Eddie Ray Routh was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of Chris Kyle, the hero of the film American Sniper. But his lawyers say they plan to appeal the verdict, suggesting that the film had an influence on the jury.
Routh was charged with killing Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield, at a gun range in Texas in February 2013. The trial was held in Stephenville, and during the trial, Routh’s lawyers attempted to claim that he was legally insane. However, according to juror Kristina Yager in an interview with ABC News, Routh used this defense often as a means of getting out of trouble.
“Evidence shows that there was a real definite pattern there, when it came to, you know, his earlier convictions. He would get intoxicated, get in trouble, and then the police would show up, and he would say, ‘I’m a veteran, I have P.T.S.D., I’m insane.’ You know, and every time something bad happened, he’d pull that card.”
Routh reportedly said he believed he was surrounded by pig people and that cannibals wanted to eat him, though two experts who declared that he was not insane wondered if it was part of an act to make him sound schizophrenic.
The insanity defense failed, but Routh’s lawyers also believe that American Sniper’s influence affected the ability of the jurors to make an impartial decision. The jury’s decision took two hours to make. One lawyer, Warren St. John, said that the trial would have been better held elsewhere.
“We don’t think that we got a fair trial in that small community, not that there’s not some good folks there. It’s because of the publicity, and the movie came out right then, and the governor right before we started the trial had a ‘Chris Kyle Day.’ We thought it should be in a bigger jurisdiction where the jury pool would be more diverse than it was in Stephenville.”
He also expressed disappointment that his client’s schizophrenia was not given any consideration.
But the fact that jurors may have watched American Sniper was not the problem. Another of Routh’s lawyers said that this alone was not a reason to dismiss any jurors. The problem was that American Sniper had gained such notoriety and that Chris Kyle was seen as a hero and given celebrity status.
However, the fact that Routh killed the two men was never in dispute. Most of the case was focused on whether Routh was insane or not, so whether American Sniper was a success or not may be completely irrelevant. Whether Kyle is a hero or not has no bearing on the fact that Routh murdered two people.
The appeal is due to be filed this week, and Routh’s lawyers stand behind the insanity defense. Either way, the infamous American Sniper case should soon come to a close.
[Photo by Tom Fox – Pool/Getty Images]