Jury seated for murder trial
Steamboat Springs — After a selection process that took nearly four days, a jury of 10 men and five women was selected Friday to decide whether 46-year-old Thomas Lee Johnson is guilty of the May 2000 slaying of Lori Bases.
Members of the jury were instructed not to read current or past news reports about the case. Jurors were selected who were unaware there have been two previous trials. Because of legal technicalities, new trials were ordered.
During jury selection, Judge Michael O’Hara discovered one juror ignored the judge’s instructions not to speak to anyone about the case. That juror was dismissed and given a court date for contempt.
After the jury was seated, the prosecution and defense presented opening statements.
Assistant District Attorney Matt Karzen spoke for the prosecution and began by showing a picture of Bases. He said the 31-year-old woman was sitting on a recliner watching television when she was attacked.
“The evidence will show that Thomas Johnson butchered Lori Bases on her own floor of her own home,” Karzen said.
Karzen said that weeks before the attack, Johnson had sexually assaulted his girlfriend Kim Goodwin, a good friend of Bases. Goodwin confided in Bases after the incident, and Bases tried to convince her friend to separate from Johnson.
Karzen said Johnson felt threatened by Bases because she was interfering with his relationship with Goodwin, and Johnson vandalized Bases’ car a month before the attack.
“Lori Bases is the thing standing in between him and what he needs — control of Kim,” Karzen said.
Goodwin then told Johnson she did not want to move in with him.
Karzen argued this led to Johnson renting a car and driving from the Front Range to Steamboat to stab Bases up to 20 times, including three wounds to the heart and a cut on her side that left a gaping wound.
“If that ladies and gentleman was not enough, Thomas Johnson cut Lori’s throat from left to right … so hard and so deep that he severed everything in her neck,” Karzen said.
Karzen said the jury will hear a recording of a taped phone conversation between Johnson and his ex-wife, where Johnson admits to the attack.
Attorney Randall Salky spoke on behalf of Johnson.
Salky said Bases died as a result of Johnson defending himself. He said Bases attacked Johnson with a knife, and Johnson was injured as a result.
“On May 11, Lori Bases attacked Thomas Johnson with a knife, and for him to survive, his instinct was to fight,” Salky said. “His brain told his body that it had to fight to survive, and that’s what he did.”
Salky said the jury would hear from experts who would testify about how the brain responds to threats and the natural instinct to survive. He said the jury would also hear testimony about how Bases had become paranoid, and that it was discovered during the autopsy that Bases had cocaine in her system.
The jury will reconvene at 8:30 a.m. Monday for the trial, which is scheduled to last three weeks. The prosecution will begin calling their witnesses to testify.
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