Prosecutors and defence attorneys in the trial against Austin yoga teacher Kaitlin delivered closing arguments on Thursday following two and a half weeks of testimony on the murder of slain cyclist Anna Moriah Wilson.
Jury deliberations over the 11 May 2022 murder of Wilson began at noon on Thursday. Ms Armstrong stands accused of shooting Wilson to death after the two women were reportedly involved in a love triangle with Ms Armstrong’s then on-and-off boyfriend Colin Strickland.
Here’s a recap of what each side said in closing statements:
The prosecution: ‘She was running from you’
Throughout their case at the trial, prosecutors honed in on what they described as overwhelming DNA, ballistics, surveillance and phone data evidence linking Ms Armstrong to the crime.
Assistant District Attorney Rick Jones directly addressed jurors during closing arguments after playing Wilson’s final screams captured on surveillance video.
“The last thing Mo Wilson did was scream in terror,” Mr Jones said. “She stood over her after she shot her in the head twice and put another bullet in her heart ... you heard the medical examiner. That third bullet was in her heart.”
Mr Jones claimed evidence against Ms Armstrong was among the most damning he had seen in his career, noting that two of Ms Armstrong’s friends testified she told them she wanted to, or could, kill Wilson. Vehicle satellite records, phone-tracking data and surveillance video from a nearby home showed Ms Armstrong’s Jeep driving around the apartment and parking in an alley shortly before Wilson was killed.
Ms Armstrong’s phone showed it had been used that day to track Wilson’s location via a fitness app that she used to chart her training rides.
“I’ve never seen so much evidence in my life against one person,” Mr Jones said.
Mr Jones brought up Ms Armstrong’s failed escape from custody last month and asked jurors to deliver justice for Wilson’s family once and for all.
“She was not just running from the sheriff’s office, she was running from you and you, and you,” Mr Jones said as he pointed to the jurors. “She is running from all of you in the back road. Everybody deserves their day in court, and she got it. As you see in this video, she didn’t want to face you. “
The prosecutor also offered dramatic insight into the trauma that Caitlin Cash, who discovered Wilson’s body, experienced after finding her friend lying in a pool of blood. Ms Cash reportedly asked him to refer to her by her last name because “[K]aitlin” was the name of the woman who had killed her friend.
“She pumped her friend’s heart over a hundred times,” Mr Jones said. “Not knowing that her friend had probably been dead for 45 minutes ... We can get out here quickly and find her guilty of shooting Mo Wilson in the head and heart and taking away this prodigy at the age of 25.”
The defence: Nightmare of circumstantial evidence
Meanwhile, defence attorneys accused authorities of a sloppy investigation that too quickly focused on Ms Armstrong as the sole suspect.
Ms Armstrong’s attorneys also have tried to raise doubts among jurors by suggesting someone else could have killed Wilson, and asking why prosecutors dismissed Mr Strickland as a suspect.
Defense Attorney Rick Cofer told the jury that Ms Armstrong had been “caught in a nightmare of circumstantial evidence.” At times, Ms Armstrong’s attorneys appeared to be grasping at straws, even bringing up the potential misogyny of the love triangle motive and “what-ifs, I-just-don’t-know” scenarios that they linked to President Obama in an hour-long monologue.
Mr Cofer waved Wilson’s bike around the court, claiming that Ms Armstrong’s DNA found on it may have transferred when Wilson rode on Mr Strickland’s bike and wore a helmet, the same that Ms Armstrong had worn many times before. An expert testifying for the state had said previously that scenario, known as four-trace transfer, was very unlikely.
The defence tried to poke holes in the prosecution’s case, arguing that a lot of evidence in the case was not thoroughly reviewed. That evidence was the subject of a failed mistrial motion raised by Ms Armstrong’s attorneys earlier in the trial. The attorneys questioned why a rape kit performed on Wilson was never processed, and why Mr Strickland’s laptop was returned to him just eight days after the murder without having been analysed forensically.
The attorneys also said that she was not a “jealous, psycho” girlfriend, as she was painted by the prosecution, but rather a frustrated partner who had been lied to by Mr Strickland. They also said that Armstrong had fled the country before a murder warrant for her had been processed and only “out of fear” that Wilson’s killer would target her next.
Defense Attorney Geoffrey Puryear reminded jurors that they didn’t have to believe Ms Armstrong was innocent in order to deliver a not-guilty verdict. He said the juror was compelled to deliver a not-guilty verdict if they couldn’t arrive at the conclusion that she was guilty.
“Don’t feel like you failed, if that is your conclusion,” Mr Puryear said.
The state later rebutted those characterizations, pleading with jurors not to go “down the [defence’s] rabbit hole.”
“Take your time, and I trust that when you do that, the evidence points you in one direction,” state attorney Guillermo Gonzalez said. “If you do, if you look at all the evidence, look at it with common sense, logic. Let the evidence take you where it’s going. That’s all I’m asking. You are going to find that the evidence is right here.”
Jury delibrations continue. Ms Armstrong, who has pleaded not guilty, faces 99 years in prison if convicted.