American Sniper Chris Kyle’s Killer Faces A Jury Wednesday Causing Upheaval In The Small Town

Stephenville, Texas, is the location for the trial of Eddie Ray Routh — the man who killed former sniper for the Navy SEALs, Chris Kyle. The blockbuster movie centered around the Kyle’s life as a sniper, American Sniper, is the highest-grossing war movie ever made in the United States earning more than $282 million, as reported by CNN.

Yet, while the movie ends with the shocking murder of Chris Kyle, real life has continued to move forward for all those who loved and admired him. And in the rural town of Stephenville, Texas, sits a courthouse that will hold the proceedings for 27-year-old Routh on Wednesday as American Sniper will be showing in a theater three times that day a mere three miles away.

As the day draws closer for the trial of the man who murdered sniper hero Chris Kyle, and Kyle’s friend, Chad Littlefield, the people of the town are feeling a bit on edge, as reported by the New York Times. Amidst all the admiration and praise given to the sacrifices Chris Kyle made for the United States comes a trail of controversy and criticism as well.

Legal experts are concerned that with all the publicity surrounding American Sniper, Routh, a mentally ill veteran, may not receive a fair trial. The issue that has arisen is the controversy of what war does to the human mind and body. The New York Times shares that the trial will hold Kyle to the highest level of honor, while Routh will, on the other hand, reveal what damage can be done to soldiers who go to war.

However, beyond the aspect of a fair trial is the threat of danger that looms over the upcoming trial. A man called the managing editor of The Stephenville Empire-Tribune and threatened to bomb the Donald R. Jones Justice Center at the time of the jury selection. Security measures in the amount of over $1 million have since been upgraded as per the New York Times.

In light of the bomb threat, as well as Governor Greg Abbott declaring February 2 “Chris Kyle Day,” marking the two-year anniversary of Kyle’s death, Routh’s attorneys requested Erath County District Judge Jason Cashon postpone the trial. The judge denied their request.

Chris Kyle on April 6, 2012
Chris Kyle on April 6, 2012

A group of 263 potential jurors will be interviewed on Monday and Tuesday. Elby Cato, who is one of those 263 that received a jury summons, admits the movie won’t affect his ability to be impartial, according to the Times-Picayune.

“Can he (Routh) get a fair trial here? You bet. I think a lot of people have military kids here, and they understand what they’re going through… He’s going to jail, but I feel like he needs to have a lighter sentence because of it — and help.”

Janet Huggins, another resident summoned for jury duty believes Routh’s attorneys will use PTSD as their defense, and questions whether a “noncombat veteran like Routh has a right to use it as a defense,” all the while recognizing that it is a terrible disease.

“They are all victims. Eddie’s (Routh) a victim, Chad Littlefield’s a victim, and so is Chris. And then you’ve got the families. Everybody’s going through their own hell,” she tells the Times-Picayune.

Routh faces the charge of capital murder, although the death penalty is off the table.

Kyle and Littlefield had taken ex-Marine Routh to a shooting range in an effort to offer a form of therapy to help Routh get past his battle of post-traumatic stress disorder, and other issues he was facing. As the two men tried to help Routh, he decided to take matters into his own hands, pulled out his gun and fatally shot the two men trying to help him.

The trial is expected to be over within two weeks.

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