HOUSTON – It’s the second week of Antonio Armstrong Jr.’s third capital murder trial.
Last week, 17 witnesses were called on week one of the trial, which ended with Judge Kelli Johnson expressing concerns about Dawn Armstrong’s cellphone. But jurors didn’t see this evidence.
The judge said she had concerns with the phone’s chain of custody because of how it was sent to an outside company to get into the password-protected phone.
KPRC 2 will be live daily inside the courtroom and will document new details along with everything you should know.
Aug. 7 - 12:10 p.m.
Judge Johnson ended the day at 5 p.m. right when Rossi was explaining how she found the new DNA evidence. Court will resume Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.
Aug. 7 - 12:10 p.m.
The 19th witness is called to the stand, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigator Sergeant and Blood Stain Pattern Analyst Celestina Rossi.
She is responsible for finding the new DNA that delayed the start of the trial.
During Rossi’s testimony, prosecutors showed jurors several displays made to mirror the Armstrong residence, such as their king-size bed and staircase.
In the first live demonstration, prosecutors pulled out a make-shift staircase while playing part of AJ’s interview where he explained to homicide detectives where he was located when he heard the gunshots. The prosecutors tried imitating AJ’s location, showing jurors that if he was located exactly where he said he was, he would have come face-to-face with the shooter.
The second demonstration was of Antonio Sr. and Dawn lying in their king-sized bed on the night they were murdered. The display showed a king-sized makeshift bed and two mannequins.
Rossi went through with prosecutors, from her expertise and knowledge of crime scenes, where she believes the suspect stood during the shooting, how many bullets were shot and the lack of blood spatter.
Aug. 7 - 9:48 a.m.
The 18th witness is called to the stand, Houston Police Department Detective Andrew Barr.
Barr is the detective who bagged and inspected AJ’s clothing once he was officially charged with capital murder. Barr’s testimony was vital for both prosecutors and the defense team because he examined AJ’s clothing back in 2016 and did not find blood. Now, more than seven years later, Barr said he was present when the new DNA evidence found on a sticker that was attached to AJ’s shirt was discovered.
Barr testified that on June 2, he was present, along with HPD Sgt. Kenneth Daignault, when Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigator Sergeant and bloodstain pattern analyst Celestina Rossi discovered the new DNA.
Surveillance video from inside the evidence room was shown to the jury. In the video, Rossi could be seen examining the shirt while Daignault and Barr held flashlights. It’s not clear how long she examined the shirt, but in several instances in the video, her movements are not visible to the camera.
While examining the shirt, Rossi reportedly peeled back the sticker that was attached and found two stains that they believed to be blood.
Barr is then seen immediately calling who he said was someone from the Houston Forensic Science Center for a presumptive blood test.
After the blood was found, Rossi was seen on video packaging AJ’s shirt and pants back into their original boxing and then opening the evidence box that contained the pillows.
The defense is arguing that Daignault, Rossi and Barr purposely angled themselves out of the camera’s view and possibly cross-contaminated evidence while handling the shirt.
Aug. 7 - 8:35 a.m.
Week one ended with Nathan Gates returning to the stand to present extracted evidence from Dawn Armstrong’s cellphone.
On Monday, Judge Johnson allowed the evidence into the court, which showed a text message and picture Dawn had sent to her family on July 26, 2016, two days before she was murdered. The message contained a picture of a carpet burn with the text, “AJ caught the house on fire. We stopped it. He is lying.” In which AJ’s brother responded with three question marks.
AJ’s phone was taken the next day, which we learned in a text message thread with his girlfriend.
On the day after his phone was taken, his iCloud was logged into using an iPad and Gates said he later discovered the search about blowing up a car.
Gates also went through AJ’s cellphone activity the night of his parent’s murder and compared it to the alarm activity. Here’s what we learned:
- 1:04 a.m. - AJ’s phone was plugged into a charger
- 1:08 a.m. - Aj’s phone unplugged
- 1:09 a.m. - Upstairs motion detector activated
- 1:16 a.m. - The display screen (when there’s movement around the phone, examples: notifications, movement in pockets etc.) on AJ’s phone is turned on and then goes off immediately after
- 1:19 a.m. - Display screen turns on
- 1:21 a.m. - Display screen turns off
- 1:24 a.m. - Display screen turns on
- 1:25 a.m. - The living room motion detector activated
- 1:40 a.m. - Display screen turns on
- 1:40 a.m. - AJ makes 911 call
- 1:56 a.m. - Phone locked
- 1:57 a.m. - AJ calls his brother Josh
- 1:58 a.m. - Phone locked
- 2:00 a.m. - Josh returns AJ’s call
Before AJ’s phone went quiet shortly after 1 a.m., Gates said he was browsing social media sites.
Aug. 7 - 8:35 a.m.
The jury enters the courtroom.
Aug. 7 - 8:31 a.m.
Judge Kelli Johnson enters the courtroom room. Court is called into order.
Get a full recap of each day with the click2houston.com trial blogs: