A jury in Erath County, Texas, has found former Marine Eddie Ray Routh guilty in the murders of "American Sniper" author and former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield.
With the state not seeking the death penalty, a guilty verdict gives Routh, 27, an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole. Routh was silent for the reading of the verdict.
Kyle’s widow Taya Kyle was not present for the reading of the verdict, she angrily left the courtroom after the defense's closing statement and slammed the door behind her.
Victims' Families React
After the verdict, Littlefield's family members addressed Routh during victim impact statements.
Chad Littlefield's half-brother told Routh he "took the lives of two heroes, men who tried to be a friend to you."
Jerry Richardson called Routh "an American disgrace," and said "Your claims of PTSD have been an insult to every veteran who served with honor."
Littlefield's father also addressed Routh, saying, "The State of Texas has decided to spare your life, which is more than you were willing to do."
Outside the courthouse Littlefield's mother addressed the media.
"We waited two years for God to get us justice for us on behalf of our son and as always God has proved to be faithful," Judy Littlefield said. "We're so thrilled that we have the verdict that we have tonight."
On Wednesday morning, Littlefield's parents appeared on NBC 's TODAY show, saying the verdict was an "answered prayer" and that they feel like "justice was served."
The Jury's Decision
The jury left the courtroom at 6:36 p.m. CT Tuesday but did not begin deliberations immediately, they first had dinner. State District Judge Jason Cashon turned the case over to the Erath County jury Tuesday evening after about three hours of closing arguments.
In her closing argument, prosecutor Jane Starnes urged the jury to hold Routh accountable for the deaths of Kyle and Littlefield. She cited testimony that suggested marijuana and alcohol abuse fueled Routh's paranoia, leaving him to blame for any distorted reality he experienced.
The bottom line, she said, was Routh "knew what he was doing was wrong."
A defense attorney told jurors that Routh's behavior after he fatally shot Kyle and Littlefield demonstrated he was delusional and suggested Routh's actions after the shooting indicated he was not a sane man.
In closing arguments defense attorney R. Shay Isham noted Routh stopped for tacos and visited his house to pick up his dog, all while driving Kyle's pickup truck. He suggested those aren't the actions of a sane man who had just killed two men.
Defense attorney Tim Moore told jurors they needed only a preponderance of the evidence to find Routh insane and not guilty, a lower standard than prosecutors must meet for a conviction.
Each side was given 1 hour and 20 minutes to argue their case to the jury of 10 women and two men.
Closing arguments followed a final day of testimony from both sides of the case Tuesday after an icy weather cancellation for Monday’s session at the courthouse in Stephenville.
Crime Scene Expert
Chief Warrant Officer Howard Ryan, from the Morris County New Jersey Sheriff’s Department, is a retired New Jersey State Police crime scene expert who specializes in reconstruction. He testified as the final state rebuttal witness.
Ryan said he reviewed crime scene evidence and photos and autopsy reports and visited the crime location at the Rough Creek Lodge shooting range near Glen Rose in person.
Ryan said the shooting platform where Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield were killed in February 2013 was a very confined crime scene compared with others he has investigated.
“Both of the victims sustained very devastating injuries that would preclude them from moving afterward,” said Ryan.
He said blood stain and ballistic evidence showed the victims were taken by surprise and unable to defend themselves, even though both men carried holstered, loaded pistols. Ryan said it was important to recognize the skill set of victim Chris Kyle, a former Navy Seal and subject of the movie and book, “American Sniper.”
”If he’s faced with a confrontation, I have to believe he’s going to protect himself and engage,” Ryan said. “He never saw it coming.“
Ryan said Kyle was shot in rapid succession or in short bursts in between shots sustained by Chad Littlefield.
Ryan said one Littlefield wound to the head was most likely fired while Littlefield was down on his back. Ryan used drawings and a mannequin to demonstrate his theories of the crime to the jury. The expert said he could not determine which victim was shot first.
Earlier in the trial, a defense psychiatrist said Routh told him he shot Littlefield first and then Kyle just as Kyle emptied the gun he was using for target practice at the range. Routh told the psychiatrist he shot Littlefield in the head after the initial shots to stop him from “twitching.”
Routh's State of Mind
Tuesday jurors also heard Erath County jail telephone recordings where Routh appeared to know the murders were wrong, as prosecutors claim.
It “tore my heart out,” Routh said in a May 31, 2013, conversation. “I guess you live and you learn, you know.”
A defense Psychiatrist returned to the witness stand as a final rebuttal witness for Routh. Dr. Mitchell Dunn with the Terrell State Hospital disputed state experts who last week blamed Routh’s odd behavior on excessive marijuana and alcohol use.
“He does not have a cannabis induced psychosis but rather that he suffers from schizophrenia,” Dunn concluded.
Routh’s defense claimed he was insane at the time of the crime and unable to tell right from wrong. Experts testifying for the state said former US Marine Routh did not have post-traumatic stress as he claimed in the past because they never saw combat and did not have suffer serious trauma.