Mistrial declared in AJ Armstrong retrial after nearly 18 hours of deliberation

Courtney Fischer Image
Thursday, October 27, 2022
Mistrial declared in AJ Armstrong's second murder trial
A mistrial has been declared in the second murder trial of A.J. Armstrong, who is accused of killing his parents, Dawn and Antonio, in 2016.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- After jurors deliberated for 17 hours and 58 minutes, a mistrial has been declared for the second time in the capital murder case of A.J. Armstrong, who is accused of killing his parents, Dawn and Antonio.

Dawn and Antonio were killed as they slept in the family's southwest Houston home in 2016. A.J. was just 16 years old at the time of their deaths.

"It's been six years. It's been two trials. It's been 40-50 witnesses. It's been, probably, millions of dollars of expenses by the district attorney's office. It's time to let this young man go," Defense Attorney Rick DeToto said. "They've brought their best prosecutors. They've tried to bring their best case. And the split, as far as we know, when they (jurors) broke was eight and four, not guilty. So it got worse for them."

Judge Kelli Johnson told prosecutors and defense attorneys that based on the amount of evidence in this case, the length of testimony, and the amount of time jurors have been deliberating, she urged them to continue.

The jury sent a note to the judge explaining none of the jurors believed his/her vote will change and that they are deadlocked. Judge Johnson brought out the jury and read them the Allen charge.

Under the Allen charge, Johnson explained to jurors that if they cannot come to an agreement, there will be a mistrial. She encouraged jurors on the minority side to reconsider, but not if it compromises one's morals.

Johnson also explained that any future jury will have the same struggles this jury may be dealing with and there is no reason to hope the next jury will find the process any easier.

In 2019, A.J.'s first capital murder trial ended in a mistrial with a hung jury. Jurors deliberated for 19 hours but could not agree. Defense attorneys now tell ABC13 that in that trial, jurors were split, with eight in favor of A.J.'s guilt and four who considered him not guilty. We previously reported the split was 10 and two.

This time around, eight jurors considered A.J. was not guilty and four believed he was guilty.

Prosecutors have already told ABC13 that they would not speak on camera regarding the mistrial. However, the court has cleared February 2023 as a potential time for a retrial.

At this point, the district attorney's office is mulling whether to retry.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg summed up the prosecution's role in the second mistrial against A.J. Armstrong.

"We followed the evidence and stood up for Antonio Armstrong Sr. and Dawn Armstrong, who were murdered in their bed," Ogg said. "We appreciate the time, effort and diligence of jurors as they were presented all the evidence in this brutal attack."

If there is another retrial, DeToto said he is prepared to do this again and has a conference room devoted to A.J.'s case.

"I told you, I'll never stop fighting for A.J.," DeToto said.

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