Two years after the murder of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield, Erath County is preparing for the trial of the pair's accused killer, Eddie Ray Routh.
The county seat of Stephenville expects perhaps hundreds of media representatives and other trial participants, so restaurants and hotels are preparing for extra business.
“Everybody in Stephenville knows about it,” said Carol Gibson, owner of the “Rockin’ P” nightclub on the town square.
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She plans to serve lunch to help accommodate the extra visitors.
“We’re just going to do like a quick lunch, limited menu. We normally don’t open until four, but we’re going to open earlier. And I am expecting a huge crowd,” she said.
Jury selection begins Thursday.
Stephenville’s small criminal courthouse has very limited space and District Clerk Wanda Pringle on Monday outlined strict rules planned for coverage of the trial.
Pringle said a jury pool of 175 is typical for a trial, but she sent notices to 800 Erath County citizens in hopes of finding a dozen impartial jurors plus alternates for this big case.
Routh is accused of killing Kyle and Littlefield on Feb. 2, 2013, at an Erath County shooting range Authorities said the victims were helping Routh with symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Routh’s defense is expected to center on the illness.
“Did he really know what he was doing or did he not know what he was doing,” Gibson said. “That’s what everybody thinks the question is going to be.”
Rockin’ P Bartender Victoria Cain is also a senior at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, majoring in criminal justice.
“We know he did it and in the United States people are very opinionated about whether or not they believe in an insanity plea,” Cain said.
That is one of the challenges in choosing an impartial jury for the capital murder trial.
Media will be forbidden from taking cell phones or computers into the courtroom. Only paper and pens are allowed. So there will be no live tweeting of this trial as has become common in many big cases. Judge Jason Cashon was still considering Monday whether to allow microphones for television reporting of the trial. One camera will be permitted to provide pool pictures of the proceedings to broadcast media.
The judge expects to have a jury seated and begin testimony by Wednesday, Feb. 11.
The trial could last two weeks.