STEPHENVILLE, Texas – Prosecutors showed a Texas court a videotaped confession by a former Marine who apologized for fatally shooting “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle and his friend in 2013.
Despite his confession, Eddie Ray Routh has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors are expected to rest their case Tuesday.
“I’m just sorry for what I’ve done,” Routh, 27, said in the interview with Texas Ranger Danny Briley, played to the Stephenville court on Monday.
Criminal law experts say a verdict hinges on whether the defense can prove Routh was insane at the time and did not know the killings at a gun range constituted a crime. Briley testified Monday that he believed Routh knew his actions were wrong.
The trial has drawn intense interest, partly because of an Oscar-nominated film based on Kyle’s memoir that has grossed more than $300 million in North America.
Here is a look at key points in the case:
On Feb. 2, 2013, Kyle, Chad Littlefield and Routh drove to Rough Creek Lodge and Resort, which has a 1,000-yard shooting range. About 5 p.m., a resort employee discovered the bodies of Kyle and Littlefield on the ground amid scattered weapons; each had been shot several times. About 45 minutes later, authorities say Routh pulled up to his sister’s Midlothian home in Kyle’s truck and told her he had killed Kyle and Littlefield.
PERSPECTIVES ON ROUTH
Family members say Routh suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from serving in Iraq and in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
Defense attorneys say Routh, who was taking anti-psychotic medication, was insane when Kyle and Littlefield took the former Marine to the shooting range to provide support and camaraderie. Routh, his lawyers say, believed the men planned to kill him.
“If I did not take down his soul, he was going to take down mine,” Routh said of Kyle in the videotaped confession.
Prosecutors say Routh was a troubled drug user who knew right from wrong, despite his history of mental illness.
Some of Routh’s psychiatrists at Green Oaks Hospital, where he was admitted in September 2012 and in January 2013, are expected to testify.
Briley, who interviewed Routh in the hours after the killings, testified Monday that Routh confessed to shooting the men.
“He stated that he knew it was wrong to kill them, that he wished he hadn’t done it,” Briley said under questioning by prosecutors.
Last week, a former deputy testified that he overheard Routh after he’d been taken into custody say that he shot the men because they wouldn’t talk to him as the three drove together to the shooting range.
A Texas Ranger has testified that authorities found marijuana, a near-empty bottle of whiskey and medication for schizophrenia while searching Routh’s home after the shooting.
The testimony could show that Routh deliberately put himself into a violent state, said Park Dietz, a forensic psychiatrist who examined Andrea Yates, who was found not guilty in 2006 by reason of insanity in the drowning deaths of her five children.
“Voluntarily induced intoxication is not an excuse for the mentally ill,” he said.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
Jurors have three options: find Routh guilty of capital murder, find him not guilty or find him not guilty by reason of insanity. If convicted, Routh faces life in prison without parole. Prosecutors aren’t seeking the death penalty. Even if he’s acquitted, Routh could remain in custody. The Texas criminal code stipulates that in cases involving violent crimes where defendants are found not guilty by reason of insanity, the court can initiate civil proceedings to have them committed.
WHO WAS KYLE?
Kyle served four tours in Iraq and made more than 300 kills as a sniper for SEAL Team 3, according to his own count. He earned two Silver Stars for valor. After leaving the military, he volunteered with veterans facing mental health problems, often taking them shooting. He took Routh to the shooting range at the request of the troubled veteran’s mother.