The trial of Eddie Ray Routh, who is charged with killing of former Navy SEALs sniper Chris Kyle, is scheduled to open in Stephenville, Texas, on February 11 at 9 a.m.
American Sniper, the blockbuster war movie about Chris Kyle, now playing at Cinemark Cinema 6 three miles from the courtroom, will be showing at 3:40 p.m., 7 p.m. and 10:20 p.m.
Legal experts have questioned whether Eddie Ray Routh, 27, the mentally ill veteran accused of killing Chris Kyle and his friend at a shooting range in Stephenville’s Erath County in 2013, can receive a fair trial here.
Just as the movie has been debated for what it says about war and warriors, the trial will dissect what war did to and for two men – one of them hailed, particularly in Texas, as an American hero, the other a fellow soldier on trial for two murders that people here are still trying to comprehend two years later.
Eddie Ray Routh’s lawyers, Warren St. John and Tim Moore, have included the movie and the local support for Chris Kyle in their legal case, asking the judge to postpone the trial. They cited the popularity of the movie, its release in local theaters, the bomb threat and Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to declare last Monday, the two-year anniversary of Chris Kyle’s death, Chris Kyle Day in Texas.
The judge, Erath County District Judge Jason Cashon, denied their request.
Eddie Ray Routh’s lawyers also asked the judge to move the proceedings out of Erath County, describing “so great a prejudice” against their client that he could not get a fair trial.
Judge Cashon was expected to turn down that motion as well, but it was clear last week as prospective jurors crowded the courtroom that he had concerns about the publicity surrounding the case.
A pool of 263 potential jurors qualified for jury selection. Prosecutors and defense lawyers questioned them on February 9 and 10, but there was concern whether the pool was large enough for a jury to be seated, raising the remote possibility that the start of the trial could be delayed.
Chris Kyle, who became the military’s deadliest sniper while protecting Marines in Iraq, took Eddie Ray Routh to the range on February 2, 2013.
He often used trips to the range as a form of therapy for wounded and troubled veterans.
Once there, Eddie Ray Routh turned his handgun on Chris Kyle, 38, and Kyle’s friend, Chad Littlefield, 35, and then fled in Kyle’s truck, the authorities said.
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