The jury in the trial of Eddie Ray Routh has found him guilty of capital murder for killing “American Sniper” Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at a shooting range on February 2, 2013. Routh, 27, had admitted to the killings but had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
After the trial was postponed Monday due to an ice storm in the area, the prosecution and defense put on their final rebuttal witnesses on Tuesday, and then presented closing arguments. The jury deliberated for approximately two hours, and the verdict was read at about 9:20 pm Tuesday evening. Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle, has attended every day of the trial proceedings but was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read.
Because the prosecution did not seek the death penalty, the verdict comes with a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. If Routh had been found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would have been sentenced to a state mental hospital.
As Breitbart Texas reported, the standard under Texas law to prove an insanity defense is extremely difficult to satisfy. Texas Penal Code Section 8.01 requires the defendant to prove that at the time of the crime, “as a result of severe mental disease or defect, [he] did not know that his conduct was wrong.”
Routh’s defense attorneys had presented testimony from Dr. Michael Dunn, a forensic psychiatrist, who said that Routh had suffered from schizophrenia and was affected by it during the crime, as Breitbart Texas reported. They also presented testimony from Routh’s mother, former girlfriend, and sister, all of whom testified about his alarming and bizarre behavior. Evidence was also presented that Routh was hospitalized twice in July 2011, once in September 2012, and for the last time in January 2013, being released just a week before the killings. Over the years, he had been diagnosed with a psychotic disorder, depression, marijuana and alcohol abuse, and had been prescribed multiple anti-psychotic medications.
The prosecution countered by presenting evidence that Routh’s time in the military did not include any actual combat. As Breitbart Texas reported, their experts pointed out a number of inconsistencies with Routh’s story, including ways he had seemed to be “setting the stage” to claim an insanity defense, statements he made that showed remorse or guilt, and a possible way that Routh may have drawn inspiration from television shows like “Seinfeld” to formulate his story. Additionally, the prosecution’s experts characterized Routh’s heavy drug use as a “cannabis-induced psychosis,” which was a “voluntary intoxication” such that would negate any insanity defense.
Both the defense and prosecution’s experts rejected claims that Routh was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the time of the crime.
After the verdict was read, District Judge Jason Cashon polled the jury to ensure that it was a unanimous verdict. Judge Cashon also told the jurors that they are now free to discuss the case, and to contact the court if anyone harasses them.
Judge Cashon also advised Routh he can appeal the ruling to the Eleventh Court of Appeals in Eastland, Texas. All three justices on that court are Republican appointees. Chief Justice Jim R. Wright was first appointed to the 91st District Court in Eastland by Governor Clements, then appointed to the Eleventh Court of Appeals by Governor George Bush, and was appointed Chief Justice by Governor Rick Perry. Both Justice Mike Willson and Justice John Bailey were appointed by Perry.
Lana Shadwick, legal analyst for Breitbart Texas and former prosecutor and judge, said, “The jury came to its decision in only two hours. The members of the jury soundly rejected Eddie Ray Routh’s insanity defense claim.”
Carmen Roe, a Houston attorney and President of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, told Breitbart Texas that she questioned whether the American Sniper movie had affected Routh’s ability to get a fair trial, but acknowledged the high burden required to establish an insanity defense. “While it’s clear from his statements to law enforcement that he was sorry for what he did,” said Roe, “the question for jurors was whether he knew right from wrong at the time of the killing. It’s very difficult to prove that you are not guilty by reason of insanity and it was even harder on these facts, in large part because of his statements expressing remorse.”
Kyle was a Navy SEAL and the most lethal sniper in American military history, serving four tours in Iraq. He received multiple commendations for his service before being honorably discharged from the Navy in 2009. A native Texan, Kyle was born in Odessa and returned to Texas after leaving the Navy. His memoir, American Sniper, was turned into a blockbuster film directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper. The movie, still in theaters, has grossed more than $300 million and was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor for Cooper, winning one for Best Sound Editing. To honor his life and service, Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared February 2nd to be Chris Kyle Day, as Breitbart Texas reported.
Julie Littlefield, Chad Littlefield’s mother, made a statement to the media after the verdict. “We have waited two years for God to get justice for us on behalf of our son,” she said. “And as always, God has proved to be faithful. We are so thrilled that we have the verdict that we have.”
She thanked the media for treating her family with compassion, respect, and honor throughout this process.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott posted a tweet within minutes of the verdict being read, calling the verdict “justice.”
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) February 25, 2015
This story has been updated.