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Jury instructions determined

Johnson trial deliberation begins Tuesday

Gary E. Salazar

— When the 12-member jury decides Thomas Lee Johnson’s fate, it can consider the prosecution’s claim he killed Lori Bases in first-degree murder, as well as lesser charges including the defense’s claim of self-defense.

On Friday, Johnson and his attorneys, Norm Townsend and Eric Vanatta, and prosecutors Paul McLimans and Kerry St. James, met with Justice Joseph P. Quinn to work out instructions for the jury.

The two sides agreed the eight women and four men on the jury can consider lesser charges for the death of the 31-year-old Bases. But the jury will not be able to consider manslaughter because Quinn denied a request by Townsend.

Johnson, 31, killed Bases the evening of May 11, 2000, at her Steamboat Springs apartment. Prosecutors claim Johnson planned to kill the woman because she was interfering with his relationship with Kimberly Goodwin.

Johnson’s attorneys assert their client drove to Bases’ Steamboat Boulevard apartment to convince Goodwin’s best friend to be in their wedding. They claim Bases attacked their client with a knife, and he protected himself.

After closing statements are given to the jury at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Larimer County Justice Center in Fort Collins, the panel will be given jury instructions by Quinn.

For the death of Bases, the jury can consider second-degree murder, with or without provocation, when deliberating.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Johnson could be

sentenced to life in prison. If convicted of second-degree murder without provocation, he could face 48 years in prison.

Second-degree murder with provocation carries a maximum prison sentence of 32 years.

To find Johnson guilty of first-degree murder, a class one felony, the jury must determine beyond a reasonable doubt Johnson intentionally killed Bases after deliberation.

To find Johnson guilty of second-degree murder, they must determine Johnson killed the woman knowingly.

If the jury determines, the second-degree murder was not provoked it is a class two felony. If the jury determines the second-degree murder was provoked, it drops the charge to a class three felony.

If the jury determines Johnson killed the woman in self-defense, they must find him not guilty of first- or second-degree murder.

Townsend requested Quinn include manslaughter in the jury instructions because he claimed the death of Bases was a “reckless act.”

“We contend wrestling over a knife is a reckless act,” Townsend said.

“Someone could be hurt or die in the struggle.”

St. James objected to Townsend’s request, and Quinn declined to include it.

“The defendant was acting in self-defense when wrestling over the knife,” Quinn said. “I don’t find any reckless conduct.”

The jury will also determine if Johnson is guilty of criminal trespass and mischief for allegedly vandalizing Bases’ sport utility vehicle about a month before her death. Johnson allegedly slashed the vehicle’s tires and interior.

Along with charges, the jury instructions also include directions regarding witness credibility, inconsistent statements, expert testimony and opinion.

The lawyers started to work on the jury instructions when the evidence portion of the trial concluded Thursday afternoon.

The work on the 31-instructions continued until both sides agreed to the document late Friday afternoon.


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