Ex-Marine Found Guilty In 'American Sniper' Murder Trial

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A Texas jury reached a unanimous guilty verdict in the murder trial of Eddie Ray Routh, the ex-Marine charged with killing former U.S. Navy Seal Chris Kyle, author of American Sniper.

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Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

A jury has found former Marine Corporal Eddie Routh guilty of capital murder in what's known as the "American Sniper" trial in Stephenville, Texas. Routh had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity of murdering former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield. Routh was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. From Stephenville, Texas, NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: In their closing arguments yesterday, prosecutors ridiculed the proposition that the defendant was legally insane. Although Eddie Routh had repeatedly been committed to psychiatric hospitals and treated at the VA in Dallas, prosecutors asserted that Routh's peculiar behavior was brought on by smoking pot; marijuana psychosis they called it, a modern version of reefer madness, if you will. After Routh murdered Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield, he stole Kyle's truck and drove to Taco Bell for a burrito. Far from being evidence of mental illness, in her closing, prosecutor Jane Starnes asserted it proved Routh was perfectly sane.

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JANE STARNES: You killed two men, and you're going to go to Taco Bell. But I mean, think about that, too. What does it take to go and order fast food? So you've got to go through the right lane; you've got to place your order; you've got to interact with the clerk; you got to give them the money, get your change, get your food and go. It's not something that somebody who's just out of their mind delusional does. What does it sound like? It sounds like somebody who has got the munchies and they got to go get their Taco Bell.

GOODWYN: Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash grew angry as he gave his closing argument. He described Routh as a liar and a master manipulator who cleverly gave different stories depending on who he was talking to - the police, the psychiatrist, reporters. He warned the jury about what Routh might be capable of if he wasn't convicted. And he imagined other victims Routh could have killed that day. As he thundered to his conclusion, Nash made it personal for the jury that they had to take care of the legal business in Erath County.

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ALAN NASH: This defendant gunned down two men in cold blood, shooting them in the back in our county. Find him guilty.

GOODWYN: Defense lawyers fought an uphill battle from opening statements to the close of trial. Although they were able to provide substantial evidence of Routh's history of mental illness, their client had shot to death one of the great American battlefield warriors and was being tried in that hero's home county. It did not take long for the jury to deliberate. Judge Jason Cashon read their verdict.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JUDGE JASON CASHON: We, the jury, find the defendant, Eddie Ray Routh, guilty of the felony offensive capital murder, as charged in the endowment by statute I will now impose sentence in this matter at confinement for life in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice without the possibility of parole.

GOODWYN: The families of the victims smiled and cried and hugged one another after the verdict was rendered. The overwhelming media attention in this case has been there because of Chris Kyle, the famous American sniper who had been murdered. Outside the courtroom, the mother of the other victim, Chad Littlefield, came out to mourn her son to the assembled reporters. Judy Littlefield.

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JUDY LITTLEFIELD: We just want to say that we've waited two years for God to get justice for us on behalf of our son. And as always, God has proved to be faithful. And we're so thrilled that we have the verdict that we have tonight.

GOODWYN: Twenty-seven-year-old Eddie Routh, a former Marine corporal who served in Iraq, will now spend the rest of his life in a Texas prison. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Stephenville, Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.