“American Sniper” Trial: Eddie Ray Routh Found Guilty of Capital Murder
By Rachael Meyer
Sports Editor/ Media Editor
On February 2, 2013, Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield were murdered, gunned down in the back by Eddie Ray Routh at a firing range in Texas. This is a fact that no one can dispute, but the question is: did Routh understand that what he did at that time was wrong? Or was he within the grips of psychosis, convinced the two other men were going to kill him if he did not kill them first? This is what the jury in Erath County, Texas had to decide.
Many people around the world know Kyle because of his best-selling autobiography “American Sniper” that was released in 2012, and many more know him because of the hit movie “American Sniper” that was released in 2014. Kyle was a former Navy SEAL who claimed to be the deadliest sniper in U.S. history with 160 confirmed kills overseas, according to CNN. Kyle was happily married and had two children, whom he enjoyed spending time with after he was honorably discharged from the military in 2009. Anyone who has seen the “American Sniper” movie know that this story ends in tragedy.
After being discharged, Kyle spent much of his time volunteering with other veterans and helped them recover from injuries sustained in combat and through post-traumatic stress disorder. Prior to February 2, Kyle was approached by Routh’s mother, who asked Kyle to help her son, a former marine. Kyle agreed and arranged to take Routh to a shooting range as a type of therapy.
On that February day, Kyle had chosen a shooting range that was small, isolated, and surrounded by nothing but peaceful Texas landscape. Littlefield was Kyle’s long time friend who came along for support. At the shooting range, Routh shot Kyle and Littlefield multiple times for seemingly no reason. According to NBC, evidence shows that the victims were taken by surprise. Both were shot in the back and did not have time to defend themselves, even though they both carried loaded pistols in holsters. After the killings, Routh took Kyle’s truck, picked up tacos at a drive-through, and went home.
Routh was eventually taken in by the police, and he admitted to committing the crime. The trial took place in February of 2015. Routh pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Routh has a history of mental problems and may have been taking medicine for schizophrenia. The defense argued that Routh did not understand that killing Kyle and Littlefield was wrong because he was under a psychotic episode and believed they were going to kill him.
Text messages that Kyle sent to Littlefield on the way to the shooting range show that they knew something about Routh wasn’t quite right. Kyle texted Littlefield on their drive to the shooting range, “This dude is straight-up nuts.” Kyle’s wife, Taya, knew something was off when Kyle seemed tense as he talked to her on the phone that day.
The prosecution worked to dispute Routh’s insanity plea. According to Fox News, they argued that Routh had induced his own psychosis by drinking whiskey and smoking marijuana the morning of the killings. They also tried to argue that Routh knew that killing Kyle and Littlefield was wrong. They cited that Routh fled from police, showed remorse, and admitted to his sister and to police that he knew his actions were wrong.
On February 24, 2015, the Erath County jury of ten women and two men ruled Routh guilty of capital murder, and he is to receive life in prison without the possibility of parole. The crucial incriminating factor was a component of Texas law, which, according to ABC News, says that a person can be found guilty even if he or she is suffering from a mental illness at the time of the crime, as long as they understand that what they did was wrong..
Routh and his attorneys have appealed the ruling and hope to get a new trial. They say that Kyle’s reputation as an American hero hurt their case, and they were not able to receive fair consideration in a small town environment.
For now, the families of Kyle and Littlefield rejoice in the decision. Before the trial took place, the governor of Texas declared February 2 to be “Chris Kyle Day” in honor of the brave man whose life was taken so carelessly and too soon.