HOUSTON - Antonio ‘AJ' Armstrong, Jr. faces murder charges for the second time as opening arguments began in his retrial. He’s accused of killing his parents inside their Bellaire home in 2016.
Former NFL athlete Antonio Armstrong, Sr. and his wife Dawn Armstrong were shot in the head while they were sleeping. AJ was 16 at the time of the incident.
A judge declared a mistrial in 2019 after a deadlocked jury. The defense revealed Tuesday they plan on introducing Josh Armstrong, AJ's brother, as an alternate suspect.
Attorneys say Josh was living with the family at the time and suffered with his mental health prior to the shooting. Chris Collings presented a photo of AJ hugging his parents three years before the shooting - arguing the teen loved his parents too much to hurt them.
"Did AJ lie to his parents sometimes? Yes," says Collings to the jury. "Did he lie to his parents about going with his girlfriend to dinner or whatever? Yeah. Did he have problems with his grades? Absolutely. But that's not the motive to kill your parents."
Prosecutors say their evidence will show AJ did have a troubled relationship with his parents prior to them being shot in their home that July 2019 night.
"What those text messages will show you is his parents were constantly getting on him about tutors and dropping out of school," says prosecutors. "Spending too much time with his girlfriends...and his parents were at his wit's end with him. Especially the mother."
There's a different jury format in the retrial - with more jurors added. Fox 26 Senior Legal Expert Chris Tritico says the makeup of the jury won't affect the outcome.
"In my experience, juries are juries, and they always try to do the right thing no matter what the makeup of the jury is," says Tritico. "Unlike any retrial, you're going to see the length of time that has been between the first trial and the second trial. Because of the pandemic, you've had a whole lifetime of experience that this young man has had, and experiences that the witnesses have had that are going to affect their ability to testify."
The retrial is expected to continue until the first week of November.