A reduced pool of 263 qualified jurors returns to continue jury selection Monday after two days of the Eddie Ray Routh murder trial in Stephenville.
Routh, a former U.S. Marine, is accused of killing former Navy Seal Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield two years ago at the Rough Creek Lodge shooting range near Glen Rose.
Kyle’s life is depicted in the recent movie American Sniper.
The Erath County District Clerk contacted an enormous group of 800 citizens for jury duty to seat an impartial panel of 12 jurors plus two alternates for the high profile case. More than half were eliminated due to mailing address problems and legal exemptions before in-person selection began Thursday.
Dozens more were eliminated for various reasons after appearing in court before Judge Jason Cashon.
“The judge was great,” said excused juror Hemi Ahluwalia. “He tried to alleviate the stress in there. I think that he knew we were all taking it seriously and he tried to not make it where we were all so stressed.”
Routh’s attorneys want jurors who will be open to an insanity defense.
Routh’s family said the victims were helping Routh deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at the time of the crime.
Some potential jurors eliminated from the case voiced opinions that demonstrate the strong feelings about an insanity defense in Erath County.
Brook Bearden was excused because of commitments for his work as a rodeo judge.
“I think maybe he’s using it as an excuse more than anything,” Bearden said. “Those guys went through probably a lot of horrific things, but at the same time there’s tens of thousands of guys that went over there and come back, they didn’t commit this kind of crime.”
Dr. Julie Merriman trains mental health professionals at Tarleton State University in Stephenville. She has treated veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“In a true flash back in PTSD, it’s as if the experience is happening right here, right now,” she said.
Dr. Merriman said she hopes the Routh trial sheds light on the need for additional mental health resources for veterans and other people with serious problems.
“Mental health issues are real,” she said. “It’s not just a cop out.”
Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of life in prison for Routh if convicted.
“I would like to see the details of the trial and see what actually happened,” excused juror Jeremiah Moody said.
The same can be said for family members of the victims.
Chad Littlefield’s parents granted an exclusive interview to Jon Koonsman, a columnist for the Stephenville Empire-Tribune, who is covering the trial for the paper.
“They don’t know a lot more than we do,” Koonsman told NBC 5 about the Littlefields and their knowledge of the facts of the case. “There’s been a lot reported in the papers and on television about the defendant. And I think until we really get in there and see the evidence we just, we don’t know.”
About his conversation with the Littlefields, Koonsman described it as “like a lesson in perspective and grace.”
“They’re people of exceptional faith and they’ve suffered an unthinkable tragedy and they’re just trying to move forward with it,” Koonsman said. “They have a really objective view of justice. They’re not wanting a lynching. They want to get in here and hear the evidence. And they hope justice is administered accordingly.”
Judge Cashon intends to complete jury selection by Tuesday and begin testimony Wednesday. He told jurors the trial is expected to last two weeks after that.
NBC 5's Ben Russell and Todd L. Davis contributed to this report.