HOUSTON – Attorneys representing a Bellaire teenager accused of killing his parents two years ago said Wednesday that they have been denied the right to investigate the case themselves and want the charges against him dropped.
Antonio Armstrong Jr. was 16 years old when the Harris County District Attorney’s Office charged him with capital murder in the July 2016 shooting deaths of his father, former NFL player Antonio Armstrong Sr., and his mother, Dawn Armstrong.
Defense attorneys filed a motion Tuesday seeking to dismiss the charges and discussed that motion during a Wednesday news conference.
“We were denied our constitutional rights to cross examine and develop this evidence," defense attorney Rick DeToto said.
Armstrong Jr. and his attorneys have always said an intruder killed his parents. Newly shared evidence supports that theory, defense attorneys argue in the new motion to dismiss the case.
According to the court documents, Houston police were approached by a woman named Maxine Adams months after the crime, who claimed Armstrong Sr. was involved in a prostitution ring.
“This lady had very specific details about prostitution allegations. She gave names she gave phone numbers. She described what had happened. But more importantly she told HPD in December 2016 that there were death threats made against Antonio Armstrong Sr. She said she had knowledge of him changing his life insurance policy based on these death threats,” DeToto said.
This interview took place in December 2016, and the DA's office informed the defense that it happened but said the matter had been "investigated and [was] not credible," according to the motion.
About a year and a half after the interview, however, the DA's office gave the defense "an electronic zip file" with an audio recording of the interview and 50,000 pages of phone records from Adams, all of which the defense said it did not know existed.
The long delay in producing evidence that may support the defense's theory “has severely prejudiced the defendant from an independent investigation of the facts of this case, this case should be dismissed," the motion said.
The defense also requested a hearing to review the evidence.
"This type of information should have been turned over much, much sooner," legal analyst Chris Downey said. "And to have, for example, 50,000 pages of telephone records dumped on you after the first trial setting is a bit absurd.”
But Downey said dismissing the case "may be a bit premature," because the judge can simply give the defense extra time to go over the evidence and may sanction the DA's office.
"We’ve got to look at that very, very strongly to make sure that there isn’t an element of bad faith involved," Downey said, "that there isn’t some ulterior motive to win at all costs."
The Harris County District Attorney's Office released the following statement in response to the motion:
“This document was submitted as a standard pretrial motion by the defense in preparation for an upcoming trial. We welcome the opportunity to present all the facts regarding this matter to a judge, be that in writing or at a hearing, as determined by the court. We reserve additional comment until that time.”