Front Row At The “American Sniper” Trial – Day 8
Prosecution called the first three of four rebuttal witnesses Friday in the ‘American Sniper’ murder trial. Ex-marine Eddie Ray Routh is charged with killing former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at a Texas gun range in February, 2013. Routh’s attorneys are pursuing an insanity defense, which in the state of Texas means that he was suffering from a severe mental illness that caused him the inability to know that his actions were wrong at the time of the offense.
The defense rested their case Thursday after hearing testimony from Dr. Michael H. Dunn, a forensic scientist who spent more than six hours interviewing Routh in jail in 2014. Dr. Dunn described the details of his delusions, which included strange smells, believing his coworkers were cannibals and his neighbor was in the Mexican mafia and out to get him, and the existence of hybrid “pig people” that were trying to take over the world. After reviewing the delusions Routh described along with his medical records, statements, and footage, he concluded that at the time of the offense, Routh was in a state of psychosis from a severe case of schizophrenia that prevented him from knowing his conduct was wrong.
The prosecution rebuttal witnesses Friday included two forensic mental health experts that both argued it was a substance-induced psychosis that led Routh to commit the offense, which would preclude Routh from meeting the requirements of the insanity defense.
Forensic psychologist Dr. Randall Price testified that Routh did not suffer from schizophrenia, rather it was symptoms of a cannabis induced psychosis including depression, derealization, anxiety and paranoia. Routh previously admitted that he regularly smoked marijuana, which would account for many of the symptoms he was experiencing, aside from the bizarre delusions he described to Dr. Dunn.
Dr. Price testified that he believes Routh was faking schizophrenic symptoms as a defense to explain why he killed Kyle and Littlefield. The psychologist assumes that he likely got the idea of these half-pig half-human “hybrids” he kept referencing from an episode of Seinfeld, a show that Routh is known to be a fan of and has access to from his cell television. In the episode, Kramer believes he saw a “pig man” that was a result of U.S. Government research. Price explains that when people are faking schizophrenic symptoms, they often get ideas from what they see on TV or movies.
Many of the feelings that Routh recalled experiencing the day of the crime reflect the symptoms of a paranoid disorder set off by voluntary substance abuse, Price explains. When Kyle and Littlefield came to pick him up on the way to Rough Creek Lodge, Routh was immediately offended that neither of them shook his hand upon meeting him. Already agitated, Routh found it “totally bizarre” that Kyle stopped at Whataburger on the way to the range and bought him a meal, even though he said he wasn’t hungry. Routh’s irrational paranoia kicked into full gear when he realized there were multiple firearms in the backseat of the truck, and as he explains it, “I was still on edge and started fearing for my life.”
Lack of sleep, anger, aggression, and the feeling that everybody was out to get him are the reasons Dr. Price believes Routh shot Kyle and Littlefield that afternoon. Each time Routh was hospitalized for mental issues, it was always after an incident that occurred while he was under the influence of marijuana. Price explains that his tie between substance abuse and mental breakdowns are not coincidental, and unfortunately led to him taking two innocent lives. Before stepping down, Price stated: “In my opinion, he did know what he was doing was wrong, and he did it anyway.”
The second expert rebuttal witness for the prosecution was Dr. Michael Arambula, a forensic psychiatrist who also has a degree in pharmacy. Dr. Arambula evaluated Routh on Jan. 30, 2015, to determine if he would qualify as legally insane at the time of the offense. Dr. Arambula addressed the central issue of this case with a very simple response: “He was not insane because he was intoxicated at the time of the offense – and any time intoxication is present, the game is over.”
Although he sees no room for debate in this conclusion, he helped the prosecution in describing the logistics of a marijuana-induced psychosis and how Routh’s behavior is consistent with its symptoms. Although marijuana is usually a low potency drug, Dr. Arambula explained that if used frequently, it is more common to see psychotic effects. Although the “euphoric” feeling doesn’t usually last more than a few hours, the substance stays in the system much longer and has lingering effects.
Dr Arambula believes that Routh demonstrated behavior of a mood disorder, not schizophrenia, in both his interview with the defendant and records of his behavior at the time of the crime. He made an interesting connection between an incident that occurred during their interview and the day of the shooting. He remembered that after spending some time with him, Routh expressed he was offended the psychiatrist didn’t shake his hand upon meeting him. It has been stated multiple times that Routh initially became agitated with Kyle and Littlefield when they didn’t shake his hand the day they picked him up at his house to go to the shooting range. The feeling that everybody is out to get you is a result of paranoia that often comes with the abuse of marijuana, Dr. Arambula testified, something that has been prevalent in Routh’s behavior.
The correlation between substance use and “psychotic” episodes proves to Dr. Arambula that the heavy use of marijuana unmasked his vulnerability towards psychotic-like behavior. The psychiatrist sees this matter as essentially two cases in one. The first being if Routh had a mental disease or defect where he didn’t know that his actions were wrong. To this, Dr. Arambula concludes that Routh’s behavior proves that despite whatever mental disorder he could have been experiencing at the time, he was aware that his actions were wrong. The second case at hand is whether or not Routh was intoxicated at the time, to which Dr. Arambula presses, “As long as you’re intoxicated, it doesn’t matter if you are ill or well. The game is over.”
The prosecution will present one more witness in their rebuttal Monday, Feb. 23, at 9:00 a.m.
Source: NICOLE COLEMAN, Wild About Trial
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