Trial Update: Concerns in the American Sniper Murder Trial – Editor’s Note

Update as of 2/25/15 @ 11:52pm – Eddie Ray Routh has been found guilty of the murders of Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield.

As more information comes out we will update this article again.

Original Article Below:

Nicholas H. Esser – Known widely for the popular movie American Sniper, one of history’s most deadly snipers and American Hero Chris Kyle had his life taken too soon. There is no question that Chris Kyle was murdered along with his neighbor and friend Chad Littlefield. There is little question that the man who ended those lives was fellow veteran Eddie Routh. The only question that remains is whether Routh, whom appears to suffer from PTSD, can be relieved of guilt via the insanity defense. Thus, concerns that an impartial jury cannot be found may not matter as much as some make it out to be.

The insanity defense is one of the few major defenses that the public as a whole knows. However, it is a complicated subject and the movie and tv drama depictions do not do it justice. There are different standards for each jurisdiction. In order to properly prove an insanity defense in Texas, the defendant must go through the requirements of the M’Naghten Rule: “”[T]o establish a defense on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.” This is supplemented by the Irresistible Impulse Test: “the defendant will be found not guilty by reason of insanity if they can show that as a result of mental disease or defect, they could not resist the impulse to commit the crime of which they are accused, due to an inability to control their actions.”

Applied to this case, the defense has to prove that Routh did not know what he was doing was wrong or was not able to control himself because of a mental defect. This means that regardless of his potentially unstable mental condition, regardless of the PTSD diagnosis, if Routh knew that killing Kyle and Littlefield was wrong, he should be found guilty of murder. This will be the main focus of the trial.

The prosecutor has chosen not to pursue the death penalty. If the defense fails to convince the jury of this, then Routh will face life in prison without parol; or if a lesser offense (not first degree murder) is proven then parol may be available. If the defense is successful, Routh will still may be civilly committed due to his mental state. However, if the defense is successful in applying the insanity defense using PTSD, what does that mean for other veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD. This trial will likely effect more than just the parties directly involved.

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