made voluntarily, it was not made knowingly and intelligently.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland
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