On Tuesday, Feb. 24, Eddie Ray Routh, 27, was convicted to life in prison without parole for the 2013 killing of “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at a Texas gun range. Jurors did not believe Routh’s insanity defense — they felt he had shown a pattern of run-ins with police and repeatedly blamed his actions on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Kyle and Littlefield had reportedly taken Routh to the gun range in hopes of helping him cope with his PTSD. Both men were armed, but neither of their pistols, which both belonged to Kyle, had been unholstered or fired, and the safeties were still on.
Juror Christina Yeager told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “Every time something bad happened [Routh] pulled that card” of PTSD.
The Associated Press reported that Littlefield’s half-brother Jerry Richardson addressed Routh after the verdict, “You took the lives of two heroes, men who tried to be a friend to you, and you became an American disgrace.” The AP also reported that juror Barrett Hutchinson said, “He knew the consequences of pulling the trigger.”
Before rushing back to the trial, Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s widow, attended the Oscars on Sunday. On the red carpet, she told “Today’s” Al Roker, “I had nightmares last night, and I woke up today trying to get out of a funk, and not cry the whole way here. I miss my husband, and I want him here.”
Of the blockbuster movie based on her husband’s autobiography, she told Roker, “It’s not just our story; it’s every veteran’s story. People have been relating to it so much, as well as healing. We’re hearing stories of couples who were in combat 30 and 40 years ago, who are walking away [from the movie], opening a dialogue they haven’t been able to open before. So, I think it’s just an honor to be able to help in some way, and have it be more than just our story.”
“American Sniper” was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of Kyle. The film won one Oscar, for sound editing. At last count, it brought in more than $320 million in the U.S. and more than $108 million internationally, making the worldwide box office total more than $429 million. It was by far the highest-grossing of the nine Best Picture nominees.
On the night of the Oscars, Taya wrote this moving post on her late husband’s Facebook page:
“I wanted to support everyone who made this movie representing real veteran families, but I didn’t think I had the energy to show up at the Oscars, let alone be presentable. So, I find myself in a surreal position … like Cinderella who scrubs the floors but has a fairy Godmother (Warner Brothers) who got me on a plane and had a dress and jewelry and even the shoes and spanx (sic) waiting for me …
“And so it is. I am here. To represent my husband, military families and the beautiful people who put more than they had to to make this movie happen. I have a red-eye flight scheduled to get me back for
the trial on Monday morning.
“I hope I look better for the evening tonight. I am blessed to have my beautiful loving sister with me to hold my hand and dry my tears from what is sure to be an emotional evening.
“We all struggle and we all have to find the strength to fight another day. I am not alone. The details may be different but our stories of fighting on, finding the strength to help ourselves and accepting
the help of others when we can … Our constant fight to get on a path to renewal is always common ground — it’s the human condition …. God Bless you all. United We Stand.”
She told “Good Morning America’s” Robin Roberts her husband “would be absolutely blown away” by the movie and “really happy that so much healing is happening for couples.”
Routh’s lawyer, J. Warren St. John, told People magazine that his client is going to appeal his guilty verdict. “We are disappointed in the verdict,” he said, adding that he will file the appeal this week.
Dorri Olds is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.