EASTLAND, Texas (CN) – A state prosecutor in Texas says a jury was entitled to reject the insanity defense of the ex-Marine who killed “American Sniper” Chris Kyle and a friend, arguing against the killer’s appeal for a new trial.
A jury on Feb. 24, 2015, convicted Eddie Ray Routh in the double-murders of Kyle and Chad Littlefield.
The two had befriended the troubled veteran at the request of Routh’s mother shortly before the then-25 year-old riddled them with bullets at a Dallas shooting range.
Prosecutors said Routh then fled in Kyle’s stolen Ford truck, made a burrito stop at Taco Bell, then drove to his sister’s north Texas house, where he confessed to the double-murders.
After a nine-day trial that overlapped with the nationwide showing of the hit movie “American Sniper,” it took the jury of 10 women and two men just two-and-a-half hours to reject Routh’s insanity plea and convict him of capital murder.
The Clint Eastwood-directed movie, based on Kyle’s bestselling autobiography of the same name, depicts the life of the storied former Navy SEAL, known to be the most lethal sniper in U.S. history.
Routh was automatically sentenced to life in prison without parole for the 2013 slayings.
But Routh’s attorney say jurors got it wrong. In a December brief to the Texas 11th Court of Appeals seeking to overturn the guilty verdict, Ft. Worth attorney Warren St. John said the former Marine was insane at the time of the crimes and “did not know his conduct was wrong.”
St. John also said his client is entitled to a new trial based on two rulings made by state District Judge Jason Cashon that he claims are grounds for reversal.
Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash rebuffed Routh’s assertions in a 57-page brief to the state appellate court March 11.
The prosecutor argued that the overwhelming amount of evidence is sufficient to support the jury’s rejection of Routh’s insanity defense.
“The jury was entitled to disbelieve expert testimony diagnosing appellant with a severe mental disease or defect, and the jury could conclude that appellant knew his conduct in murdering Littlefield and Kyle was wrong,” Nash wrote.
“Further, the state’s evidence that appellant did not suffer from a severe mental disease or defect, appellant was intoxicated at the time of the offense, and appellant knew that his conduct was wrong supports the jury’s rejection of the insanity defense.”
Defense attorneys had argued that Routh suffered from schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder, and that when he killed Kyle and Littlefield, he was in the grip of a psychosis “so severe that he didn’t know what he was doing was wrong.”
Prosecutors portrayed Routh at trial 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.
They said that Routh’s behavior was caused by his voluntary intoxication on the morning of the murders. Before meeting his two victims the day of the murder, Routh drank whiskey and smoked marijuana laced with embalming fluid, prosecutors said.
They also insist Routh’s defense team failed to prove that he did not know his conduct was wrong.
Routh did not testify at his trial.
Nash says that Routh understood how to bilk the system and restated trial arguments that he ripped off bizarre “pig men” statements from pop culture to fake symptoms of a disorder.
As an example, Nash cites how Routh’s fascination with the “Pig Man” character in the Discovery channel show “Boss Hog” led him to develop stories of pig men, hybrid pigs and pig assassins in the aftermath of the murders.
Nash also points to an episode of “Seinfeld” in which Kramer believed that he discovered a half pig, half man in a New York hospital that Routh is said to have watched as further proof of the convicted murderer’s morphing of reality and fiction.
He argued that Routh’s symptoms before, during and immediately following the crime were “cannabis-induced” and that both of the state’s medical experts concluded that Routh knew his conduct was wrong.
Dr. Randall Price, a forensic psychologist who evaluated Routh for more than 10 hours in the Erath County Detention Center, testified that Routh explained immediately following the crime, that he felt “instantly remorseful,” Nash’s brief says.
Dr. Michael Arambula, president of the Texas Medical Board and another state expert, further concluded that Routh was not insane at the time of the offense “because he was intoxicated at the time.”
The brief says that jurors were entitled to “question the credibility of the defense evidence” and disbelieve the expert’s claims that Routh did not know his conduct was wrong.
In the brief Nash cites several instances of Routh not only confessing to the crime, but also suggesting motivation for the double-murders.
Routh told an Erath County jailer, a reporter for The New Yorker magazine, and Arambula that he shot the two men because they wouldn’t talk to him, the prosecutor argued in the brief.
“Though murder is an extreme expression of anger or any other normal human emotion, appellant’s anger with Littlefield and Kyle, even months after the murder, supports an inference that appellant killed Littlefield and Kyle because of anger, rather than a severe mental disease or defect,” the brief states.
Routh’s anger with Littlefield boiled over because he wasn’t actively participating in shooting at the gun range, the brief says.
According to the brief, Routh explained to Arambula that he shot Littlefield first, and then “had to shoot Kyle because if he did not, Kyle would then kill the appellant for shooting his friend.”
Howard Ryan, an expert in forensic crime scene analysis who also testified at Routh’s trial, said that Littlefield was shot multiple times in the back with a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol, and that Littlefield fell forward to his knees and hands onto the wooden deck of the upscale shooting range.
Routh then turned the gun on Kyle, firing shots that immediately killed the famed Navy SEAL while his holstered gun remained fastened to his hip.
But the bloodshed wasn’t over. Assistant Attorney General Jane Starnes told jurors during closing statements that Routh fired two more shots into Littlefield as he lay twitching in a pool of blood and after firing six deadly shots at Kyle.
“This was not to prevent him from getting up, but to finish him off,” she said. “He didn’t want Chad dead. He wanted Chad dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead. And he wanted the same for Chris.”
Nash also dismissed Routh’s claims that his supposed “psychotic state” precluded him from being interviewed by a Texas Ranger investigator immediately after the murders, and that the judge abused his discretion by refusing to grant a mistrial when the prosecutor introduced a glass vial at trial that was not entered into evidence.
The interview did not violate Routh’s constitutional rights, and curative steps were taken that left no room for harmful inferences against the defendant, the prosecutor argued.
“In addition, if the trial court erred in admitting the statements, evidence of appellant’s guilt was so overwhelming, independent of the statements, that such error did not substantially affect the jury’s finding of guilt,” the brief states.
Nash and Routh’s attorney requested oral arguments before the Eastland-based appellate court.Routh remains incarcerated at the Louis C. Powledge Unit, a medium-security prison in Palestine, Texas.
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