Potential jurors in AJ Armstrong case questioned on what they know about previous trials

Courtney Fischer Image
Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Potential jurors questioned one-on-one in AJ Armstrong trial
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It'll be weeks before any jurors are selected in the third AJ armstrong murder trial. As of Tuesday, attorneys for both sides have only questioned a few people.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- On day two of jury selection for A.J. Armstrong's third capital murder trial, eight potential jurors were questioned one-on-one by prosecutors and the defense. They are eight of the 35 people picked from Monday's initial panel of 74 potential jurors.

This uncommon jury selection usually happens in a death penalty case. But because of the high-profile nature of the Armstrong case, Judge Kelli Johnson agreed to the request of the Harris County District Attorney's Office, that potential jurors should be questioned individually so as to build a fair and impartial panel.

Two of the eight potential jurors were dismissed, leaving six people to come back on final jury selection day, set for May 31. The trial is set to start June 5, nearly seven years after Dawn and Antonio Sr. were shot to death in their southwest Houston home.

This will be the third time Armstrong is on trial for allegedly shooting and killing his parents. Armstrong's first trial in March 2019 resulted in a hung jury. His second trial was nearly six months ago, in October, and ended with the same result.

Of the two people excused on Tuesday, one man admitted he didn't feel comfortable being on the jury because of the automatic punishment in this case: Armstrong would be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 40 years should he be found guilty of capital murder.

The woman excused, said she found it "terrifying to sit in judgment of another human being...if you get it wrong."

Each potential juror was questioned for about an hour: 30 minutes by prosecutors, followed by 30 minutes from the defense.

Assistant District Attorney John Jordan focused much on media attention, asking each person what he/she has heard about the case on local news, on social media, or read online. Prosecutors also asked several potential jurors to look Armstrong in the eye, saying if the state proved their case, could they indeed find Armstrong guilty? All six jurors said they could.

Armstrong's attorneys asked people how they felt about police officers - relevant because the defense has tried to show that HPD detectives didn't thoroughly consider other suspects, focusing quickly and only on Armstrong early in the investigation.

The state and defense also questioned several potential jurors about their thoughts on mental health and the stigma that surrounds it. It's significant to the case because defense attorney Rick DeToto theorized in the first two trials that Armstrong's older half-brother, Josh Armstrong, could be the real killer, after suffering a psychotic breakdown. Prosecutors argued that Josh was suffering from mental health issues for a while and the breakdown was caused by the murders.

Day three of jury selection resumes Wednesday. It's expected to last another three weeks.

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