AJ Armstrong trial: What could happen after jury's verdict

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A week and a half of intense and fiery courtroom drama has been turned over to the jury in the double murder trial of A.J. Armstrong.

The 19-year-old defendant's future is in the balance as he's the only suspect named in the July 2016 shootings of his parents, Antonio and Dawn Armstrong, in their own home.

The case was indeed complex, given the variety of expert and character witnesses, as well as the bags full of evidence. There is no obvious sign of A.J.'s guilt or innocence.

"You've got someone as a kid, 16 years old at the time he committed it. He's charged with the most serious of crimes - capital murder. He's facing life in prison," said ABC13 legal analyst, Steve Shellist. "If a jury finds him guilty, that's a big deal. And I think jurors, even when they think they know what they're going to do, they take their role seriously."

Shellist, who has closely observed the case, believes the jury should get the time to look at the evidence, including the thousands of pages of texts between A.J. and his parents.

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"Text messages...nowadays are so personal. It's such a personal insight into a person's thinking, into their mind. And they're going to play detective," Shellist said.

He added jurors are going to look for any clue that they can that suggests that he committed it.

"Jurors like to solve the puzzle," he said.

A.J. faces a near-future with multiple paths.

If he's found not guilty, he returns to a life interrupted after arguably the most traumatic experience in his 19 years alive.

"He walks out of there," Shellist said. "The minute the judge reads the verdict, if he wants to run out of the courtroom, even with everyone yelling at him and telling him to stop. I think he can run out of that courtroom."

If he's convicted, Shellist says his freedom ends at that moment.

According to Shellist, A.J.'s bond is revoked since the potential sentence is greater than 10 years and he's not entitled to an appeal bond.

"Because in a capital murder case (the sentence) is life, there is no opportunity for him to get an appeal bond," he said.

He added A.J. would have to sit in jail for around the next two years while the appellate process goes through.

There is also the possibility of a mistrial, where jurors are hung up on a unanimous decision of guilt or innocence.

"What happens in that case is (the defendants) are rolled back to an earlier point in the case where they're back on bond now...Everyone will take a collective breath, they'll wait a week or two, and then the state will regroup, talk to the elected (district attorney), and say, 'What do you want us to do?' I think in a case like this, (District Attorney Kim Ogg) is going to say, 'Try it again.'"

Shellist cautioned about the word acquittal as a verdict.

"It is a very strange word. It does mean that you are finding them not guilty. What you're not doing is you're not saying that they're innocent," he explained.

FAMILY SHATTERED: The murder trial of A.J. Armstrong

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