Judge in AJ Armstrong trial denies dueling defense, prosecutor motions ahead of jury selection

AJ Armstrong Re-Trial, Day 3: Investigators describe suspect as 'calm' after parents were found dead

Houston – The judge presiding over the third high-profile murder trial of AJ Armstrong denied motions from both the defense and prosecution Monday and began jury selection as scheduled.

The denied dueling requests filed days before the start of jury selection showed the tension between the two parties over pre-trial publicity.

Watch ‘The Bench’ at 6:00 p.m. in the KPRC 2+ livestream player below:

On Thursday, defense attorney Rick DeToto filed motions to delay jury selection and instead hold a hearing to discuss an apparent relationship between a juror and a Harris County prosecutor.

The judge denied the motion, but the next day, prosecutors also filed a motion requesting to correct “the numerous misstatements” and to add another layer of review before court records are made public.

RELATED VIDEO: ‘The Bench’ criminal trial expert shares her perspective on Armstrong jury selection

In a court record, the defense says a former Harris County Assistant District Attorney shared that a prosecutor was dating a juror during Armstrong’s second trial. The defense argues because this was not disclosed during jury selection, Armstrong’s right to a fair trial by impartial jurors was denied.

The state’s response filed on Friday states the following:

  • the person in question sat as an alternate juror;
  • the prosecutor had no affiliation with the defendant’s case at any time and did not act as a trial prosecutor on it;

The district attorney’s office also states that “alternate jurors do not deliberate with sitting jurors.”

In Armstrong’s second trial, jurors were not able to reach a unanimous agreement on a verdict, ending in a hung jury.

In court records, prosecutors are asking the judge to take action to “protect the integrity of the jury selection process.”

In January, Judge Kelli Johnson issued a publicity order preventing attorneys from making “extrajudicial statements.”

The order was in response to the high-profile case, the “willingness” of attorneys to give interviews, and after a national news show published testimony and inadmissible evidence following the second mistrial.

Prosecutors call the defense’s latest motion an attempt “to taint the jury pool” and that the previous gag order is “insufficient to protect the integrity of the jury selection process.

In addition to denying the pre-trial motions filed by both sides, Judge Johnson also declared new motions would not be sealed, giving the media and public more access to what’s unfolding in the trial.

KPRC 2 presents ‘The Bench’

Hosted by Investigative Reporter Joel Eisenbaum, KPRC 2 is decoding the legalese, breaking down the arguments, and taking you inside the case. You’ll hear from our panel of experts and reporters, including Rilwan Balogun.

When and how you can watch:

  • “The Bench” starts Monday and will break down what happens during jury selection.
  • Our special coverage will begin at 8:00 am Monday on KPRC 2+ and will continue at 12:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
  • Search for the KPRC 2+ app on your smart TV or streaming device - including Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Google TV.
  • Download the KPRC2+ mobile app to be ready to watch on the go.
  • Look for the KPRC 2+ livestream in the “Watch Live” section of the Click2Houston news app.