AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Travis County judge said Kaitlin Armstrong, the woman accused of killing professional cyclist Moriah Wilson, will have her jury trial starting the week of June 26, 2023.
Wilson, who was a prominent figure in the cyclist community, was shot and killed at her friend’s east Austin home on May 11. Police said Armstrong, who has pled not guilty, murdered Wilson.
During a pre-trial hearing, Armstrong’s defense team argued early-obtained evidence was gathered improperly by homicide detectives and thus should not be available for prosecutors to use against Armstrong in her upcoming trial.
Armstrong’s defense team filed a Frank’s Motion – a legal proceeding when a court is asked to determine whether a police officer or detective lied or used reckless disregard for the truth in pursuing an arrest warrant – which triggered a pre-trial hearing.
Judge Brenda Kennedy announced today that the defense was not able to convince the court that detectives acted unconstitutionally when they brought her in for an interview following Wilson’s death. She said that the court would not suppress the video evidence of the interview in the trial.
Further, “there was no evidence of any intentional disregard for the truth,” Kennedy said in court.
Last month, Armstrong’s defense team and state attorneys cross-examined an expert witness, Douglas Deaton, and two homicide detectives involved in Wilson’s murder investigation. Richard Spitler, the author of the arrest warrant affidavit and the lead detective on Wilson’s murder case, and Katy Conner, an APD homicide detective who assisted Spitler, were the detectives questioned.
Armstrong’s defense, including Richard Cofer, argued that Spitler was biased when writing the arrest warrant and included some information that later was determined to be inaccurate.
Cofer alleged Spitler filed dates and times incorrectly, relied too much on information from anonymous callers and that he didn’t corroborate reports from other Austin Police Department staff working on the case.
The expert witness hired by the defense team echoed this stance.
“Overall, my opinion was that it was completely unnecessary, wasn’t written accurately and was a borderline character assassination (of Armstrong),” Deaton said in his testimony on Oct. 24.
Despite including some fallible material, Kennedy said that the court found there was still probable cause to arrest Armstrong when APD did.
The defense team also argued that the initial APD interview between detective Conner and Armstrong was “unconstitutional,” and that any evidence obtained from the interview should be suppressed, or cast aside.
After Wilson was found, APD looked at video footage that appeared to show Armstrong’s car in front of the residence where Wilson was staying around the time she was shot.
APD already had a warrant from a previous incident where Armstrong allegedly did not pay for a Botox session and was charged with theft of service, a class B misdemeanor.
Armstrong was arrested and brought into the APD station for that charge, but Conner questioned Armstrong on her connection to Wilson and not about the theft of service charge.
A couple of minutes into questioning, an officer informed Conner there was an issue with the date on the misdemeanor warrant (it was later revealed in court there was actually no error and the warrant was “good”). Because Conner thought the warrant was no longer viable, Armstrong was free to leave the building.
Conner did let Armstrong know that she was free to leave but continued to ask questions about her relationship with Strickland and Wilson for a few more minutes. When it was clear that Armstrong was not going to cooperate with questioning, Conner organized to get Armstrong a ride home.
When asked about this incident, Deaton, the expert witness, said “(the interview) was inappropriate and unconstitutional the way it was conducted.”
“(It) was not within best practices,” he continued.
But Judge Kennedy and the court did not agree with this assessment of the interview. Instead, she said, it is in a detective’s best interest to persuade a suspect to talk.
“Mrs. Armstrong was reminded on several occasions that she was free to leave,” Kennedy told attorneys. “(Armstrong) was clearly not in custody,” Kennedy said.
Find some of KXAN’s previous reporting on the case here:
- Expert witness at Armstrong pre-trial hearing: Some obtained evidence ‘unconstitutional’
- ‘I really wanted to kill her.’ Anonymous phone calls from tipsters who knew Armstrong played in court
- Austin woman charged with murder in cyclist’s death appears in court
- Kaitlin Armstrong attorneys accuse Austin police of violating legal rights in murder case
- Kaitlin Armstrong pleads not guilty; attorneys request speedy trial
- Slain cyclist Moriah Wilson, 25, ‘exceptional in every way’
- As federal agents search for Austin murder suspect, #RideLikeMo starts in honor of victim
- Family of slain cyclist clears up details of alleged romantic relationship
- Murder suspect flew out of Austin to New York days after cyclist’s death
- Suspect in cyclist’s murder dropped off at New Jersey airport, US Marshals say
- Kaitlin Armstrong captured in Costa Rica, records show bail set at $3.5 million
- Kaitlin Armstrong now in Austin from Houston jail
- How Austin murder suspect Kaitlin Armstrong tried to hide from authorities
A timeline of the case can be found here.