HOUSTON – The trial for the murder case against 19-year-old Antonio Armstrong Jr. began Tuesday, but before the jury comes into the courtroom, the judge had to rule on allowing or suppressing crucial evidence that would help the prosecution.
Armstrong is accused of killing his parents in July 2016. His father previously played football in the National Football League.
The defense argued in a hearing Monday, certain oral statements must be suppressed claiming Armstrong gave his statement to police without a lawyer present although an attorney-client relationship had already been established.
“You don’t have to exchange money, you don’t have to sign a contract. As long as someone says, ‘Hey, I want to represent you’ and the lawyer agrees to represent that person they go down and they do it. So that’s what we’re trying to show the court,” defense attorney Richard DeToto said.
After reviewing case law, the judge ruled Tuesday ahead of the trial, that the statements Armstrong gave to authorities were admissible in court. Recordings show Armstrong heard the Miranda warnings given to him and he proceeded with his statement.
Tuesday morning, surrounded by attorneys and family members, 19-year-old Armstrong Jr. walked into the courtroom for his first day of trial.
Antonio Armstrong Jr., then 16, was arrested in July 2016 in connection with the death of his parents, Antonio and Dawn Armstrong.
Antonio Armstrong Jr. claimed there was an intruder in the home. However, during opening arguments, the prosecution said the Armstrong family's home alarm system never went off for an intruder breaking in, instead, it detected Armstrong walking downstairs to his parents’ bedroom. Authorities said Armstrong used his father’s gun to kill his parents as they slept.
However, the defense argued, police officers made up their minds within 11 minutes of arriving at the murder scene that Armstrong was the killer, without having all the evidence.
The defense also argued Armstrong's DNA was not on the gun found at the scene and that his parents' blood was not detected on him. DeToto said Armstrong's brother, who lives two minutes away, refused to tell police where he was at the time of the murder.
DeToto said he is ready for the trial and feels confident about the case and the jury.
“The battle was fought when we picked the jury the other day," DeToto said. "I can tell you that I’m very happy with this jury. I think they’re 12 very bright and intelligent people. We look forward to presenting our case to them.”
The judge has ruled that only opening statements, closing arguments and the verdict are allowed to be broadcast live.
Both sides expect a lengthy trial, lasting about a month.