AJ Armstrong asks for new trial, challenging DNA evidence expert

Motion also questions constitutionality of sentence and evidence allowed in court.

AJ Armstrong (KPRC)

HOUSTONAntonio ‘AJ’ Armstrong Jr. and his attorney Patrick McCann have filed for a new trial claiming, “the verdict is contrary to the law and the evidence.”

McCann tells KPRC 2 Reporter Rilwan Balogun there are three reasons why they want a new trial, but the focus is on blood evidence found on Armstrong’s t-shirt just days before the start of the trial.

KPRC 2 Investigates was the first to report on the new DNA discovery that delayed the third criminal trial by a month. It’s also the center of a federal civil rights complaint claiming the blood was planted in an effort to secure a conviction.

Related: AJ Armstrong seeks appeal in capital murder conviction; has until Sept. 15 to file motion for new trial

McCann is now raising a previous complaint of evidence being planted against one of the prosecution’s key witnesses.

Dr. Robert Collings, a forensics expert, filed a complaint in 2019 that Montgomery County Sergeant Celestina Rossi planted evidence in the capital murder case of Fred Dexter Lee.

Defense attorney Rick DeToto says prosecutors never shared that Rossi had faced a previous complaint.

Prosecutor John Jordan addressed the allegations against Sgt. Rossi during an interview for ‘The Evidence Room, AJ Armstrong: Sinner or Saint?

“We had not known about the allegation in 2019 until it was publicly stated. So, then we circled back and asked, and that complaint was dismissed by the Texas Commission on Forensic Sciences. And so even had we known about it, we would have known that it was dismissed, and it wouldn’t even be a Brady violation because officers are complained on all the time. It’s only a Brady is if it’s sustained or still pending,” said Jordan. “And so that complaint that was dismissed is a non-issue. And maybe whoever is spouting a complaint should then follow up.”

Yet McCann argues it’s still a “Brady Violation.”

Anatomy of a Trial: What’s a Brady Violation? Click to learn more.

“The problem is it is an impeachment complaint. I think the TFSC did not do a really deep dive on that,” McCann said. “This wasn’t a complaint by some crank. This was a guy with a Ph.D. that had been significantly involved in the case.”

The second issue McCann finds deals with who actually was served when Armstrong Jr. was charged with the murder of his parents.

“I was unable to find any hard evidence that the adult guardian, of my client, had been served when they transferred my client from juvenile court. I could find no evidence that the grandmother, who is the legal guardian had been served, or if anyone had been served,” said McCann.

The last issue deals with the jury not being provided an alternative theory to the killing of the Armstrongs. As shown in ‘The Evidence Room,’ Maxine Adams made an allegation that Antonio Armstrong Sr. was a part of a prostitution ring.

The motion states, “That reason was testified to during a hearing outside the presence of the jury by Maxine Adams who alleged that Antonio’s father ran a prostitution ring out of his gym. That information should have been permitted before the jury as they never heard about the existence of an alternate suspect/suspects or an alternative reason for the killing, i.e., involvement in a criminal enterprise. This erroneous ruling deprived the defendant’s right to present a defense.”

From the archive: Son of ex-NFL player in court, attorney says officials withheld evidence

Armstrong Jr.’s criminal defense attorney Rick DeToto tells the court in an affidavit he did not know about the complaint during the trial. He also states, “I raised the prospect of a different person killing the deceased due to a prostitution ring that Antonio’s Father was allegedly involved in. There was a negligent investigation of this issue by the Houston Police Department.”

Prosecutors previously said the prostitution ring is part of a “false narrative.”

Prosecutors shared the following statement in regards to allowing the prostitution ring in court.

“It’s our understanding it was fleshed out prior to trial with the Court and the Court ruled that the Maxine Adams claims was wholly unsubstantiated and not based in any truth. Subsequently, the Court ordered that it was not admissible because it clearly amounted to someone’s gut feeling, not actual facts or evidence.”

As of now, it is unclear when a judge may rule on the Armstrong motion.

Learn more about legal terms in our Anatomy of a Trial series.

About the Authors:

As an Emmy award-winning journalist, Jason strives to serve the community by telling in-depth stories and taking on challenges many pass over. When he’s not working, he’s spending time with his girlfriend Rosie, and dog named Dug.