Sunday, September 23, 2001
Steamboat Springs The final motions hearings will be held this week for accused murderer Thomas Lee Johnson, which will set the stage for his three-week jury trial.
Where the Oct. 29 trial will start is not known. One of the issues that will be addressed starting this morning at 8:30 a.m. is Johnson's court-appointed attorney, Norm Townsend, has requested a change of venue.
At this point, the trial is scheduled to be held in 14th Judicial District Court in Steamboat Springs. Townsend is requesting Justice Joseph Quinn to move the trial out of Routt County.
Townsend filed the motion because he contends the jury pool within the county has been tainted because of "massive pretrial publicity."
Townsend is expected to call witnesses to the stand to support his claim.
The 31-year-old Johnson is accused of killing Lori Bases in May 2000. The 31-year-old woman was found dead in her Steamboat Boulevard apartment.
Johnson allegedly stabbed the woman to death.
Because of the woman's death, Johnson has been charged with first-degree murder and criminal trespass and mischief.
According to the motion, Townsend claims the attention the case has received by local print and radio media, as well as Denver print media, has poisoned potential jurors.
Because of so much "prejudicial pretrial publicity" a "fair or expeditious trial cannot take place in the county or the district in which the trial is pending," the motion states.
Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James is seeking to keep the trial in Routt County.
The state contends a fair and impartial jury can be selected for Routt County.
St. James also blames Townsend for providing the local media with a majority of the pretrial publicity.
St. James also argues that if the trial is moved, costs will increase, witnesses will have to travel and the victim's family will be inconvenienced.
St. James also maintains the publicity has been extensive but does not meet the legal standard required for the trial to be moved.
For the trial to be moved, Townsend must prove the publicity "has been massive, pervasive and prejudicial."
Johnson is being held in the Routt County Jail without bond. He was arrested in June 2000 after he allegedly called his ex-wife, Michelle Linnebur, from a Steamboat Springs pay phone.
According to court records, Johnson told his ex-wife he killed Bases. A Steamboat Springs police officer, who was at Linnebur's home at the time of the call, maintains he overheard the conversation.