Judge refuses to remove death penalty option for accused killer Routh

By Kathryn Jones

Editor

Accused killer Eddie Ray Routh appears in district court as attorneys wrangle over pre-trial motions. Photo courtesy WFAA-TV

Accused killer Eddie Ray Routh appears in district court as attorneys wrangle over pre-trial motions. Photo courtesy WFAA-TV

The veteran accused of killing retired Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at Rough Creek Lodge’s remote gun range a year ago appeared under tight security in court Tuesday as preparations begin for a May capital murder trial.

Eddie Ray Routh, 26, was escorted to the Donald E. Jones Justice Center in Stephenville under heavy security. The road behind the facility was blocked to traffic for Routh’s delivery to the courtroom from the Erath County Jail.

Those watching the proceedings from the gallery were scanned by a metal detector and wand and were not allowed to bring bags, purses, cell phones, cameras and any electronic devices into the courtroom.

Routh looked markedly different from the last time he appeared in court in September. His hair and beard had been shaved, he was heavier and he wore dark-rimmed glasses. He was wearing a striped gray jail uniform.

During the proceedings, which lasted more than an hour, Routh sat at the defense table with his attorneys Warren St. John and Tim Moore, both of Fort Worth, and Shay Isham of Stephenville.

The defense filed 43 pre-trial motions, including one to take the death penalty off the table if Routh is convicted. 

District Judge Jason Cashon denied that request, as well as one to exclude alleged “bad acts” committed by Routh on the day of the killings.

Police said Routh drove to this sister’s home in Midlothian after the shootings and confessed to her and her husband that he shot Kyle and Littlefield. He fled the scene in Kyle’s truck and was apprehended by law enforcement authorities on a Dallas freeway.

According to an arrest affidavit, Routh told his sister that he had “traded his soul” for a new truck.

Erath District Attorney Nash argued some of the “bad acts” –including unauthorized use of a vehicle to flee the scene, theft of personal property and use of controlled substance before the killings — were part of the overall crime “narrative” and should be considered as a whole instead of one at a time.

Another motion filed by the defense to suppress statements Routh made to officers after his arrest will be carried over to another pre-trial hearing in March.

Routh’s attorneys also wanted access to any reports and field notes the procecutor’s office may have in order to cross-examine witnesses. The D.A.’s office has produced “voluminous” amounts of reports and notes, St. John told the court.

The judge granted the request for any written notes that will be used in the trial to “refresh” witnesses’ memories. He also granted a motion to list victim impact evidence over Nash’s objections.

“This trial could be quite complex and that’s not an undue burden,” Judge Cashon said.

Jury selection in the case is scheduled to begin May 5.

During the hearing Judge Cashon told Routh’s defense attorneys that only one witness had testified before the Erath County Grand Jury that indicted Routh — Texas Ranger Danny Briley.

“I didn’t know that until today, your honor,” St. John said. “I appreciate that.”

Routh’s attorneys have said the Marine veteran was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from active duty Iraq and that they plan to use his psychological state in the trial. Shortly before the shootings, Routh had been treated at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Dallas and was released over his mother’s objections. 

Jodi Routh had asked Kyle, who often reached out to veterans, to help her son. Kyle often took veterans on hunting and shooting excursions to help them with stress.

Routh remains locked up in the Erath County Jail on $3 million bond.

After the hearing, in response to a reporter’s questions, Nash said that the county has asked the State of Texas for financial help to offset the cost of the capital murder case. The Texas Legislature has set aside funds to help small counties deal with the great expense of trying capital murder cases.

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