Photos may have tainted juror
Alternate could be needed in Johnson trial
Fort Collins — Autopsy photos of Lori Bases were so gruesome they may have impacted a juror who will decide the fate of Thomas Lee Johnson.
At the end of testimony Friday evening, a juror among the 15-member panel submitted a note to Justice Joseph P. Quinn, who is presiding over the murder trial at the Larimer County Justice Center in Fort Collins.
Through the note, the juror expressed concern that “juror No. 9” may have made up her mind regarding the guilt of Johnson based on 16 autopsy photos the prosecution showed to the jury Friday morning.
According to the note, the juror notified Quinn the juror made statements about the case and may not listen to the rest of the trial.
Because of the information, Quinn brought the 12-member jury back into the courtroom to give the eight women and four men further instruction.
“You must keep an open and uncommitted mind,” Quinn stressed to the jurors. “You must render a verdict determined on all the evidence.”
Quinn said to the jurors that if any one of them can’t continue, to notify him Monday when the trial resumes at 9 a.m.
“It is a heavy responsibility you have,” Quinn said. “I want each one of you to search your mind over the weekend.”
If a juror is dismissed, the person would be replaced by one of three alternates listening to the testimony.
Johnson’s attorney, Norm Townsend, was not satisfied with the extra warning Quinn gave to the jurors.
“The judge should call her out and ask her questions,” Townsend said.
Fourteenth Judicial District Attorney Paul McLimans said he was satisfied with the warning Quinn gave the jury.
The autopsy photos Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James entered into evidence Friday morning showed the stab and slash wounds Johnson inflicted on the 31-year-old Bases on the evening of May 11, 2000.
Prosecutors contend Johnson planned to kill the Steamboat Springs woman because she was interfering with his relationship to Kimberly Goodwin, a close friend of Bases.
The 31-year-old man’s
attorneys claim Johnson killed the woman at her Steamboat Boulevard apartment in self-defense.
On Friday morning, Dr. Ben Galloway testified Bases died of “excessive blood loss” because of the multiple stab and slash wounds.
The forensic pathologist detailed each stab and slash wound found on the woman’s body during the May 13, 2000 autopsy.
Galloway started at Bases’ head and neck, which a picture depicted as severely slashed.
Galloway testified the slash to Bases’ throat was 7 inches in length, about 4 inches wide and more than an inch deep.
The wound severed Bases’ throat and cut into her cervical vertebrae, Galloway said.
The doctor also testified about the four stab wounds found on Bases’ chest.
The woman was stabbed three times on the left side of her chest and once on the right side of her chest, Galloway said.
On of the stab wounds to Bases’ left side of her chest severed a main vessel, the aorta, in her heart, Galloway said. Because of this wound, Bases bled into her left chest cavity.
A second stab wound to this part of the chest broke three ribs, he said.
“The stab wounds were fatal and death happened rapidly,” Galloway said.
Bases was also stabbed on the right side of her lower back, he said. This wound sliced the woman’s liver. The woman was also slashed twice in this area, he said.
The back of Bases’ thighs were also slashed, as well as her left shoulder, right elbow, her left forearm and hand.
Galloway testified the slashes to the woman’s left forearm and hand indicate the woman was trying to protect herself.
During Galloway’s testimony, Johnson’s back faced the wall where the pictures were being displayed by an overhead projector.
St. James suggested to the jury a folding knife with a square base and a single jagged edge could have caused the wounds.
During cross-examination, Johnson’s attorney, Eric Vanatta, asked if the stab and slash wounds could have been made by a kitchen knife.
Galloway said the wounds could have been caused by a kitchen knife.
Galloway also testified that based on the autopsy he could not say what Johnson or Bases were thinking at the time of the incident.
Galloway was also unable to tell the court how the wounds were inflicted.
The doctor also confirmed Bases had been using cocaine. Traces of the drug were found in her blood, he said.
Johnson’s attorneys contend Bases attacked Johnson because of the effects the drug had on the woman.
They claim Johnson “flipped out” when Bases attacked him with a kitchen knife she had kept in her bedroom.
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