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AJ Armstrong: Third man’s murder trial will remain in Harris County despite judge’s request to change trial location

Houston, Texas (KTRK) – A judge ruled that AJ Armstrong’s third murder trial will remain in Harris County during a hearing Monday. This comes after a variety of Houston-area lawmakers, judges and elected officials, including Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Mayor Sylvester Turner, were summoned to the courtroom.

The decision to keep the trial in Harris County was made after prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to an unusually extensive jury selection process.

ABC13 first reported the rare step of having a judge, in this case, be the one to file a motion to move the case out of the district after Armstrong’s first two trials ended in hung juries.

AJ’s uncle Harvey Armstrong said, “We’re excited about the decision to keep her in Harris County. AJ was very strong emotionally. I’m so proud of him. He just wants his life back.”

With just 15 minutes before the hearing was due to begin Monday, prosecutors proposed keeping the trial in Harris County but conducting a more intensive jury selection process.

Both the state and the defense team agreed to a voir dire, meaning that instead of a jury questioning in a group, each person would be spoken to individually. This method is commonly used in death penalty cases.

“You might spend an hour or two on one juror just because you’re really trying to figure out whether or not he can be fair and impartial,” explained legal analyst Steve Schleist. “So, I think the judge is saying this is a compromise, but it’s a big deal.”

In the third trial, the jury selection process is expected to take six weeks, compared to Armstrong’s last trial, in which selection took three days.

ABC13 obtained documents on Friday showing the subpoenas of various elected officials.

The subpoenas were served in coordination with Armstrong’s attorneys who filed an objection to Judge Kelly Johnson movement to change place from the trial, which would be the third such action since 2019.

The defense argues that 12 fair and unbiased jurors can be found among the 4.7 million diverse people who are home to Harris County. In papers filed by the defense, the attorneys point to previous, highly publicized local cases that gained national attention and yet remained in Harris County for trial, such as David Temple murder case. Temple was convicted of killing his pregnant wife Belinda in 1999 during his second trial here.

The nine witnesses were called to testify about how diverse the county is and that it is the best place for a fair trial for Armstrong, who ended up being mistriald for the murders of his parents, Don and Antonio Armstrong Sr. in 2016.

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