The prosecution presented its rebuttal case Friday in the trial of Eddie Ray Routh, who is accused of killing “American Sniper” Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield. Routh has admitted to killing the two men but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The prosecution’s experts sought to challenge the credibility of Routh’s insanity claims, pointing out inconsistencies in his story and even a possible inspiration Routh may have drawn from the TV show “Seinfeld.”
Routh is accused of shooting and killing Kyle and Littlefield at a shooting range in February 2013, where the two men had brought him to help work through the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Routh was reported to had suffered since serving during the Iraq war and in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
On Thursday, Routh’s defense attorneys had presented the testimony of Dr. Michael Dunn, a forensic psychiatrist, as Breitbart Texas reported. Dunn told the jury that Routh suffered from schizophrenia and was affected by it during the crime, describing how Routh had told him he believed Kyle and Littlefield were “pig assassins, hybrid pigs sent here to kill people,” and he had to kill them before they could kill him first.
As Breitbart Texas reported, the standard under Texas law to prove an insanity defense is very high. 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.”
Defense attorneys had presented evidence 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. Earlier this week, the defense had presented testimony from Routh’s mother, former girlfriend, and sister, all of whom testified about his alarming and bizarre behavior, in addition to the testimony from Dunn, the forensic psychiatrist.
The prosecution rebutted Dunn’s testimony with their own mental health expert, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Randall Price, according to a report by KXAN. Price testified that Routh did have a paranoid disorder, but that it was made worse by his marijuana and alcohol abuse. Price described it as a “cannabis-induced psychosis,” such that would not be sufficient to establish an insanity defense, because it did not negate Routh’s ability to tell right from wrong.
“In my opinion, he did know what he was doing was wrong, and he did it anyway,” said Price.
Price also accused Routh of “setting the stage” to claim an insanity defense. Noting that Routh had a television in his cell and was known to be a fan of the show “Seinfeld,” Price described an episode where the character Cosmo Kramer believes he has uncovered a government conspiracy to create “pig-men.” “I’m tellin’ ya, the pig-man is alive,” Kramer tells Jerry Seinfeld in the episode. “The government’s been experimenting with pig-men since the ’50s…It’s military thing. They are probably creating a whole army of pig warriors.”
Price could not prove that Routh had seen that particular episode of “Seinfeld,” but did call the similarities “suspicious” and mentioned that Routh had “talked a lot about pigs to a lot of people.”
Other aspects of Routh’s story raised questions, according to Price. He pointed out that there was “no indication that he had any direct combat experience” in Iraq, and questioned his history of getting in trouble for making violent threats and being hospitalized for mental illness rather than going to jail, according to a report by People.com. Even the defense’s own ezpert, Dunn, had questioned Routh’s PTSD diagnosis, as Breitbart Texas reported.
Price also found odd something that Routh had said in the back of the patrol car after he was arrested — “I’ve been paranoid and schizophrenic all day” — saying that it was usually very rare for people with actual mental illness to admit it, especially so clearly and directly.
Routh expressed remorse after the crime, Price said, telling him that as he stood alone on the range, he was “immediately remorseful” and thinking, “Jesus Christ, what have I done?”
Dr. Michael Arambula, another prosecution witness, concurred with Price’s analysis. Radar Online reported that Arambula testified that because Routh was using drugs and alcohol at the time of the crime, his “voluntary intoxication” meant he could not claim an insanity defense.
“He was [voluntarily] intoxicated at the time of the offense,” said Arambula. “Anytime intoxication is present, the game is over.”
Arambula pointed out another oddity in Routh’s story, in how he had described the events at the shooting range that day, including the fact that at one point, shortly before he killed them, Routh was standing with his back to Kyle and Littlefield.
“That’s very significant to me,” said Arambula. “If someone is suspicious, much less paranoid about someone, you’re not going to turn your back on them when they have all these guns. It’s just not going to happen.”
Routh also told Arambula that he had shot Littlefield first, and then Kyle, saying that he had had no issue with Kyle, but he thought Kyle would shoot him once he had shot Littlefield, so he had to kill him. “I know it’s terrible,” said Arambula, “but [this explanation by Routh for his actions] makes sense, and that’s not psychotic thinking.”
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. To honor his life and service, Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared February 2nd to be Chris Kyle Day, as Breitbart Texas reported.
The trial is scheduled to continue on Monday, for closing arguments by both sides. Jury deliberations will begin after that, most likely on Monday afternoon. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty, so Routh is facing a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole, if he is convicted of capital murder. Breitbart Texas will continue to follow this story.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.