‘American Sniper’ murder trial gears up
By Bethann Coldiron and Katy Tonkin—
Bethany Kyle and Jack Cochran also contributed reporting to this story.
Opening arguments in the capital murder trial of the man accused of killing “American Sniper” Chris Kyle are expected to begin Wednesday if lawyers are able to select a jury.
Last week, the court and attorneys spent Thursday and Friday culling possible jurors from a pool of 800 people. They ended up with a pool of 263 potential jurors who will undergo questioning from the defense attorneys and the prosecution.
Eddie Ray Routh is facing capital murder charges for the death of Kyle and friend Chad Littlefield. He is facing life without parole if convicted. Prosecutors dropped plans to seek the death penalty without explaining why in court documents.
Judge Jason Cashon said the trial was an “unusual process” and there was “some anxiety here.”
During the preliminary jury selection proceedings, Routh sat with his attorneys at one table in the courtroom and the prosecution was across from them, with the District Clerk Wanda Pringle next to the judge and Chief Bailiff Virgil Thompson monitoring the courtroom.
To qualify as a potential juror, candidates had to be registered voters in Erath County, could not be a convicted felon, at least 18 years old, be a current resident of Erath County, be able to read and write English, and could not have already served on a jury six days in the last six months.
If the jury members have seen the movie or read the book, or read articles up until this point, that it was allowed as long as it would not influence their decision.
Before the process of qualifications, exemptions and excuses began, The judge went over the oath that jurors have to take and the rules regarding how jurors should conduct themselves and what happens if they are selected.
One potential juror who was dismissed was Joe McCartney, 63, who served 22 years in the Marine Corps. McCartney wore a vest with several military patches on it. He told the judge that he suffers from PTSD and did not think he was a qualified juror.
“I was the same as Chris Kyle,” he said. “I was a sniper. There’s things I don’t want to talk about.” McCartney saw battle in the Vietnam War.
Asked if it was hard to receive treatment for PTSD, he said “It’s been easy as hell. The VA has been fantastic. They’ve gotten me psychiatric help. All you have to say is that you want it.”
Three Texan News Service reporters also testified in a hearing late Thursday. During a lunch break during jury selections, the reporters said they witnessed what they believed to be a reporter speaking with and interviewing a potential juror – which the judge has prohibited.
The reporters notified Pringle, who then asked them to meet with the judge. Each was asked to give a testimony and restate what they witnessed for court records.
In the hearing, the students identified the reporter as being from the Independent, a British newspaper, and the juror as not being one that had already been released.