Texas Prosecutor Says Defendant In 'American Sniper' Trial Intent On Murder

By Jon Herskovitz

STEPHENVILLE, Texas, Feb 11 (Reuters) - A former U.S. Marine acted with forethought and malice when he fatally shot Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL whose best-selling autobiography was turned into the hit movie "American Sniper," prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Opening statements began in the Texas trial of Eddie Ray Routh, 27, charged with murdering Kyle, who was credited with the most kills of any U.S. sniper, as well as Kyle's friend Chad Littlefield in 2013 at a shooting range about 70 miles (110 km) southwest of Fort Worth.

A jury of 10 women and two men is hearing the case in rural Erath County.

Defense attorneys said that Routh was insane at the time of the incident, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by his overseas deployments. They said when he took their lives, Routh was in the grip of a psychosis so severe that at the time, he did not know it was wrong.

Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash said in his opening statement that evidence will show that Routh shot the two men multiple times in the back and knew it was wrong.

"These are the two ultimate issues that you are going to have to decide," Nash told jurors.

Routh also is accused of stealing Kyle's truck after killing the two men. He has been jailed on $3 million bond.

The trial is expected to take about two weeks.

After opening statements, Kyle's widow, Taya, is expected to be one of the first witnesses to take the stand. Legal experts have said it is a tough task to obtain a verdict of innocence by reason of insanity in Texas.

If Routh is convicted, prosecutors said they will seek a life sentence.

Routh's relatives have said he was hospitalized for treatment of mental illness in the months leading up to the Feb. 2, 2013, shooting. He was taken to the range by Kyle, who had been helping fellow veterans heal the mental scars stemming from combat.

Kyle has been lionized in his home state of Texas, where he is buried at the Texas State Cemetery alongside some of the state's acclaimed figures.

"American Sniper," directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, has grossed more than $282 million since opening in mid-January and has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture. (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Bill Trott)



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