Lawyers acting for Kaitlin Armstrong, who is accused of the murder of gravel racer Anna Moriah ‘Mo’ Wilson, have claimed it is impossible for her to receive a fair trial because of the worldwide publicity the case has received.
Yoga teacher and real estate agent Armstrong was tracked down by US Marshals in Costa Rica six weeks after the fatal shooting in Austin, Texas, of Wilson, who was staying with a friend ahead of competing in the Gravel Locos race, which she had been favourite to win.
> Moriah Wilson murder: Kaitlin Armstrong caught in Costa Rica after six weeks on the run
On 11 May, the day of her death, Wilson, aged 25, had gone swimming and had a meal with Armstrong’s partner, fellow gravel racer Colin Strickland, 35, with whom she had had a brief relationship last year when he briefly split up with Armstrong.
Armstrong, 34, denies murdering Wilson, and Fox News reports that on Monday her defence attorney, Rick Cofer, filed a motion countering one from the prosecution which is seeking a gag order in the case that would prevent both it and the defence from discussing the case in the media.
> Kaitlin Armstrong pleads not guilty to Moriah Wilson murder
In the filing to Judge Brenda Kennedy, Cofer claimed that developments in the case had been accompanied by a “carnival-like media storm,” and that due to the numerous briefings held by law enforcement agencies during the search for Armstrong and following her arrest, the prosecution’s narrative had already been established in the minds of the public and any gag order would therefore prejudice the defence.
He said: “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’,” and that “the case has garnered sensationalised headlines in media outlets across the English-speaking world.”
He also criticised the decision to bar him from a press conference following Armstrong’s arrest, saying: “While standing at the courthouse doors, defence counsel for Ms. Armstrong requested admission to observe the press conference but was denied access by the US Marshal’s Office.
“Afterwards, defence counsel advised US District Court Judges Yeakel and Pitman about the exclusion of defence counsel from the press conference.” US Marshals subsequently apologised for excluding him from the press conference.
The filing also noted that shortly after Wilson’s murder, Armstrong was arrested by police in Austin where she was questioned without having been read her rights, and released due to an administrative error. She subsequently flew to New York, where she was spotted on CCTV at La Guardia airport, the trail then running cold until she was discovered in Costa Rica six weeks later.
It stated: “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.”
Cofer added in the filing: “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.”
Other court filings in the case that have been made public in recent days reveal that Strickland accused detectives of “leading a narrative” and “manipulating” him when they interviewed him about Armstrong following her disappearance.
A transcript of the interview with detectives in Austin quoted Strickland as saying of Armstrong: “She’s an incredibly kind, caring, sweet person who has helped me take care of my aging mother.
“She helped her secure like $20,000 in unemployment just by going, being on the phone, for five days. Like she is, has only shown shining example … has only shown absolute, above and beyond examples of human compassion and thoughtfulness and care and going far out of her way for ridiculous things.”
Fox News reports that when it contacted Strickland on numerous occasions for a comment, he declined, other than to tell the outlet to “Please f*ck off.”
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