AJ Armstrong could near his 3rd capital murder trial in 7 years

Courtney Fischer Image
Saturday, April 29, 2023
Jury selection looms for what could be AJ Armstrong's 3rd trial
Jury selection for A.J. Armstrong's third capital murder trial is set to start soon. AJ is accused of killing his parents Dawn and Antonio in 2016.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Jury selection for A.J. Armstrong's third capital murder trial is set to start Monday despite a motion filed by Armstrong's team Thursday, claiming they needed more time to "question (a) juror from the second trial regarding a dating relationship with a Harris County prosecutor."

The Harris County District Attorney's Office responded to that motion by filing its own strongly-worded motion on Friday seeking a continuance.

The DA's office criticized the timing of the defense request, writing that the State has been "unfairly prejudiced at the present time" because of media coverage.

Sources familiar with the Armstrong case tell ABC13 that said juror briefly dated a Harris County prosecutor who has no connection to the Armstrong case. We're also told she was an alternate juror who was not involved in deliberations.

Defense attorney Rick DeToto offered no comment but his motion reads: "By withholding this information from the defense during trial, the right to a fair trial was denied."

The District Attorney's office also declined to comment. Due to the publicity of the case, Judge Kelli Johnson has warned attorneys on both sides not to make statements to the media that could "harm the judicial process."

It's been more than six months since the retrial ended in no verdict and nearly seven years since Armstrong was charged with killing his parents.

In July 2016, Dawn and Antonio Sr. were each shot in the head, pillows placed over their faces, while asleep in their southwest Houston home. Armstrong was arrested hours later. He was 16 years old, entering his junior year of high school at the time.

SEE ALSO: 'I didn't do it:' Accused killer A.J. Armstrong tells his story

Today, Armstrong is a 23-year-old man who has worn a GPS ankle monitor all his adult life, since bonding out of jail in 2017. Last month, court paperwork shows Armstrong violated a bond condition when the GPS tracker died for two and a half hours because he had failed to charge it.

Since his last trial, Armstrong has married the mother of his son, his high school girlfriend, Kate Ober, who testified on his behalf during his first trial. Big milestones for anyone, but Armstrong has yet to move on with his life, as investigators maintain he is the only person who could have killed his parents, which prosecutors will attempt to prove to a third jury.

There have been several delays in what seems like the never-ending saga that is the Armstrong case thanks to Hurricane Harvey, COVID, dozens of rescheduled hearings, even lost evidence. It has become one of the thousands of backlogged cases plaguing Harris County criminal courts.

While District Attorney Kim Ogg pointed out during a recent press conference the backlog has been reduced by about 21 percent since June 2021, we found when it comes to violent crime, the backlog continues to climb, specifically showing a lag in trying capital murder cases.

Comparing January 2021 to January 2022, data from the Texas Office of Court Administration shows amount of capital murder cases awaiting trial in Harris County increased by about 12 percent. Compare January 2022 to January 2023, and there's about a seven percent increase in pending capital murder cases.

But legal analyst Steve Shellist says you can't compare the unprecedented Armstrong case with the backlog.

"If you were to average it out, it's taken what, about two years to get to each trial? That's not crazy," Shellist said. "(That's) not a long time to get to three trials."

What is concerning, he says, is the cost, which doesn't necessarily mean dollars.

"It is a cost that can't be put into a calculator," Shellist said. "(Prosecutors) could be working on other cases. These are very high level prosecutors. There are other victims out there or victims' families who are waiting on their cases and defendants who are waiting on cases. These prosecutors could be devoting their time to those cases."

Jury selection is expected to take three to four weeks with the trial set to start on June 1.

For complete coverage of the AJ Armstrong case, follow Courtney Fischer on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

'I'M INNOCENT': Houston teen AJ Armstrong gives his side as he awaits trial in murder of his parents

AJ ARMSTRONG SPEAKS: Teen suspected of killing his parents in their SW Houston home gives his side

Look back on the original case below