'American Sniper' death trial begins, defense argues insanity

by Staff |

(REUTERS/LM Otero/Pool)Eddie Ray Routh, 27, walks into court for a pretrial motion hearing in Stephenville, Texas Feburary 10, 2015.

STEPHENVILLE, Texas (Christian Examiner) — The trial for the murderer of "American Sniper" Chris Kyle begins Wednesday, Feb. 11, and prosecutors are seeking life in prison without the possibility of parole for him. Lawyers for troubled Iraq war veteran Eddie Ray Routh argued that the 27-year-old was insane when he shot and killed the Navy SEAL and Kyle's friend Chad Littlefield at an outdoor shooting range on Feb. 2, 2013.

A jury of 10 women and two men will hear the case and decide on two counts of murder and one count of capital murder.

The defense pointed to the Iraqi war veteran's diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, saying the psychosis was so severe Routh did not know that what he had done was wrong. According to public records, Routh was released from Green Oaks Psychiatric Hospital in Dallas about a week before he killed the two men.

"If they would have left him in the hospital, than those two men wouldn't be dead," Jodi Routh, the killer's mother told the New Yorker in 2013. She and husband Raymond Routh described how their son had returned from Iraq angry and a heavy drinker.

After opening arguments, the prosecutors' first witness most likely will be Kyle's widow Taya, followed by Littlefield's mother, Judy, the Associated Press reported. The prosecution will show that Routh had a history of smoking marijuana, heavy drinking and torturing small animals. He threatened his girlfriend with a knife on the day of the murder, according to state filings.

Erath County District Judge Jason Cashon said that previous indiscretions on Routh's part would be admissible on a case-by-case basis.

Prosecutors could also talk about Routh's admission of his crime to his sister Laura Blevins after the murder. The troubled veteran drove to his sister's house in Kyle's black Ford F-250 truck and told her "people were sucking his soul" and that he "traded his soul for a new truck," she told police.

(Facebook)Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. history, appears in this undated Facebook photo.

"He told me that he committed a murder," the 30-year-old said in a 911 call. "I don't know if he's being honest with me. I'm just really terrified."

Routh's lawyers tried unsuccessfully to have the trial delayed, saying the popularity of the Oscar-nominated film "American Sniper" makes it difficult for the Iraq vet to get a fair hearing while it is still being shown in theaters. Kyle, who has the most kills of any U.S. sniper, has been lionized in his home state of Texas, where he is buried at the Texas State Cemetery alongside Texas governors and senators.

Kyle, who was known for working with disabled veterans following his four tours in the Iraq war, had brought Routh to the shooting range to help him begin to recover from PTSD.

"American Sniper," directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, has grossed more than $282 million since opening in mid-January and has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture.

Reuters contributed to this report.