A FORMER Marine has been convicted over the deaths of American Sniper author Chris Kyle and another man at a Texas shooting range two years ago, as jurors rejected defence arguments that he was insane and suffered from psychosis.
The trial of Eddie Ray Routh has drawn intense interest, in part because of the blockbuster Oscar-nominated film starring Bradley Cooper based on former Navy Seal Mr Kyle’s memoir about his four tours in Iraq.
Since prosecutors did not seek the death penalty in the capital murder case, 27-year-old Routh receives an automatic life sentence without parole over the deaths of Mr Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield. Routh showed no reaction in court on Tuesday, even when family members of Mr Littlefield addressed him. His defence team said they would appeal against the conviction.
Routh “took the lives of two heroes, men who tried to be a friend to you, and you became an American disgrace,” Jerry Richardson, Mr Littlefield’s half-brother, told Routh in court.
“We’re so thrilled that we have the verdict that we have tonight,” Littlefield’s mother Judy said at a news conference outside the courthouse.
The Littlefield family had waited “two years for God to get justice for us,” she said. “He was faithful.”
Mr Kyle’s widow, Taya, had left the courtroom earlier in the day and had not returned by the time the verdict was read. Chris Kyle’s brother and parents were among a group hugging and crying inside the courtroom after the verdict was read. They did not issue a statement.
The prosecution painted Routh as a troubled drug user who knew right from wrong, despite any mental illnesses.
While trial testimony and evidence often included Routh making odd statements and referring to insanity, he also confessed several times, apologised for the crimes and tried to evade police.
Criminal law experts said the verdict hinged on whether the defence could prove he was insane and did not know the killings were wrong at the time they were committed.
Jurors had three options: find Routh guilty of capital murder, find him not guilty, or find him not guilty by reason of insanity. If found not guilty by reason of insanity, the court could have initiated proceedings to have him committed to a state mental hospital.
Mr Kyle and Mr Littlefield had taken Routh to the shooting range at Rough Creek Lodge and Resort on 2 February, 2013, after his mother asked Mr Kyle to help her troubled son.
Family members say Routh suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from serving in Iraq and in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
But a forensic psychologist testified for prosecutors that Routh was not legally insane and suggested he may have been given some of his ideas by TV.
Dr Randall Price said Routh had a paranoid disorder made worse by his use of alcohol and marijuana.
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