Garbage-size bag of evidence apparently vanishes, delays teen's murder trial

By Brandon Walker - Reporter

HOUSTON - Procedural hearings consumed most of day seven in the capital murder trial of Antonio Armstrong Jr. 

Jurors were not seated until 2:49 p.m. due to several matters that needed to be discussed between the prosecution and the defense, including a bag of evidence that's apparently missing. 

The court reporter described the bag of evidence in question as a medium-sized garbage bag with items inside it. The items would be the evidence in question. 

While three people, including the court reporter and a bailiff, testified during the hearing on the missing bag, reporters were unable to hear the testimony because all speaking during the hearing took place in whispers at Judge Kelli Johnson's bench. 

The hearing, however, was a matter of public record. An alternate court reporter was brought in to record the testimony. 

KPRC2 reporter Brandon Walker was in the courtroom and was able to hear the defense ask the court reporter if she was able to locate the bag. Her whispered answer could not be heard. 

During a briefing with reporters after the trial concluded for the day, Rick DeToto, Armstrong's defense attorney, said he could not comment on the missing bag. 

Before that hearing, there was another hearing, also without the jury. It dealt with data extracted from Armstrong's mobile devices, including text messages and Google searches. 

The defense did not want some of the information admitted into evidence. DeToto questioned whether the data extracted from Armstrong's mobile devices was "cherry-picked" by the prosecution to support its case. 

Johnson encouraged both sides to compromise on the matter. 

While they did, details of what was agreed upon were not made available to reporters. 

Former Kinkaid headmaster testifies for prosecution

Jurors were admitted into the courtroom after the lunch break for the only witness testimony they would hear Tuesday. Prior to testifying, Andrew Martire embraced Armstrong in the corridor outside the courtroom.

Martire was headmaster at The Kinkaid School during Armstrong's junior year.

On the stand for the prosecution, Martire testified that Armstrong had been placed on academic probation for the second half of the school year.

"How did the semester end for the defendant in spring 2016?" asked prosecutor John Brewer.

"His grades were not sufficient enough ... to essentially release the academic probation," Martire said.

Martire also said the school later informed Armstrong's parents that he wouldn't be able to return because of his grades.

Both Armstrong and his younger sister attended the school.

During Martire's testimony, it was also revealed that both Armstrong children were on financial aid at the private school, where tuition is estimated to be upward of $24,000 per year.

Martire said he spoke to Antonio Armstrong Sr. over the phone. Martire testified that Armstrong told him during that conversation that both of his children wouldn't be returning because the family could no longer afford tuition.

Martire's testimony lasted 26 minutes and jurors were then dismissed for the day.

Court resumes Wednesday at 9 a.m. The prosecution is expected to rest its case.

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