Texas jury selection to start for man charged with killing sniper Chris Kyle
The first steps in jury selection are set to begin on Thursday in a Texas court for the man charged with murdering Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL whose best-selling autobiography was turned into the hit movie “American Sniper.”
About 800 residents of largely rural Erath County have been called as potential jurors in the trial of Eddie Ray Routh, 27, charged with murdering Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at a shooting range about 70 miles (112 km) southwest of Fort Worth on Feb. 2, 2013.
Potential jurors will fill out questionnaires this week. Jury selection starts on Monday and opening arguments are planned for Feb. 11.
Kyle and Littlefield took Routh, a troubled Iraq War veteran, to the shooting range to help him deal with mental anguish, which Routh’s family said was brought on by post-traumatic stress disorder.
Routh’s relatives said he was hospitalized at a mental institution shortly before the shootings.
After the killings, Routh is accused of stealing Kyle’s truck and driving it to the home of Routh’s sister, who said he confessed to the crimes. Routh was arrested that day and has been jailed in Erath County on $3 million bond ever since.
His court-appointed attorney, Warren St. John, said he will try to show that Routh was insane at the time of the incident, and therefore not guilty of murder.
Defense attorneys were rebuffed in their request for a change of venue. Judge Jason Cashon also denied a request to postpone the trial.
“This request is not made for reason of delay, but in the interest of justice, due process and the notion of fair play,” defense attorneys stated in court papers.
The trial comes as the movie directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper has grossed over $250 million and been nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture.
Sniper Kyle’s 160 kills in Iraq are considered the highest count in U.S. military history.
Some critics contend the film glorifies war and sanitizes Kyle, who called Muslims “savages” in his memoir. Some have also taken issue with Eastwood’s interpretation of the history leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said the movie has led to “violent threats” against its members, and asked Cooper and Eastwood to denounce the hateful language.
Erath County officials said heightened security measures will be in place during jury selection and the trial.
(Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Eric Walsh)