By Bethann Coldiron—
“Could you find a person guilty who has a severe mental illness, but they know what they did was wrong?”
This was a question potential jurors had to ask themselves at the jury screening Monday for the Eddie Ray Routh trial. The prosecution and defense interviewed potential jurors at length, asking questions such as “Do mentally ill people look or act a certain way?” and “Do you know who has the burden of proof?”
Jurors were also asked, “How could you tell if someone knew their conduct was wrong?” Jurors replied “body language”, “How they speak, if they stammer or stumble over words”, and “If they say they are guilty”.
However, some jurors weren’t so sure about how they would do being on the jury of such a high profile case. One juror said, “I’m indecisive enough about things in my own life, it sounds extremely difficult. I would do it to the best of my ability, but it would be hard to guarantee anything.”
Assistant Attorney General Starnes said, “We don’t have to prove he is sane, we have to prove he is insane.”
The Texas Penal Code for Insanity states, “It is an affirmative defense to prosecution that, at the time of the conduit charged, the actor, as a result of severe mental disease or defect, did not know that his conduct was wrong.”
There are 3 possible verdicts in this case; guilty- life in prison with no parole, not guilty, and not guilty by reason of insanity.
One juror said, “In my opinion the death penalty should be considered.”
Warren St. John, one of Routh’s lawyers, told jurors, “You are going to hear what mental illness really is” over the course of the trial. “Think about the power the 12 of you will have. He [Routh] is a person. He’s not some fixture on TV.”
He asked the jurors to judge Routh on “Not how he appears today, but how he appeared on Feb. 2nd, 2013.” He also said, “My client is cloaked with the presumption of innocence.”
One juror replied to that statement “Based on what you said, he would be innocent.”
Before announcing who the selected jurors would be, Judge Cashon held a hearing because the defense filed a motion for a change of venue.
“I have considered the affidavits, and the nature of the publicity of the pre-trial publicity has not affected Rouths’ chance for a fair trial.”
10 women and 2 men were selected for the jury, with 1 man and 1 woman as alternates. 3 have served on a criminal jury before.
“You shall not discuss or seek out information about the case,” said Judge Cashon.
Jurors will be met off-site and driven to the trial in private cars to the courthouse each morning and night to ensure that the media does not try to interfere with their duties.
The trial is scheduled to officially start this coming Wednesday.