What happened to Eddie Ray Routh, the accused killer of American Sniper Chris Kyle?

Chris Kyle Killer Eddie Ray Routh Mug Shot

The rave reviews and box-office success of American Sniper may have real-life consequences for Chris Kyle’s accused killer, Eddie Ray Routh, whose criminal trial is set to begin on Feb. 11.

“The film will be an issue,” Routh’s lawyer, J. Warren St. John, told People this week. “I think any case with significant publicity has an issue with picking a jury. I’ve had them in the past, and anything that has significant national attention makes it hard to pick a jury.”

Anticipating that finding an unbiased jury would be difficult, St. John filed a motion in 2013 to change the location of the trial, but it was denied. However, Houston criminal defense attorney George Parnham said that the success of the Clint Eastwood film would likely have made finding a jury difficult, regardless of the locale.

“It’s going to be very difficult for him to get a fair trial, not only because of the movie, but because of the media surrounding the movie,” said Parnham, who previously represented Andrea Yates. “Mr. Kyle is a hero in many people’s eyes. Due to the fact that this movie has gained intense public attention, it’s doubtful that a fair jury can be selected anywhere.”

Real American Sniper Chris Kyle

Parnham said Routh — who has been imprisoned since the 2013 murders — is also at a disadvantage because a judge issued a gag order on his family members and attorneys in 2013. At the time, the judge said he was issuing it because of the “unusually emotional nature of the issues involved in the case.” In light of the movie, Parnham said the gag order is now unfair. He explained, “The only thing people will know about him is what they see in the movie.” (Kyle’s murder isn’t depicted.)

Despite the gag order, Routh’s lawyer was able to say his client will plead not guilty by reason of insanity. He plans to present evidence that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when he allegedly killed Kyle and Chad Littlefield at a Texas shooting range on Feb. 2, 2013.

In an interview with The Los Angeles Times earlier this month, widow Taya Kyle said she believes the PTSD defense is a cop out.

“To try and even find an excuse is disgusting. I know people with PTSD, and it’s very real and very hard. But it doesn’t change your core character,” she said. “I have a feeling the trial is going to be a beat-down. And yet there’s no place I’d rather be. Everywhere I can be supporting Chris and standing up for him. I will always be there.”

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