Front Row At The “American Sniper” Trial – Day 5
The prosecution called four final witnesses to the stand Tuesday before wrapping up their case in the murder trial of Eddie Ray Routh, the veteran accused of fatally shooting former U.S. Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle and his good friend Chad Littlefield.
Jennifer Rumppe, a forensic scientist who tests substances for analysis and identification, testified that paraphernalia and loose plant substances were found in Routh’s apartment and while she verified the plant was marijuana there was no presence of methamphetamine.
The second witness called to testify was Amber Moss from the Texas Department of Criminal Investigations, where she is a Forensic Scientist specializing in DNA testing. Moss stated that she was involved in processing the evidence in the case of State vs. Routh. She explained in detail how she used known DNA samples from the autopsies of Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield to analyze the evidence samples she received including a boot belonging to Routh with blood on the toe. Through this process she was able to confirm that the DNA makeup in the blood was that of Chad Littlefield to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty (in this case 1/189.7 quintillion caucasians would have that same genetic makeup).
Officer Flavio Salazar was called to the witness stand once again, this time for the purpose of introducing video footage from his police cruiser as he was transporting Routh immediately following his arrest. In the video Routh appears restless and irritable in the backseat of the patrol car. Later in the footage, as Salazar repeatedly tries to calm Routh down, the defendant says, “I’ve been so paranoid and schizophrenic all day. I don’t know if I’m insane or what’s going on in the world right now.” Officer Salazar also recalled that whenever there was a crowd around Routh seemed distraught, but whenever he was alone he was able to stay calm.
Over the past four and a half days of witness testimony prosecutors have laid out the chain of events leading up to the murders on February 2, 2013. The state rested their case after testimony from Jason Upshaw, Chief Deputy at Erath County Sheriff’s office, who touched more on Routh’s mental and physical state in the months that followed his arrest. Upshaw is the official custodian of records for the Erath County Jail and also oversees the entire jail staff, so he has been monitoring Routh since he was booked.
Upshaw provided jurors with insight into Routh’s jail conditions since his arrest, confirming that he has been detained in a single man cell since he arrived, where, like most other cells in the jail, he has access to cable TV and a telephone. Upshaw also informed jurors that all phone calls are monitored and recorded through a secure third party source that he can access at any time.
Prosecutors introduced into evidence one such phone call, an interview between Routh and a reporter from the New Yorker on May 31, 2013 regarding the incidents that occurred four months before. During the interview Routh admits, “I had to take care of business so I took care of business and left in the truck. It was fucked up.”
According to Upshaw, Routh has continued on the same medication prescribed by the VA since his initial booking, which continues to be managed by medical staff at the jail. Everything he consumes on a daily basis is controlled and monitored by jail staff, ensuring that it is impossible for him to obtain illegal substances. Routh has had no psychotherapy while in custody.
We have seen footage and heard multiple statements during the first five days of trial that depict Routh as being in an unstable state the day of the killings, described on different occasions as nonsensical, irritable, and seemingly under the influence. Prosecutors asked Upshaw if he had observed a change in behavior in Routh during the days, weeks, and months after the arrest, and he admitted that his behavior has changed drastically, stating that he is, “Way more calm and compliant.”
The fact that these drastic changes in personality appear to manifest solely by controlling what Routh consumed appears helpful for the prosecution. The defense is expected to focus their efforts on trying to prove that Routh was in so deep a state of psychosis at the time that he did not know right from wrong. However, according to legal sources familiar with the case, voluntary intoxication does not rise to level of mental illness required for a “not guilty by reason of insanity” defense. Prosecutors have alleged that Routh smoked “wet marijuana” and drank whiskey the morning of the shooting.
The first two witnesses called by the defense, Erath County Sheriff Sgt. Greg Stewart and Ranger Michael Adcock, testified that they were called to identify five assault rifles found at the crime scene including Chris Kyle’s personalized sniper rifle, showing the jury the American Flag and words ‘American Sniper’ on the side.
Jodi Routh, the defendant’s mother, was the final witness to take the stand Tuesday. She described her son as being “A good kid. He played little league sports… high school football” before joining the Marine Corps after high school graduation.
Routh was familiar with firearms before enlisting, when he was young he would go hunting with his father. According to his mother a major change occurred after he served in a war zone in Iraq towards the end of 2007 and in Haiti on humanitarian deployment in 2010. “He wasn’t his happy-go-lucky self that he had always been. A lot more serious.”
This change of behavior escalated quickly to severe paranoia and suicidal thoughts, until he required hospital treatment for PTSD in 2011. As she recalls, he was very suicidal and threatened to kill himself with a gun on multiple occasions. After multiple unsuccessful attempts to hospitalize her son, Jodi reached out to Chris Kyle, asking him for assistance after she learned he had done work with other veterans suffering from PTSD. Kyle agreed and she remembered him telling her that he was willing to do “anything and everything to help my son.”
Jodi Routh also testified that she was unaware of the specific plan for Kyle and his friend Chad to take her son shooting at Rough Creek Lodge the day of Feb. 2, but she knew they were in touch and hoped that Kyle could help.
Later on that fateful February afternoon, her daughter Laura Blevins called to tell her that something had occurred, telling her that Eddie came to her house driving a black truck and saying that he killed two people. Jodi immediately remembered that Kyle often drove a black truck when he was dropping his children off at the school she worked at, recalling, “I wasn’t calling my son, I had Chris Kyle’s number in my phone so I dialed and prayed to god that he would answer.”
During her testimony, Jodi Routh admitted that she used to smoke marijuana with her son on occasion, but she wouldn’t consider it as a part of the problem. “He did smoke, but I didn’t consider it abuse. It made him much calmer.”
There appears to be little debate regarding Routh’s factual guilt of killing Kyle and Littlefield, however defense experts are expected to delve much further into Routh’s psychological issues this week.
Testimony resumes Wednesday morning at 9:00am
Source: NICOLE COLEMAN, Wild About Trial
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