The defence attorney of Kaitlin Armstrong has claimed the "widespread, biased publicity" makes it virtually impossible for her client to receive a fair trial.
Armstrong is accused of the first-degree murder of pro cyclist Moriah 'Mo' Wilson in Austin, Texas, this year.
On May 11, off-road cyclist Moriah Wilson was found dead with several gun-shot wounds in a friend’s home in Austin, Texas. The 25-year-old had travelled to Austin to compete in the Gravel Locos, a 150-mile gravel race she was favoured to win.
Officials formally charged Armstrong on July 5, 43 days after a warrant for her arrest was issued on May 17. Last month, Armstrong plead not guilty to the accusations and also wished to exercise her right to a speedy trial, with her legal team willing to go before a jury as soon as possible.
On Monday, Armstrong's defence attorney, Rick Cofer, filed a motion (opens in new tab) which countered prosecutor's attempts to limit the communications with the media via a gag order. The Travis County District Attorney's Office wanted to prevent both side from discussing the case in public.
However, Cofer claimed a gag order would prejudice the defence due to the narrative of the case already being well established in public by prosecutors and law enforcement. Therefore, Cofer claims the gag order would only silence Armstrong's side.
The court filing reads: "[The district attorney’s office] waited 94 days from the issuance of Ms. Armstrong’s arrest warrant before raising their concern for fairness.
"During that time, the government actively participated in media events, and otherwise supplied media with prejudicial images of Ms. Armstrong. The State has waived any standing in seeking a media blackout."
The filing also added that the authorities have fuelled the narratives reported in the media, meaning Armstrong hasn't been allowed a fair trial as a result.
It read: "The misogynistic and fictitious theme of most relevant articles is that Ms. Armstrong is a ‘possessive’ woman who ‘gunned down’ her ‘romantic rival’ in a ‘fit of jealousy. The case has garnered sensationalised headlines in media outlets across the English-speaking world.
"The result of this widespread, biased publicity is that there is virtually nowhere in the English-speaking world where Ms. Armstrong could receive a fair trial today.
"Through their inflammatory statements, government actors have contributed to a carnival-like media storm about Ms. Armstrong."
In particular, Cofer alleged that Detective Richard Spitler's affidavit in support of a warrant for her arrest is full of "factual errors," "misattributions," and "incorrect assertions".
After police questioned Armstrong on May 12, she subsequently fled the state on May 14 via Houston, before landing at LaGuardia Airport in New York. Police issued a warrant for her arrest for first-degree murder felony charges on May 17, and the day after she was spotted at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Brandon Filla told Inside Edition (opens in new tab) that later she had used a fraudulent passport to fly to Costa Rica, which she also used while staying in a hostel in Santa Teresa Beach, Provincia de Puntarenas. He said the 34-year-old had cut and dyed her hair in an attempt to change her physical appearance and a cosmetic surgery receipt also discovered in her possession.
However, Cofer challenged these assertions made by Filla.
"Deputy [Marshal Brandon] Filla portrayed Ms. Armstrong’s lawful travel to New York as ‘fleeing’ from justice; speculated about changes to Ms. Armstrong’s face and hair colour as evidence of flight; and painted an association of Ms. Armstrong with the most ‘violent’ and ‘worst of the worst’ criminals who ‘wreak havoc’ on the community.
"Deputy Filla did not mention the ’43-day manhunt’ for Ms. Armstrong was a direct result of law enforcement incompetence."
The defence attorney stated that shortly after Wilson's murder, Austin police arrested Armstrong and subsequently questioned her, but failed to read her her Miranda rights and accidentally let her go due to a clerical error, according to court filings.
Previously undisclosed information revealed in court filings last week also shows Collin Strickland, Armstrong’s boyfriend, accused Spitler of "leading a narrative" and "manipulating" him, after Strickland said he didn't believe Armstrong would have shot Wilson.
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Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before making his way to cycling. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer.
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