Front Row At The “American Sniper” Trial – Day 7
The defense rested their case today after just over two days of testimony. Former Marine Eddie Ray Routh waived his right to testify in the ‘American Sniper’ murder trial, in which he is accused of killing Navy SEAL vet Chris Kyle and his good friend Chad Littlefield at a Texas gun range on Feb. 2, 2013.
Outside the presence of the jury this morning, defense attorneys called Dr. Charles Overstreet who was asked to evaluate Routh’s mental state in March 2014. Dr. Overstreet has a Ph.D. in clinical social work and was deployed to Iraq on more than one occasion to handle the Combat Stress Control Unit. Dr. Overstreet conducted personal interviews with Routh in jail and reviewed his previous medical records, footage, and statements, and determined in his professional opinion that the defendant suffered from symptoms consistent with paranoid schizophrenia and PTSD. He believes Routh misinterpreted the discomfort that Kyle and Littlefield displayed (on the ride up to Rough Creek Lodge) as threatening. Dr. Overstreet testified that by the time the three men arrived at the range that day Routh was likely already in defense mode. [He] had a person behind him that was armed and Eddie was interpreting his (Littlefield’s) behavior as threatening.”
He concluded that the defendant “did not know the consequences of his actions at the time.” His testimony would undoubtedly have been helpful for the defense. However, in a somewhat shocking turn of events, Judge Cashon ruled him unqualified to testify.
When the jury returned, the defendant’s mother, Jodi Routh, took the stand again to clear up questions regarding the chain of events that occurred leading up to the day of the shooting. She testified Thursday that she initially spoke with Chris Kyle a few days before her son was hospitalized for mental health issues on January 19, 2013.
She admitted however that it never occurred to her to warn Kyle of this incident.
Prosecutors questioned that why, if she knew Chris Kyle was reaching out to her son, she didn’t think that the fact he just had a mental breakdown was information he deserved to know: “Information like that “could’ve saved Mr. Kyle’s life.”
Jodi explained that she didn’t think to tell Kyle about Eddie’s admission into the mental hospital because she wasn’t aware of any specific plans they had to get together.
Before the defense wrapped up their case, the jury heard detailed testimony from Dr. Mitchell H. Dunn, Medical Director of the Forensic Unit at Terell State Hospital. Following an order from a judge to evaluate the mental state of Eddie Ray Routh, he conducted an interview with him for about six and a half hours, which he calls an abnormally long amount of time compared to most defendants. Because this case was, as he puts it, “kind of a big deal”, he had access to a lot more background information and records useful for his evaluation. He said he wanted to get a true sense of the course of his mental history from day one.
One of the primary topics of concern was the obvious fact that Routh suffered from delusions. As a simple example for the jury to help define what a “delusion” is, Dunn explained that Routh insisted he had a tapeworm despite tests proving he did not. This is essentially the definition of a delusion.
According to Dr. Dunn, Routh was experiencing many other delusions in the months before his arrest, including the belief that his coworkers were cannibal, half-human half-pig “hybrids” and were out to get him. He also thought his neighbor, Police Detective Chevara, was also a cannibal and a member of the Mexican Mafia. He even spoke of smelling a strange smell when his neighbors cooked and that he thought it was probably the smell of the humans they were eating. As he told Dr. Dunn, these thoughts became “deeper and deeper”. The days before the killings he was convinced that these hybrids were taking over the Earth. Even on the morning of Feb.2, 2013, he believed his girlfriend, Jennifer Weed, was turning into one of these pig assassins.
Dr. Dunn also addressed the speculation that Routh was making this up as an excuse for his actions. In his expert opinion, Dunn found this not be the case here. According to his testimony, people that are normally making up psychotic symptoms will talk about things that they hear in films and movies because they don’t know what actual psychosis is like. For example, people pretending to suffer from a psychosis say things like they “heard voices in their head that told them to do it.” When real mental illness is present there are a number of benign mental stimuli that trigger delusion and paranoia, and everything around them will, in their mind, confirm these delusions.
During a compelling segment of testimony, he told jurors he believes that the psychosis was not substance induced. “Even if Routh had been smoking marijuana that morning, which is something that he has been doing before he joined the Marines, it couldn’t have caused that kind of psychosis.” Not only would it not explain the severity of the state he was in, but it’s effects wouldn’t have lasted long into that night and the next day. In what could be a significant moment for the defense, he told jurors that if it was a drug induced psychosis, the symptoms would only occur during the time of intoxication.
In Dr. Dunn’s opinion, it was Routh’s extreme schizophrenia, not PTSD, which caused him to justify his actions. Routh told Dunn that on the way to Rough Creek that fateful February morning, they stopped at Whataburger, which Routh thought was really strange since he told them he wasn’t hungry. When they got back into the car he believed he smelled the same odor that was coming from his “cannibal” neighbor’s house, and from the moment he saw that there were multiple guns in the truck he knew that they were “pig assassins” sent there to kill him.
Once they arrived at the range, Routh remembers that he and Kyle were shooting at targets while Littlefield was behind him, not participating in the activity. Because of this, Routh came to the conclusion that this was all a plan to kill him. He truly believed that unless he wanted to be killed, he had to kill them first.
After he shot Kyle and Littlefield, he admits that he felt relieved that he saved his own life. He wasn’t planning on stealing the truck, but he knew that others might not understand what he had done and he would probably be arrested. According the defense expert, even if Routh expressed that he felt badly for his actions it doesn’t mean that, in his mind, he had to take their lives before they took his. As Dr. Dunn puts it, “You can have remorse for something that you believe you had to do.”
Dr. Dunn also testified that Routh’s delusions continued well after his arrest and he was convinced that some of the officers in the jail were also “pig people” planning on killing and eating him.
After hearing the defense’s opening statement a little over a week ago, it was clear that expert testimony regarding Routh’s mental state on the day of the shooting would be paramount to establishing a Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity defense. Their entire case predictably led to this moment, when Dr. Dunn stated that at the time of the offense, Eddie Routh was suffering from a severe mental disease that prevented him from knowing that his conduct was wrong.
In a curious moment, Dr. Dunn also testified that the single biggest factor in reaching his conclusions had nothing to do with his evaluation of Routh, but rather the text that Kyle sent to Littlefield on the drive up to the range. Kyle was used to seeing people who acted strangely and suffered from PTSD, which was the reason he offered to help Routh in the first place. For him to say, “This dude is straight up nuts,” meant that he was aware something was really wrong with him and that “something wrong” was a severe mental disease.
The day concluded with the defendant waiving his right to testify, which marked the end of the defense’s case.
Trial will resume tomorrow, Feb. 20, at 9:00 a.m. as the prosecution will call their rebuttal witnesses.
Source: NICOLE COLEMAN, Wild About Trial
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