Front Row at the “American Sniper” Trial – Day 3
Although much of the last two days of trial have been spent proving the factual guilt of Eddie Ray Routh for the murders of both Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield, we knew little about how Routh spent the morning of February 2, 2013.
Witness testimonies today at the ‘American Sniper’ murder trial provided answers to the chronological order of events for Routh preceding the shooting, which may be key to resolving the question of whether or not he was in such a mentally insane state that he was unable to judge his actions right from wrong.
Two days ago, during the opening statements, the defense team revealed a shocking text message exchange between Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield, as they were driving veteran Eddie Ray Routh for a day of shooting.
“This dude is straight up nuts.” Kyle texted Littlefield from the driver’s seat. Littlefield, who was seated in the passenger’s seat just a few feet away, replied: “He’s right behind you, watch my 6.”
The defense has highlighted this text exchange as evidence that Littlefield and Kyle clearly realized that something wasn’t right with Routh before they even arrived at the Rough Creek Lodge shooting range the afternoon of February 2, 2013. However the messages brought up the inevitable question of what exactly did occur on that one hour and forty minute drive out to the range?
At the very end of Friday’s testimonies, as if climactically planned, Gene Cole (a former Erath County Sheriff Deputy) made a claim that seemed to shock practically everybody in the court room. In his short testimony, Cole stated that he was in the county jail over four months after the incident and happened to be standing near Routh while he was discussing the shootings.
As Cole recalled: “I heard Mr. Routh say, ‘I shot them because they wouldn’t talk to me. I was just riding in the back seat of the truck and nobody would talk to me. They were just taking me to the range so I shot them. I feel bad about it, but they wouldn’t talk to me. I am sure they have forgiven me.’”
In addition to this statement providing another admission of guilt, it also gave us significant insight into what may have happened on the way to Rough Creek Lodge that caused Routh to brutally take the lives of Kyle and Littlefield.
The testimony of James Watson, Routh’s uncle, also helped explain the events that occurred that morning. Watson recalled that early morning of Feb. 2 around 8:00 a.m., he received a phone call from Routh’s girlfriend at the time, Jennifer Weed, saying that he was having a breakdown after they had an argument and he needed to come and try to calm him down. When Watson arrived to the house, he was there alone. After talking about the fight, Watson says that he and his nephew just hung out and talked.
“We had coffee that morning – I don’t remember drinking whiskey that morning but it doesn’t mean I didn’t,” Watson told the court.
Routh’s uncle also admits that he and his nephew had smoked a little marijuana that morning before Eddie hurried out the door when somebody, who Watson can only assume was Chris Kyle, arrived to pick him up.
Watson further testified that he was in fact in contact with Routh following the events that transpired at the shooting range. Later in the afternoon on Feb. 2, Watson recalls waking up from a nap to Routh barging in his house to show him his new 9mm handgun. Watson then remembers Routh saying to him, “I’m driving a dead man’s truck,” before taking him outside to see the large black four wheel drive truck. Initially, Watson says that he didn’t find the comment too out of the ordinary at the time because strange comments like that were common for his nephew. Routh didn’t say much else before leaving.
Watson also touched on the fact that ever since he was honorably discharged from the marines around June, 2010, he seemed to suffer with depression and a decreasing desire for life.
Sergeant Greg Stuart from the Erath County Criminal Investigations Unit and Ranger David Armstrong, who was involved with the investigation, also testified Friday. First, Armstrong described his involvement securing Kyle’s truck after the pursuit of Routh had ended. Armstrong also conducted the search warrant of 220 W. 6th St in Lancaster, where Routh was residing. Armstrong identified and described in great detail the paraphernalia that was found at the home, including a ceramic pipe, a grinder, a bong, glass pipes, a bag of cotton strands with burnt papers, rolling papers, and a leafy substance resembling marijuana.
The primary issue in the case is still whether Routh’s mental instability was severe enough to say that he did not know that his actions were wrong at the time of the crime. The topic of mental illness will likely be heavily emphasized when the trial continues next week. Expert testimony will be crucial for the jury in their determination of whether Routh will fall into the narrow category in Texas that is Not-Guilty by Reason of Insanity.
Source: NICOLE COLEMAN, Wild About Trial