Jury to begin deliberations in Johnson case | SteamboatToday.com

Jury to begin deliberations in Johnson case

— It is now up to a jury of 12 Routt County residents to decide the fate of Thomas Lee Johnson, who is accused of first-degree murder related to the May 2000 death of Lori Bases.

The jury will return to the Routt County Justice Center on Saturday to begin deliberations.

Closing arguments presented by the prosecution and defense went into Friday evening. Each side was given 90 minutes to speak to the jury about what they believed the testimony and evidence showed.

Johnson claims he acted in self defense when he slashed and stabbed Bases about 20 times at her apartment on Steamboat Boulevard.

In addition to the first-degree murder charge, the jury can also consider lesser offenses of second-degree murder or manslaughter.

Johnson has already had been tried twice for the Bases murder, but due to faulty jury instructions and because Johnson was not allowed to represent himself, new trials were ordered.

With first-degree murder, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Johnson planned to kill Bases.

“We are sitting in a room today with a stone-cold killer,” Assistant District Attorney Matt Karzen told the jury.

The prosecution argued that Johnson drove from the Front Range to Steamboat Springs in a rental car to kill Bases because she was interfering with his relationship with Kim Goodwin. A month before the homicide, Karzen said, Johnson drove to Steamboat to slash Bases’ car tire.

“It’s a clear and brutal act of rage,” Karzen said. “A man targeting the woman who is in between what he needs.”

Karzen said Johnson attacked Bases while she ran to her bedroom, and he began stabbing her.

“He is filled with selfish rage, and he mutilates her … because, by God, his message will be heard,” Karzen said.

Both the prosecution and the defense spent time trying to discredit the testimony of each other’s witnesses.

During the trial, the defense called its own expert, who was paid to describe what he thought happened at the crime scene.

Karzen called the witness an overreaching former police officer who “tried to represent himself as something he is not.”

Johnson’s attorney, Erin Wilson, said one of the prosecution’s key witnesses testified that she was 40 years old when she is actually 45 years old.

“What else is she not being forthright with?” Wilson asked.

Wilson said police made mistakes when they were investigating.

“Think about the bias of law enforcement and the steps they may take to cover it up when they made a mistake,” Wilson said.

Wilson said police did not investigate whether Johnson may have killed Bases to defend himself.

“Mr. Johnson acted on his most primitive survival instinct, and he did survive,” Wilson said. “That is a successful self defense.”

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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