STEPHENVILLE, Texas — The widow of the former Navy SEAL depicted in the blockbuster film “American Sniper” will be among the first to testify against the man charged with killing her husband.
A day before opening statements in the trial of former Marine Eddie Ray Routh, prosecutors said Tuesday that Chris Kyle’s widow, Taya, will take the stand. They also filed a document outlining “bad acts” allegedly committed by Routh that they may want to bring before the jury.
Defense attorneys have already said they will pursue an insanity defense for Routh, who family members say suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Routh, 27, faces life in prison without parole if convicted of capital murder in the shooting deaths of Kyle and Kyle’s friend Chad Littlefield as the pair tried to help Routh at a shooting range two years ago.
A jury of 10 women and two men was seated Monday from an initial pool of 800 people, despite concerns from defense lawyers about finding an impartial jury because of pretrial publicity. The film based on Kyle’s memoir as a sniper who served four tours in Iraq has grossed nearly $300 million.
The intense attention on the case — largely because of Kyle’s memoir and the Oscar-nominated film — has also brought renewed focus to the mental struggles former military members face.
Routh was a small arms technician who served in Iraq and was deployed to earthquake-ravaged Haiti before leaving the Marines in 2010.
Authorities say that after the February 2013 shooting of Kyle and Littlefield, Routh drove to his sister’s house in Kyle’s truck, admitted to the killings and told his sister “people were sucking his soul.”
Routh has been in court since the jury screenings began last week, listening to the proceedings.
Another of the first witnesses prosecutors plan to call is Littlefield’s mother, Judy. District Judge Jason Cashon ruled that she and Taya Kyle can stay in court to watch proceedings after testifying.
Cashon also said he’ll rule on a case-by-case basis on admitting any of Routh’s “extraneous offenses and bad acts” outside of the day he was arrested and the day after.
The state’s filings say Routh smoked marijuana, drank excessively and had a history of killing small animals. They also say on Jan. 19, 2013, he threatened his girlfriend and her roommate with a kitchen knife. He was taken to a mental hospital.
On the day of the killings, Routh had been drinking and smoking marijuana and again threatened his girlfriend with a knife, the filing states. After his arrest, he allegedly threatened officers and caused problems while jailed, including flooding his cell.
In response to the attention the case drew, county officials had summoned more than four times as many potential jurors as they would for a regular trial — not unusual for a high-profile case.
That a jury for Routh was chosen ahead of schedule — even with the media exposure — could have stemmed from several factors, said Marcellus McRae, a Los Angeles trial attorney and former federal prosecutor.
Among them are the parameters the judge sets and the people who happened to be called to the pool.
“It’s a complex process,” McRae said.
The potential jury field was narrowed over two days last week, when would-be jurors filled out a questionnaire that included inquiries on whether they had seen the movie or read the book, served in the military, had a familiarity with firearms, or ever been treated for a mental condition.
The sympathy for the Kyle and Littlefield families is evident across town, including one restaurant proclaiming its support on a roadside sign.