STEPHENVILLE, Texas (CN) - The appellate phase of Eddie Ray Routh's capital murder case began Wednesday with attorneys arguing that the conviction and sentence of the former Marine "are contrary to the law and evidence."
Fort Worth attorney Warren St. John on Tuesday filed a notice of appeal and motion for a new trial with the Erath County Clerk. On Wednesday the case was handed to Texas' 11th Court of Appeals.
A state jury on Feb. 24 convicted Routh, 27, of the double-murder of "American Sniper" Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at a Texas gun range.
The nine-day murder trial placed a national spotlight on the small north Texas town of Stephenville, pop. 18,500, partly due to the popularity of the blockbuster movie "American Sniper," based on the former Navy SEAL sniper's bestselling autobiography of the same name.
The ten-woman, two-man jury deliberated for less than 2½ hours before reaching a verdict. Routh was immediately sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. His attorneys told State District Judge Jason Cashon they would appeal.
St. John said the exposure to "American Sniper," and Kyle's iconic status in the community prevented Routh from receiving a fair trial.
"We don't think that we got a fair trial in that small community, not that there's not some good folks there," St. John said. "We thought it should be in a bigger jurisdiction, where the jury pool would be more diverse than it was in Stephenville."
When jury selection began in early February, Cashon said jurors in Erath County would not be disqualified if they had seen the Oscar-nominated movie. Nor did he prevent them from watching the Academy Awards presentations in the middle of the trial.
Defense attorneys claimed Routh was insane when he fired 13 shots at Kyle and Littlefield at an upscale gun range.
Prosecutors portrayed Routh as a deliberate killer who waited for the "opportune time" to shoot the two friends in cold blood. That time came when Kyle's magazine emptied during target practice and Routh seized the moment to shoot both men in the back.
Routh's judgment of conviction also ordered him to pay court costs of $304 and $116,250 in restitution to the state. It is noted in the criminal information form that Routh is declared unable to pay appellate costs and that his attorneys are appointed.
Routh's attorneys have until March 16 to file a docketing statement with the appeals court.Follow @@eidelagarza
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