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Kaitlin Armstrong's Lawyers Oppose Prosecution Request For Gag Order In Murder Case
After court filings revealed that police mistakenly released murder suspect Kaitlin Armstrong before she left Texas, prosecutors requested a full gag order in the case. But her lawyers say that they need the ability to counter the media narrative the state already created.
The woman accused of murdering a pro-cyclist in an alleged fit of jealousy and evading capture should not now be subject to a gag order to protect the prosecutors' case, her lawyer says.
Kaitlin Armstrong, 34, is charged with the fatal shooting of her alleged romantic rival, Anna “Mo” Wilson, 25. But attorneys say that granting the prosecution motion for a complete gag order in the case would further tarnish her chances of having a fair shot in court, according to court records reviewed by Oxygen.com.
Armstrong’s attorney, Rick Cofer, filed a motion on Monday with the Travis County District Court in Texas, asking that the judge instead approve a “ban of prejudicial comment” by government actors to media outlets.
The filing is a response to the state’s Aug. 18 motion requesting a “total media blackout” and gag order which, according to the defense, would violate Armstrong’s first amendment right to freedom of speech. The new request is tailored to allow press coverage but to ban comments deemed unfairly prejudicial to Armstrong by police, federal agents and the county district attorney’s office.
Armstrong pleaded not guilty to shooting Wilson to death at an Austin residence on May 11 while the victim was in town for a cycling competition. before she was murdered, Wilson allegedly had a platonic rendezvous with a former fling and fellow cyclist, Colin Strickland, who was dating Armstrong.
The case gained widespread media attention after Armstrong fled the country in an alleged attempt to evade arrest. She was captured in Costa Rica following a 43-day manhunt.
“The murder of Anna Wilson transfixed the public and garnered widespread attention in media and pop culture,” Cofer wrote in Monday’s motion. “As of Aug. 17, 2022, a Google search revealed more than 16,000 relevant news articles.”
But, he wrote, "Ms. Armstrong has been the victim of a fictitious and misogynistic portrayal propagated by law enforcement."
Cofer cited the New York Post, Fox News and the Daily Mail as a few of the media outlets that allegedly picked up that version of events.
“The misogynistic and fictitious theme of the most relevant articles is that Ms. Armstrong is a ‘possessive’ woman who ‘gunned down’ her ‘romantic rival’ in a ‘fit of jealousy,’” Cofer continued.
“The result of this widespread, biased publicity is that there is virtually nowhere in the English-speaking work where Ms. Armstrong could receive a fair trial,” according to the motion.
The motion also claims that, until recently, police detectives “largely framed” the “carnival-like” narrative.
“Prior to Aug. 17, 2022, virtually every piece of information potentially prejudicing Ms. Armstrong had been provided to the media by government actors,” the motion stated. “The allegations of Detective Spitler’s original ‘affidavit for warrant of arrest,’ though full of mischaracterizations, material omissions and false statements, have significantly shaped the media portrayal of Ms. Armstrong.”
Cofer also said U.S. Deputy Marshal Brandon Filla “portrayed Ms. Armstrong’s lawful travel to New York as ‘fleeing’ from justice'” in the press conference following Armstrong’s capture, but made no mention that Armstrong’s freedom was a “direct result” of police incompetence.
Shortly after Wilson’s murder, Austin Police had arrested Armstrong on an unrelated warrant for her allegedly skipping out on a Botox bill in 2018, but mistakenly released her due to a supposed clerical error with her birthdate, according to Fox Austin affiliate KTBC.
In the press conference following Armstrong’s Costa Rica arrest, words like “violent” and “worst of the worst” were loosely thrown about as officials stood before Armstrong’s wanted poster with big, red words reading “captured” across the defendant’s face, Cofer pointed out.
He also took aim at the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.
“TCDAO leadership has contributed to the negative portrayal of Ms. Armstrong in the public eye,” the motion continued. “The TCDAO’s participation in and promotion of the press conference is tantamount to an endorsement of prejudicial statements made at the press conference.”
Cofer included a tweet from the district attorney’s office from one day after the press conference where they vowed to “hold Ms. Armstrong accountable.”
By comparison, he noted, the defense has abided by the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct when making statements to the media.
"The two examples of defense counsel media statements, unlike statements made by government actors, are presumptively proper," he wrote. "Rule 3.07 of the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct provides that a lawyer should not make an 'extrajudicial statement … if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that it will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicatory proceeding.'”
"The State’s concern about the impropriety of defense counsel’s public comments is disingenuous, as evidenced by the failure of the State to limit its own activity to areas authorized by Rule 3.07," he added.
Armstrong remains at the Travis County Correctional Complex to await trial, which is scheduled for October.
District Judge Brenda Kennedy has yet to rule on the motion.