Eddie Ray Routh, the former Marine and Iraq War vet struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, was found guilty of capital murder Tuesday night in the shooting deaths of American Sniper Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield.
Routh stared straight ahead at the judge’s bench as Judge Jason Cashon read the verdict. The jury of 10 women and two men took just over two hours to convict Routh, 27, in the murder of Kyle, 38, and Littlefield, 35, at an upscale shooting range near Fort Worth on Feb. 2, 2013.
Immediately after the verdict was read, Cashon condemned Routh to life in prison in the Texas criminal justice system without possibility for parole. Routh could appeal the verdict.
“The deep well of excuse-making for this defendant has to come to an end,” Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash said in closing arguments Tuesday. “In cold blood, he gunned these two men down.”
The verdict brings to a close a dramatic nine-day trial that included emotional testimony from Kyle’s wife, Taya Kyle, and Judy Littlefield, Chad’s mother, as well as graphic photos from the crime scene, revealing testimony from Routh’s confession to police and details into his mental troubles after leaving the military.
Routh confessed to shooting Kyle and Littlefield shortly after being arrested the day of the incident. Jurors only had to decide if he “intentionally and willingly” killed the pair and whether he knew what he did was wrong. The trial received widespread attention as the Oscar-nominated American Sniper, the Clint Eastwood-directed film about Kyle’s service in Iraq as a celebrated Navy SEAL sniper based on his best-selling book, has grossed more than $400 million in ticket sales and filled theaters across the USA.
The question still looming: Why, exactly, did Routh turn guns on Kyle and Littlefield, who were trying to help him through his PTSD anxiety? The answer to that question remains elusive.
Highlights from the trial include:
- Text messages between Kyle and Littlefield as they drove Routh to the shooting range at Rough Creek Lodge and Resort near Fort Worth, in which Kyle described their passenger as being “straight-up nuts.”
- A phone call from Taya Kyle to her husband while the three were on the shooting range, minutes before he was killed, where Chris Kyle was uncharacteristically curt on the phone.
- Forensics testimony from law enforcement officials that revealed Kyle was shot six times in the side and back and Littlefield shot seven times in the side, back and head – each with a different caliber handgun.
- Details from Routh’s confession to police where the defendant said he thought “pigs were taking over the earth” and was upset that Littlefield wasn’t participating at the shooting range.
Defense attorneys painted a stark picture of Routh’s struggles with psychosis following his service with the Marines, which included an assignment cleaning up bodies in earthquake-scarred Haiti and a tour as a prison guard in Iraq. They showed how Routh was hospitalized in mental institutions four times in the seven months leading to the killings, including less than a week before the shootings.
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SOURCE: USA Today – Rick Jervis