Testimony in teen’s capital murder trial focuses on gunshot residue

April 8, 2019 GMT

Not finding gunshot residue on a suspect’s skin or clothes doesn’t exclude them from being the triggerman, a forensic expert testified on Monday in the capital murder trial of a Houston teen accused of fatally shooting his parents three years ago.

Antonio Armstrong, Jr. sat before jurors for the fifth day as prosecutors brought forward witnesses to share details in the slayings of Dawn and Antonio Armstrong, Sr. Armstrong’s defense attorneys have pointed to the lack of gunshot residue as a major rationale to clear the 19-year-old, who was 16 at the time, of the crime.

Jason Schroeder, an evidence laboratory manager at the Houston Forensic Science Center, confirmed that no gunshot residue was found on Armstrong’s shirt, pants or skin. Armstrong’s siblings, Josh and Kayra, weren’t found to have gunshot residue on their skin, either.

The type of ammunition and firearm, time between the shooting and evidence collection, and efficiency of collection can cause a lack of evidence to show, he said.

“A negative result … is not considered to be exculpatory in nature,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder’s testimony was paused when defense attorneys asked for his research on the matter during cross-examination.

Lucy Tea, a firearms examiner at the Houston Forensic Science Center, had earlier testified that three bullets were found to be fired from the murder weapon, which belonged to the elder Armstrong.

The Armstrong parents were shot to death on July 29, 2016 in their Bellaire-area home. During a police interrogation, the son said he was innocent and reported seeing an intruder leave after gunshots rang out in the home.

Defense attorneys have taken issue with the accuracy of the alarm system. Prosecutors said the doors and windows in the house were locked from the inside and the alarm system didn’t detect an intruder.

A Harris County District Attorney’s Office investigator testified on Monday that he went to the scene in March 2018 to meet with people who were testing the home alarm system.

He heard chimes when every door to the outside opened, and from the third floor, he could personally hear and feel the rumble of the garage door opening. The younger Armstrong lived on the third floor, where he said he was before the killings.

The trial will continue Tuesday morning and is expected to last through the month.

Armstrong is being tried as an adult. He faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years. Because he was a juvenile at the time of the killing, he would not be eligible for the death penalty.