Front Row at the “American Sniper” Trial – Day 2
Four witnesses testified on the second day of the American Sniper murder trial, covering many technical aspects of the events that occurred on February 2, 2013.
The day began testimony from Texas Ranger Michael Adcock, a crime scene processing expert, who investigated the scene after all medical and emergency personnel had already left. Following normal procedure, he made sure to photograph and record all evidence, which mostly included different firearms and shell casings. Adcock noted that both Kyle and Littlefield were actually armed with personal firearms that day, although they never had a chance to draw or fire them in defense. Many unloaded firearms were found at the scene, but the only loaded weapons found that day were handguns in the holsters of both victims were each locked with the safety on. During his testimony, Adcock was asked to identify a number of items entered into evidence, the last of which was a receipt from Taco Bell on February 2, 2014 at 06:50:38 p.m. for two burritos, which he confirmed were found in the driver’s side door of Kyle’s truck which Routh was driving following the murders.
Officer Flavio Salazar of the Lancaster Police Department (the suburb South of Dallas where Routh resided at the time), testified next on Thursday morning. Salazar explained that he was working his normal 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. patrol shift on February 2, 2013 when he, along with every other officer on duty at the time (plus some off-duty), were dispatched to a house in Lancaster where a murder suspect was sitting in a truck outside. When Salazar arrived at the house on 220 W. 6th St., officers were already on the scene and in contact with Routh. Salazar immediately flipped on the dashboard camera on his police cruiser and pulled up close, other while officers were trying to convince Routh to step out of the truck. Salazar and another officer then crawled under the truck and put “stops” in place to prevent Routh from fleeing. He admitted however that they were put too far from the tires and weren’t effective when Routh ultimately fled. Salazar caught the entire police chase that followed on his dash board camera as he and six other police vehicles attempted to chase down Routh. The chase culminated when Officer Grimes rammed into the truck, disabling it and causing a flume of black smoke to rise from the engine.
Defense attorneys objected to the introduction of the dash cam video as evidence, and Judge Jason Cashon called a lunch recess while he reviewed the objection. When the courtroom reconvened, the Judge overruled the objection, stating that he found evidence of State exhibit 232, the footage from Salazar’s dash cam, relevant in that it goes to show the state of mind and intent of the accused. Judge Cashon also stated that he would overrule any objections made to exhibits 233 and 234, other camera footage from public officers, for the same reasons. Before playing the footage, prosecutors presented a map to Officer Salazar, and he pointed out the route that was about to be shown to the jury. The video depicted what you would imagine a typical car chase to look like, and it was clear that multiple cop cars were trying to reach the fleeing black Ford truck. Officer avoided stop signs and ran red lights at very high speeds. From the dashboard camera in Salazar’s vehicle you can perfectly see Officer Grimes catch up and ram the truck with his vehicle before he continues speeding off. The entire courtroom seemed to gasp at the giant gust of smoke that rose from the truck. Eventually, the truck came to a stop and Routh exited the vehicle with his hands up in surrender.
Officer Salazar’s car chase footage was the first of three videos shown in court Thursday. The second and arguably most impactful video was shown during the testimony of Lieutenant Michael Smith. Smith testified that he received a call from Detective Chevera, saying that the sister of his neighbor Eddie Ray Routh called the station to report that her brother was acting “insane” and claiming that he killed two people. Smith went immediately to the residence to assist. Smith said they checked the backyard of Routh’s home first because according to Routh’s sister if his dog was gone that meant he had already taken off, but if the dog was still there Routh was sure to return. After walking around back to find the dog pen completely empty, Smith and Chevara went back to their vehicles. They were then standing by their vehicles discussing what to do next when Routh came down the street in Kyle’s black truck. Smith and Chevara approached the vehicle to try and talk Routh out of the car safely as other officers arrived, including Officer Logan who had turned on his body camera to test it out.
The decision to turn on the camera was crucial, as the footage caught most of the conversation between Chevera and Routh. Chevera tried to approach Routh through the truck window in a friendly manner in an effort to calm him down and convince him to step away from the vehicle:
C: “I don’t want to hurt you Eddie, because we all grew up together here. Just do what I ask you to do, as a friend.”
Routh was actively responding to Chevera but his replies appeared paranoid and delusional.
R: “I can’t trust you anymore. There’s no trust in this world anymore… What’s my job in society then?”
R: “It’s just all happening so fast. I don’t know if I’m going insane or what.”
When asked to step out of his vehicle Routh told the officers: “Now I’m in the vehicle, I’m in control… I control myself inside this truck”
Ultimately the officers were unsuccessful in convincing Routh to exit the vehicle and the footage ends with Routh starting the engine and speeding away.
The third video of the Lancaster incident was from Officer Logan’s dash cam while he took the lead in the chase after Officer Grimes slammed the truck.
Prosecutors asked Smith if the entire episode was a dangerous situation, to which he replied, “Yes ma’am, it was what I didn’t want to happen.” Inside the courthouse, Routh hung his head down only looking up a few times while these three videos were being shown.
The final testimony of the day came from Dr. Jeffrey Bernard, the Chief Medical Examiner in Dallas County at the Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences, who identified the cause and manner of the deaths of both Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield. After explaining the general procedure of a typical deceased examination, Dr. Bernard went into explicit detail about the conditions of the two bodies when he obtained them. The content was not in any way easy to stomach.
First, Dr. Bernard discussed the fatality of victim Chris Kyle, by showing the jury the locations of the six gunshot wounds Kyle suffered on a diagram while simultaneously showing photographs of each injury. According to Bernard, two of the six bullets that hit Kyle were rapidly fatal as opposed to potentially fatal. Most people in the courtroom felt the pain of bereaved widower Taya Kyle as she broke down with emotion as she was confronted with the morbid description and photos of her late husband’s brutal death.
Dr. Bernard testified in a similar manner regarding cause of death of the other victim Chad Littlefield. He pointed out the 7 gunshot wounds that Littlefield suffered on the diagram, the first one being a bullet to the top of his head, which would have killed anybody almost immediately. Dr. Bernard explained that although he cannot know for sure, it is highly unlikely that the shot to the top of his head was done while Littlefield was standing up straight, considering he was measured as being 6’0’’ tall in his report. The shot to his head was also probably not the first injury, considering the locations of the other gunshot wounds on his body. Dr. Bernard concluded his testimony by stating that both victims, even with the most extraordinary medical attention, would have had no chance of survival considering the extent of the rapidly fatal wounds inflicted upon them.
Trial will resume Friday morning at 9am. Judge Cashon is fitting as much testimony as possible into each day so far, with court concluding around 6pm Wednesday and Thursday.
Source: NICOLE COLEMAN, Wild About Trial