Routh murder trial draws major media attention

By Dan Malone

Contributing Editor

Erath County goes under the microscope of local, national and international news media this week as officials move closer to the trial of the man accused of killing “American Sniper” Chris Kyle two years ago.

Among the news organizations asking questions about covering the trial of Eddie Ray Routh, who is being held in the Erath County jail, are Reuters, ABC, The New York Times and Entertainment Tonight, as well as numerous reporters from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and the Cross Timbers region.

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 appeared in district court last summer as attorneys wrangled over pre-trial motions. Photo courtesy WFAA-TV

Opening statements are scheduled to begin Wednesday, Feb. 11, at the Donald R. Jones Justice Center across the street from the historic Erath County Courthouse. Officials estimate testimony could run two weeks if the trial starts as planned – and remains in Erath County.

Routh’s lawyers late last week, however, filed a new request for a change of venue and attached an affidavit from Routh in which he states that prejudice against him and publicity against him is so great in Erath County that “I cannot receive a fair and impartial trial.”

He also complains about a “dangerous combination against me by influential persons.” No other specifics were given.

On Monday District Attorney Alan Nash filed a response that the change of venue request is “deficient” and “not ripe for consideration.” He offered two affidavits from Erath County residents who said they believed Routh could get a fair trail in the county. One was from Bobby Stidham, a supervision officer, and the other was from Susan Kay Culpepper, chief deputy clerk in the Erath County District Clerk’s office.

Kyle’s murder and that of Chad Littlefield on Feb. 2, 2013, at Rough Creek Lodge was the subject of extensive news coverage by national and international media because of Kyle’s best-selling book, American Sniper, that detailed what he describes as his record 160 kills as the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history.

His posthumous fame exploded into the stratosphere after Clint Eastwood’s movie about the book, featuring Bradley Cooper as Kyle, hit the big screen last month and shattered box-office records.

Court officials held a briefing for the media Monday to explain rules for covering the trial and governing the use of electronic devices. Twenty to 30 media representatives from around the nation and England attended.

Texas Gov. Gregg Abbot designated Monday as Chris Kyle Day to honor the slain retired Navy SEAL. If convicted, Routh could be sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors have taken the death penalty off the table.

Routh, 27, has pleaded not guilty to the crimes. His attorneys plan to mount a defense that the veteran, who served tours of duty in Iraq and Haiti, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and had “diminished capacity” mentally.

In what turned out to be his last interview before his death, Kyle told Tarleton State University student journalist K’Leigh Bedingfield of Texan News Service, that he wanted his legacy to be helping vets.

“I would love for people, when they think of me, to think of, ‘Here’s a guy who stood up for what he believed in and helped make a difference for the vets – somebody who cared so much about them that he wanted them taken care of.”

Her interview, recorded just a few days before his death, can be heard at

https://soundcloud.com/texannews/chris-kyle-interview-jan-28

 

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