Jury deliberates Johnson’s fate
Jurors request to see exhibits from murder trial again
Fort Collins — There are no more witnesses to call, evidence to submit or arguments from lawyers to hear the fate of Thomas Lee Johnson is now in the hands of 12 Larimer County residents.
The eight women and four men on the jury are determining whether Johnson murdered Lori Bases or killed the Steamboat Springs woman in self-defense.
The jury deliberated for about three hours Tuesday afternoon in a jury room on the fourth floor of the Larimer County Justice Center in Fort Collins but was unable to reach a verdict.
The majority of the day was spent by 14th Judicial District Attorney Paul McLimans and Johnson’s court-appointed attorney, Norm Townsend, delivering closing remarks.
Both men gave the jury conflicting theories of how the 31-year-old Johnson killed the 31-year-old Bases the evening of May 11, 2000.
Johnson stabbed Bases about 20 times, which included wounds to her neck, chest, legs and left arm and hand. Because of the injuries, Bases bled to death.
The jury will resume with deliberations at 9 a.m. today, when it will review numerous exhibits.
In a note the panel wrote to Justice Joseph P. Quinn at the end of Tuesday, the jury requested to examine the photos taken of Johnson’s and Bases’ hands.
The jurors also want to take a look at the kitchen knives seized from Bases’ Steamboat Boulevard apartment.
The jury also requested to see the red plaid pajama bottoms and black T-shirt Bases was wearing when she was found dead. The jurors also want to look at the small throw rug Bases was found lying on.
The jurors also requested to see the letters Johnson wrote to his sister and to Kimberly Goodwin, who is Johnson’s ex-wife and a close friend of Bases.
The jury also requested to hear Johnson’s taped telephone conversation with Michelle Linnebur. During the conversation, Johnson admits he killed Bases. The jury also is requesting to examine telephone records.
The jury made these requests after being handed the case at about 2:15 p.m. The five previous hours were spent listening to McLimans and Townsend. The two veteran attorneys delivered powerful arguments.
McLimans characterized Johnson as a “manipulative con man” who killed Bases in “savagery.”
Townsend countered his client protected himself and killed the woman because she attacked him with a knife.
Both men gave different theories of how Bases was killed that fatal evening.
Townsend’s version relies on a frightened Bases going into her bedroom, getting a knife and attacking Johnson with it.
“It was a frenzy of fear,” Townsend said. “It is not a cold-blooded, calculated, premeditated act.”
Townsend contends Johnson drove to Steamboat Springs in a silver 2000 Mitsubishi Montero he rented in Denver to smooth over a rift that had developed between Goodwin and Bases.
In April of that year, Goodwin turned to Bases after Johnson allegedly sexually assaulted her in her Longmont home.
Townsend said Bases ended her friendship with Goodwin because she went back to Johnson and was intending to marry him.
“Goodwin can’t face the reality Lori Bases died angry at Kimberly for the choices she made,” Townsend said.
Townsend said his client went to Steamboat Springs to mend Goodwin’s and Bases’ friendship.
“He is the cause,” Townsend said. “He needs to repair the rift.”
Townsend claims that when Johnson got to Bases’ apartment, he was confronted by a “frightened woman” who had been keeping a knife in her bedroom because her vehicle had been vandalized in the early morning hours of April 10, 2000.
At the time of the vandalism, Goodwin had been in Steamboat Springs seeking comfort from her friend.
Prosecutors claim Johnson slashed the tires and interior of Bases’ Toyota RAV 4, but Johnson denies he is responsible for the $4,000 in damage.
On the evening Bases died, Townsend said his client sat down on a barstool in the apartment and was talking to Bases, who was sitting on a recliner, which is part of a sectional couch.
Bases told Johnson to leave and then went into her bedroom and got a knife.
“Lori Bases drew first blood,” Townsend said of Bases cutting Johnson’s left thumb.
The two then struggled for the knife, fell to the couch and then to the floor.
“When they fell to the floor, he felt the knife penetrate Lori Bases’ chest,” Townsend said. “He then panicked. He hacked. He slashed and he cut Lori Bases.”
Townsend stressed to the jurors they must not focus on the number of times Johnson stabbed Bases.
“The harsh reality of self-defense is if he had the right to make her dead, it doesn’t matter how he made her dead,” Townsend said.
“Dead is dead.”
Townsend said to convict his client of first- or second-degree murder, the prosecution must prove he did it beyond a reasonable doubt.
“You must tell our community, Lori’s parents and Mr. McLimans they did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt he did not kill her in self-defense,” Townsend said.
McLimans countered Johnson did not travel to Steamboat Springs to mend a relationship but to get revenge for a relationship that was over.
“Johnson was upset his relationship with Kim Goodwin had ended,” McLimans said. “He was upset with the role Lori Bases played to end that relationship.
“It is not self-defense by any stretch of the imagination.”
McLimans contends Johnson’s relationship with Goodwin was over, and the woman was planning to move in with Bases at the end of the summer of 2000.
“We can’t tell you exactly what happened that night,” McLimans said. “The reason we can’t tell you what happened is our star witness can’t be called to testify.
“That night Lori Bases could not defend herself, and she couldn’t be here to defend herself in this courtroom.”
McLimans claims Johnson bought a knife and drove to Steamboat Springs to commit the murder.
McLimans said Bases was sitting on the chair with her feet up watching television when Johnson attacked her.
“Johnson comes up over her shoulder and stabbed her,” McLimans said. “Lori tries to get away and into her bedroom to lock a door.
“She is taken to the floor.”
McLimans claims Johnson was standing above Bases stabbing her chest and then grabbed her head and slashed her neck. The wound cut all the way to Bases’ cervical vertebrae.
“She clearly is going to die,” McLimans said.
As Johnson cut Bases’ throat, he cut his left thumb, McLimans said.
“This is a problem,” he said. “His blood is now in the house, and he knew he would get caught. He is going to have a hard time walking away.”
McLimans said Johnson, in a rage, then stabbed Bases in the back three times and slashed both of her hamstrings.
“It didn’t have to happen,” he said. “She didn’t have to die. It didn’t have to be murder. She didn’t have to be mutilated.”
McLimans said the “savagery” done to Bases’ body is similar to the damage that was done to Bases’ vehicle.
“He had a knife,” McLimans said. “He had used it in April. The interior of her car had been slashed with a knife.”
McLimans also pointed out to the jury that the day Bases’ vehicle was vandalized Johnson had rented a vehicle in Denver.
McLimans last point to the jury was in regard to justice.
“Justice is all that is left,” McLimans said. “Justice is all we can hope for. Lori Bases became a victim. Don’t let justice become that same fate.”
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