STEPHENVILLE, Texas — The highly publicized “American Sniper” trial got underway Wednesday with both sides offering differing accounts of what ultimately caused Eddie Ray Routh to kill legendary Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield.
Routh, a former Marine, is accused of fatally shooting both Kyle and Littlefield at Rough Creek Lodge, a remote gun range in rural Texas, on Feb. 2, 2013.
In his opening statement, prosecutor Alan Nash painted Routh, 27, as a drug and alcohol user who displayed a pattern of voluntary intoxication in the days leading up to the killings. Prosecutors say Routh was smoking marijuana and possibly other drugs while also drinking alcohol.
Routh’s attorneys are pursuing an insanity defense and the defendant entered a “not guilty” plea.
Nash told jurors that the evidence indicates Routh “intentionally caused the death” of Kyle and Littlefield. He also said on the morning of the day Kyle and Littlefield were murdered, Routh began his day by “smoking cigarettes, smoking dope, [and] drinking liquor.”
Kyle and his friend, Littlefield, took Routh to Rough Creek Lodge in Glen Rose, Texas, in an effort to help him through a tough time in his life.
The prosecution said the evidence will show that after Kyle and Littlefield got them all checked in at the Texas gun range on Feb. 2, 2013, Routh shot and killed both of them and then fled in Kyle’s truck. Both Kyle and Littlefield were later discovered by staff at the gun range with multiple gunshot wounds. Kyle was shot multiple times in the back and once in the head.
The prosecutors also said the evidence will show that after the shooting, Routh went to his sister’s house in a brand-new truck later determined to be Kyle’s 2008 black F-150. Routh’s sister called 911 in a panic after her brother showed up in the truck, telling an operator that he was acting psychotic and that she wasn’t sure if he was on drugs at the time.
Despite his dealings with mental illnesses, the prosecution argued the evidence will ultimately prove that Routh “intentionally” killed the two men — which is vital to get a conviction — and asked the jury to consider whether mental illness takes away a person’s ability to know “right from wrong.”
“This man has issues,” Nash said. “This is a troubled young man.”
The defense told 12 jurors — 10 women and two men — that Routh was a “troubled” and mentally ill Marine veteran who was unable to comprehend what he was doing when he killed Kyle and Littlefield. When he shot the two men, Routh was in the “grip of psychosis” so severe that he didn’t realize what he was doing was wrong, defense attorney Tim Moore said. In his mind at the time, it was either “him or them,” Moore told jurors.
The defense team revealed that Routh had problems with alcohol abuse and probably smoked “too much” marijuana.
Several minutes were dedicated to the various mental health diagnoses Routh received prior to the killings, including “psychosis” and post-traumatic stress disorder. Routh spent time in Green Oaks Hospital in Dallas and the VA where he was found to be suffering from serious mental illness, his defense team argued.
If convicted of capital murder in the case, Routh faces life in prison without parole. Prosecutors are not pursuing the death penalty.
Prosecutors planned to call Littlefield’s mother, Judy, and Kyle’s widow, Taya, to testify early in the trial. District Judge Jason Cashon ruled that both women can stay in court to watch after testifying.
The trial got underway Wednesday as “American Sniper,” the blockbuster film based on Kyle’s memoir of the same name, continues to fill movie theaters across the country. The film, which has further solidified Kyle’s status as a national hero, has earned nearly $300 million since opening nationwide on Jan. 16.
The Warfighter Foundation, a nonprofit veterans group that has questioned whether Routh was really suffering from PTSD, recently provided TheBlaze with several previously unpublished photos of Routh from when he was serving in the Marines as small arms technician at Balad Air Base in Iraq:
—Courtesy of TheBlaze