Mistrial declared in Armstrong murder trial

Jurors return to court after break in Armstrong trial

By Brandon Walker - Reporter, Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor, Sophia Beausoleil - Reporter

HOUSTON - After 19 hours and 10 minutes of deliberation Friday night, the jury in the A.J. Armstrong case could not come to a unanimous verdict casing Judge Kelli Johnson to declare a mistrial.

“I did receive this last note, and the note states, ‘We are unable to arrive at a unanimous verdict without causing some members of the jury to do violence to their conscience,’" Johnson told the courtroom. 

Armstrong gathered together with his family members, who cried and prayed after the judge declared a mistrial. He’s currently out on bond and has to wear an ankle monitor. 

“AJ at this point obviously would have liked a final conclusion to not have to relive this again, however, it’s a chance to put it in front of a different jury and now we know that there are people out there that clearly don’t believe, as Rick said, the state’s version of events and AJ, as strong as he’s been this entire time is going to remain strong on the next go around,” said one of Armstrong’s defense attorneys.

The jury, made up of seven men and five women, couldn’t come to a decision for two days and attempted to resolve their differences Friday.  They listened to 38 hours and 13 minutes of evidence and spent weeks on the case.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I know this is probably not the end result that everyone had hoped for as far as a resolution, but please note your efforts, your patience, your determination have not gone unnoticed,” Johnson said to the jury. “I know that this was a very complicated case with a lot of evidence that you had to go through, so on behalf of the 178th and all of us in here, we appreciate your service, the sacrifices you that you made to your employment, family your friends and all of the things that you’ve done to be here please don’t think that your time has been wasted."

On Thursday, jurors sent two notes to Johnson. One asked for advice about how to break a deadlock, and the other indicated they were hopelessly deadlocked. On both occasions, Johnson encouraged jurors to work through their differences.

On Friday, the jury sent a third note to Johnson reporting a deadlock. Defense attorneys requested a mistrial. The judge initially denied that request and read the Allen Charge to the jurors.

At that time, Armstrong’s attorney said the apparent impasse was a good sign that at least one of the jurors did not agree with the state’s case.

In their closing Wednesday, prosecutors argued Armstrong is a convincing liar who killed his parents because he was angry with them for a number of reasons.

The defense argued that Armstrong was hastily developed as a suspect by investigators.

After Friday night’s decision, Armstrong’s attorney said they didn’t consider the mistrial a “win or lose,” but said they now know people don’t believe the state’s theory of the case and will continue to keep fighting.  

“We’re very proud of this jury, they did what they’re supposed to do, they listened to the evidence, we just talked to them.  They were very meticulous, they went through all the text messages, they talked to us about the evidence. I could not be prouder of a group of people as far as serving in the criminal justice system and doing their job,” said Rick DeToto, Armstrong’s defense attorney. 

In a tweet, Assistant Harris County District Attorney John Brewer stated, “We appreciate the tremendous effort by the jury. Antonio Armstrong Jr. murdered two citizens of our county and we will continue to fight for justice and bring him to trial again.” 

 

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