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Jury selected for murder trial

Opening statements will be given today

Gary E. Salazar

— Eight women and four men were selected from a pool of 150 Larimer County residents Tuesday to serve on the jury that will hear the murder trial of Thomas Lee Johnson.

It took two days to select the jury for Johnson, who is accused of killing a Steamboat Springs woman in May 2000.

The 12 jurors who sat in front of Johnson in the Larimer County Justice Center in Fort Collins will decide his fate in the next couple of weeks. Opening statements will be given when the trial resumes at 9 a.m. today. Justice Joseph P. Quinn is presiding.

The jury includes three alternates who are women.

Johnson’s court-appointed attorney, Norm Townsend, and Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James are expected to deliver the opening statements. Once the two attorneys have addressed the jury, St. James will present the prosecution’s case.

Prosecutors claim Johnson planned and then carried out the murder of Lori Bases the evening of May 11, 2000. The 31-year-old Johnson is accused of stabbing the woman to death.

The 31-year-old woman was found dead in her Steamboat apartment by her roommate in the early morning hours of May 12.

The prosecution will allege Johnson killed Bases because she was interfering with his relationship with Kimberly Goodwin.

Johnson married Goodwin in Las Vegas about two weeks after Bases’ death. Goodwin, who was a close friend of Bases, left Johnson in June 2000 and filed for divorce.

The marriage was dissolved in Routt County in December 2000.

Just before the start of the trial, defense attorneys said they would argue Johnson killed Bases in self-defense.

Townsend said Johnson went to Bases’ residence that night to talk about his proposed marriage to Goodwin and that he did not plan to kill her.

It is the defense’s contention that, during the conversation, Bases ordered Johnson to leave and when he did not, she attacked him with a knife she kept in her bedroom, Townsend said.

Johnson then defended himself, Townsend said.

Johnson has been charged with first-degree murder.

He also has been charged with criminal mischief and trespass for allegedly vandalizing Bases’ sport utility vehicle about a month before the alleged murder.

At the end of September, Quinn moved the murder trial to Larimer County because he said pretrial publicity would make it difficult to select an impartial jury in Routt County.

The trial is scheduled to last three weeks.

“Our expectation and hope is to finish the trial sooner,” St. James said.

It took two full days for prosecutors and defense attorneys to agree on the jury panel, who live in Fort Collins, Loveland and Estes Park.

The majority of the jury is white, though there is one Hispanic man and one Hispanic woman.

Lawyers selected the jury through a tedious process. At the end of Monday, 15 residents were randomly selected from the 200 residents who showed up for jury duty.

Each of the potential jurors that were called to sit in the 15 seats were asked questions by St. James and Townsend.

St. James’ questions focused on attitude regarding the legal system, viewing graphic pictures and if they ever hunted or “dressed an animal” with a knife.

Townsend questioned potential jurors about their attitude toward recreational drug use, drug use affecting a person’s judgment and if drug use has long-term effects on a person.

Townsend also pressed the panel with questions about self-defense and their opinion of a man protecting himself from a woman. A total of 19 jurors were dismissed from the panel Tuesday.

Once a juror was dismissed, it was filled by a randomly selected resident from the jury pool. Every time a potential juror was dismissed, the new resident was asked the same questions by St. James and Townsend.

After St. James and Townsend agreed on the jury, the pool clapped and cheered. They were then dismissed by Quinn.

“It was a long process, and I hated it,” said 19-year-old Zach Schultz, one of the potential jurors who was not seated.

Schultz said he was happy the selection was over and he could go home to Berthoud where he owns a trash-collection business.


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