HOUSTON – The third trial in the case against A.J. Armstrong, the man accused of killing his parents while they slept at their home in 2016, will be held, as planned, in Harris County, according to officials.
The decision was made Monday at a hearing over a change of venue request, which was filed two weeks ago by the presiding judge.
A mistrial was declared in the previous two cases against AJ, who was a teen when his parents were murdered.
At Monday’s hearing, both sides were allowed to present evidence as to why or why they did not want the trial to be moved out of Harris County.
In the court documents filed on Friday by the lawyers representing Armstrong, the defense offered several points, including their belief that the change of venue would violate the defendant’s equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment-- that 12 fair and unbiased jurors can be found in Harris County.
The court documents reference other high-profile cases which garnered national attention that remained in Harris County for trial, including the David Temple murder case.
A.J.’s grandparents and other supporters were joined by Houston NAACP president Bishop James Dixon and other renowned faith leaders including Dr. John Ogletree, Dr. Ralph West, Dr. Samuel Gilbert and Dr. Kenneth Campbell, calling for justice, feeling that taking the trial out of the county would not allow him to have a fair and just trial.
Jury selection will begin on Feb. 24, as previously scheduled, and is expected to take about six weeks.
On July 28, 2016, former NFL player Antonio Armstrong Sr. and his wife, Dawn Armstrong, were murdered as they quietly slept at their home in the 5300 block of Palmetto Street.
A.J., who was home at the time, called 911 and said he saw a masked person in the house. Prosecutors said his claims were all a lie.
Prosecutors intended to show that A.J. was embroiled in conflict with his parents over failing grades and poor behavior. They said that the murders were committed by someone who was already inside the home, claiming that neither the burglar alarm system nor any other evidence showed signs of forced entry.
The first mistrial was declared in 2019 because, after three days of deliberation, the jury back then could not reach a unanimous decision. Eight jurors believed A.J. was guilty, but four jurors voted not guilty.
In October 2022, during the second trial, a judge ruled another mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a verdict in the capital murder case. In that case, defense attorneys pointed out inaccuracies with the family’s home alarm system and even presented evidence that A.J.’s older brother could have been the killer.
Just as in the first trial, it was a hung jury. Unwilling to let go, the District Attorney’s Office pushed for another trial, which is now scheduled to begin on March 20.
“We are ready. I told you guys a long time ago; they need to pack a lunch we are ready to go. We know this case inside out. It doesn’t matter when we are tried,” defense attorney Rick Detoto said after the announcement of the second hung jury. “Obviously, this family has been waiting for six years with the cost of delays and all of the stuff that has occurred in the case.”
A.J.’s grieving grandparents continue to stand by his side. Keith Wylie, Dawn Armstrong’s father, and Mrs. Kay, Antonio Sr.’s mother, previously addressed the media on how they feel about the repeat trials.
“We can’t move on with our lives, and we can’t forget what we’ve been through because of the DA and HPD, and their mishandling of this case. It’s time for the DA to do the right thing and let A.J. and our family move on with our lives,” the grandparents read in a joint statement.