Kaitlin Armstrong murder trial: Analyzing the verdict and sentencing

It was a crime, and a trial, that garnered national attention.

On Thursday, it took a jury just over two hours to find Kaitlin Armstrong guilty in the 2022 murder of pro-cyclist Moriah WIlson in east Austin. On Friday, the same jury recommended a 90-year prison term for Armstrong.

FOX 7 Austin's John Krinjak spoke one-on-one with Austin-based attorney James Wood to get his thoughts on the verdict and the sentencing.


JOHN KRINJAK: Kaitlin Armstrong found guilty of first degree murder. What's your reaction to that? Were you surprised? Were you not surprised?

JAMES WOOD: Personally, I was not surprised. I don't think many people were surprised. I followed this trial closely and I watched the public comments. And when I watched public comments, I'm usually watching them to see if I can get an idea of what the jury might be thinking. And so public comments on social media, on Twitter and on news streams. The public comments were very critical.

JOHN KRINJAK: The fact that it took the jury a little over two hours, what message does that send to you?

JAMES WOOD: Well, it sent a message that the jury was all on the same page and that they agreed that one side had really shown the evidence to make a quick decision. It didn't leave much room for discussion.

JOHN KRINJAK: As far as how the prosecution presented its case, it was a lot of circumstantial evidence, but they seemed very methodical about it. What are your thoughts on how the prosecution did their job here? 

JAMES WOOD: Well, I mean, lawyers, if you're in this case, you wanted to be on the prosecution side, because that was where you had the most evidence to. On the defense side, there wasn't a lot of evidence. So as good of a lawyer as you can be, as good of a case as you can put on the defense in this one, you just didn't have most of it. But one thing I did notice while I was watching this trial is that every time the defense spoke, it seemed to incriminate her even more because of the lack of evidence of her innocence. 

JOHN KRINJAK: During the allocution phase, what was your reaction to what the family had to say?

JAMES WOOD: It was surprising. And we heard from Caitlin Cash, as well as Moriah's mother. Both are clearly very heartbroken at the loss of Moriah. And both of them addressed Kaitlin in court. It was very emotional. It was very sad. And I think it was interesting that Moriah's mom and her friend Caitlin both offered some sort of forgiveness ticket on some anger, but hoping for forgiveness and healing of her heart. And I think that shows the kind of stock that Moriah lost.


JOHN KRINJAK: When you heard the sentence 90 years in prison…

JAMES WOOD: My initial reaction to hearing about the 90 years was, I wonder how many years she had been offered in her plea bargain, whether she did herself a favor by going through this trial. What's also interesting is that in her escape attempt that caused injury to the sheriff's deputies, that's a separate charge that she still faces an additional sentence. 

JOHN KRINJAK: And speaking of what's still to come, what are your expectations about potential appeals in this case?

JAMES WOOD: I think if they are going to appeal this case, you know, the most common appeal is what's called ineffective assistance of counsel, meaning my lawyer didn't do a good job, my lawyer dropped the ball and that's why I got convicted of the crime. It's going to be really hard to show that in this case, because we saw her lawyers who are credentialed, well-respected lawyers, we saw them show up every day, fight for her and argue to the point that the state made a whole lot of objections to, for they push the envelope on her behalf. And so as far as that as grounds for appeal, I don't think it's going to happen.