‘American Sniper’ Trial|Will Wrap This Week

STEPHENVILLE, Texas (CN) – Ice blanketing the north Texas town of Stephenville Monday gave jurors a day off before they decide whether Eddie Ray Routh will spend the rest of his life behind bars, in a state hospital, or go free.
     Routh, 27, has been on trial in Erath County since Feb. 11 for the shooting deaths of “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at an exclusive gun range outside Dallas.
     Jurors have seen graphic crime scene and autopsy photos of the two slain man, viewed police dash cam footage and heard from more than two dozen witnesses.
     They heard Routh, in a videotaped police confession, express remorse to a Texas Ranger for the double murder and want to apologize to his victim’s families. He declined to testify at trial on his own behalf.
     Routh’s attorneys say the veteran suffered from severe mental illness, including psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder.
     Prosecutors claim Routh had a habit of faking his symptoms to bilk the system and knew what he was doing the afternoon of Feb. 2, 2013 when he fired a total of 13 shots at the two men as their backs were toward him.
     The 10-woman, two-man jury will have to determine whether Routh is guilty of capital murder, not guilty, or not guilty by reason of insanity.
     The capital murder trial has captivated the country, partly due to the blockbuster movie “American Sniper,” based on the acclaimed former Navy SEAL’s best-selling autobiography, and transformed the otherwise sleepy north Texas town of Stephenville into a media circus.
     Routh’s attorneys say their client had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals from July 2011 until 10 days before the murders.
     Defense experts claimed Routh believed Kyle and Littlefield were pig assassins, that his neighbor was eating his excrement through the pipes and that his girlfriend was a pig hybrid.
     Fort Worth attorney Tim Moore said Routh was in the grip of a psychosis “so severe that he didn’t know what he was doing was wrong” when he killed Kyle, 38, and Littlefield, 35.
     “He thought he had to take their lives because in his psychosis, he thought that they were going to take his,” Moore told jurors.
     Much of the trial has centered on Routh’s smoking habits, including his use of “wet marijuana” – marijuana soaked in embalming fluid. Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash and Assistant Attorney General Jane Starnes told the jury that the troubled veteran was a heavy marijuana user who suffered from cannabis-induced psychosis and alcohol abuse.
     They say he knew what he was doing at the time of the murders but did it anyway.
     Kyle and Littlefield picked up Routh, whom they had never met before, for what was supposed to be a therapeutic day outdoors.
     Instead, he used two pistols to fire six shots at Kyle and another seven rounds into Littlefield at the Rough Creek Lodge gun range. The two friends received more than one “rapidly fatal injury” that left them with no chance of survival, the Chief Dallas County Medical Examiner said.
     Prosecutors say Routh prepared for the day by smoking wet marijuana, cigarettes, and drinking whiskey with coffee. Routh’s uncle confirmed that his nephew smoked marijuana the morning of the killings. He said he smoked it with him.
     Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. history, is the subject of the Academy Award-nominated movie, “American Sniper,” based on his 2012 autobiography. It has grossed more than $320 million in domestic ticket sales since its December 2014 release. Taya Kyle clutched her husband’s dog tags as she walked the red carpet at the Academy Awards on Sunday, where “American Sniper” was nominated for six awards, nabbing the Oscar for Best Sound Editing.
     Littlefield, a husband and father of a young daughter, was a logistics manager at a north Texas chemical lab. He and Kyle became fast friends before Kyle’s bestselling book was published, when they met on a soccer field where their children played. The two shared a similar sense of humor and a passion for spending time with veterans, Taya Kyle testified.
     If convicted, Routh will be immediately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors said they will not seek the death penalty.
     After the verdict, prosecutors have indicated the Kyle and Littlefield families will make victim-impact statements.

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