State Fights Appeal from Killer of ‘American Sniper’ Chris Kyle, Chad Littlefield

American Sniper Trial
AP File Photo/LM Otero

The State of Texas has filed a brief to reply to the claims on appeal made by the convicted murderer of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield. Eddie Ray Routh is asking an intermediate appellate court in Texas to set aside the jury’s guilty verdict.

A jury in Stephenville, Texas found Routh guilty of capital murder of Kyle and Littlefield in February 2015, as reported by Breitbart Texas. There is no doubt that Routh killed Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at the shooting range near Chalk Mountain, the issue is whether he was legally insane at the time of the shootings. Routh pleaded guilty by reason of insanity.

The standard under Texas law to prove an insanity defense is extremely difficult to satisfy. Texas Penal Code section 8.01 requires a 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,” as Breitbart Texas reported.

At trial, Routh’s defense lawyers put on testimony by a psychiatrist who testified that Routh suffered from schizophrenia. His mother, sister, and former girlfriend testified that he had engaged in alarming and bizarre behavior, as reported by Breitbart Texas from Stephenville. Routh was hospitalized twice in July 2011, and once in September 2012 and in January 2013 for mental illness. He had been diagnosed with a psychotic disorder, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and had been prescribed multiple anti-psychotic medications.

Although he had served in the military, both defense and prosecution experts rejected claims that Routh was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the time of the murders.

The jury came to its decision in only two hours; thus, soundly rejecting Eddie Ray Routh’s insanity defense claim.

Lawyers for Routh filed a brief in December asking for a new trial. Routh’s attorney, Warren St. John, urged that his client was “suffering from severe mental illness” and “did not know his actions were wrong,” as reported by Breitbart Texas,  The brief also argues that “the appellant met his burden of proof to show that he was insane at the time of the offense, but the jury chose to disregard Mr. Routh’s severe mental illness.” Defense counsel filed the brief in the Eleventh Court of Appeals in Eastland, Texas.

The brief also claims that Routh was “in a psychotic state” when he spoke to an investigator with the Texas Rangers, and that “The officer used a method to induce the appellant to give a statement that was in violation of the due process clause of the state and federal Constitutions.”

The State’s response to the Appellant’s brief also argues that the statements he made during his custodial interrogation by the Texas Ranger, were voluntary and free from coercion and complied with the Constitutions. Moreover, even if there was error by the trial court judge in denying the defense’s motion to suppress Routh’s recorded statement, the evidence of his guilt was overwhelming, independent of the Ranger’s interview.

Lastly, the State responded to Routh’s appellate argument that the trial judge erred in denying him a mistrial after the State mistakenly introduced a glass vial located inside a metal box found in his house. The box contained drug paraphernalia and a small amount of marijuana and marijuana residue. The State argues that any harm in admitting it was effectively cured by announcement by the State’s attorney that the vial was a product of lab testing and was not attributable to Appellant. In addition, testimony presented by the State explaining in detail the origin and utility of the vial, withdrawal of the vial from evidence, and the judge’s instruction to the jury to disregard the vial and testimony which might lead to an incorrect inference that the vial was drug paraphernalia, cured the problem.

During the trial, as reported by Breitbart Texas, the defense argued that Routh thought Kyle and Littlefield planned to kill him.

Routh received life without parole because the State did not seek the death penalty.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott posted a tweet within minutes of the jury verdict being read, calling the verdict “justice.”

As reported by Breitbart Texas in February, lawyers for Routh filed a brief asking for a new trial after he was convicted.

The State responded to the defense’s appellate brief urging that the evidence in the record is legally and factually sufficient to support the jury’s rejection of Routh’s affirmative defense of insanity. The prosecution says the jury was entitled to disbelieve expert testimony diagnosing Appellant with a severe mental disease or defect, and the jury could conclude that Appellant knew his conduct in murdering Littlefield and Kyle was wrong.

The prosecution also argues that the evidence put on by the State at trial that Appellant did not suffer from a severe mental disease or defect, or was intoxicated at the time of the offense, and that Routh knew that his conduct was wrong, supports the jury’s rejection of the insanity defense.

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.

Kyle’s memoir, American Sniper, was turned into a blockbuster film directed by Clint Eastwood. The movie starring Bradley Cooper, grossed more than $300 million and was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor for Cooper. The movie won an Academy Award 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.

Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as an associate judge and prosecutor. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2

State’s Brief in Eddie Ray Routh Appeal


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