Chris Kyle ‘American Sniper’ trial: Q+A

February 8, 2015 8:09 pm

Iraq War veteran Eddie Ray Routh is preparing to stand trial, charged with capital murder in the shootings of American Sniper author and former Navy SEAL and his friend Chad Littlefield.
post-traumatic stress disorder brought the men together, as Kyle and
Littlefield sought to help the ex-Marine. Routh’s parents think that
diagnosis should carry some weight with the jury.

Chris Kyle, the real life subject of the film American Sniper.
Here are some questions and answers about the proceeding, and how PTSD might play a role.
Q: Did Eddie Ray Routh and Chris Kyle know each other?
No. Mother Jodi Routh has told numerous outlets that she ran into
Kyle at the school where she serves as an aide. She had heard about
Kyle’s work with wounded veterans and asked if he might be willing to
help her son, who was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD) and alcohol abuse. Kyle and Littlefield went to Routh’s home on
Feb. 2, 2013, to take him to a shooting range, where the killings

It appears to have been the first time they’d met.
Q: What is Routh’s defence strategy?
Since Routh admitted the slayings to his sister and brother-in-law, and
in an interview with the Texas Rangers, the trial will revolve around
his state of mind at the time. Routh’s attorneys have filed a notice of
intent to pursue an insanity defence. Prosecutors have chosen not to
seek the death penalty if Routh is convicted, but will ask that he be
given life without the possibility of parole. defence attorneys have
expressed concern about whether Routh can receive a fair trial, since
the proceeding, set to begin Feb. 11, will come as the Oscar-nominated
movie American Sniper, based on Kyle’s memoir, is filling theaters nationwide and even in Erath County, Texas, where trial will be held.
Q: What is PTSD?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD is
characterized by “clinically significant distress or impairment in the
individual’s social interactions, capacity to work or other important
areas of functioning.” Paula Schnurr, acting executive director of the
National Center for PTSD, says the individual need not have experienced
the trauma himself. “PTSD can also occur when people have witnessed a
horrific event occurring to others or learning about some types of
horrific events that may happen to a loved one, such as losing a loved
one to murder or suicide,” said Schnurr, whose agency is part of the US
Department of Veterans Affairs. Symptoms include recurrent dreams or
flashbacks, changes in mood, avoidance and hypervigilance. Anger and
irritability are also in the profile, though not all people experience
those symptoms, says Schnurr. “We know from research that individuals
with PTSD have an increased likelihood of engaging in aggressive or
violent behavior,” she said. “There is a statistical association between
PTSD and violence, both domestic violence and violence against others.
But when I say violence I mean aggression or violence and that may
include threats and not acts, so it’s a broad category.” An estimated 15
per cent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD.
Q: How has the PTSD defence fared in the criminal courts?
The record has been decidedly mixed. The authors of a 2012 article in
The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law concluded
that success hinges largely on how well the expert testimony links the
symptoms and crime. “Appellate courts have found criminal defences based
on PTSD to be viable and compelling when a clear and direct connection
between the defendant’s PTSD symptoms and the criminal incident was
found by the expert,” wrote the authors of “PTSD as a Criminal defence: A
Review of Case Law.” “The PTSD phenomena that appellate courts have
found to be most relevant to criminal defences include dissociations,
hyperarousal symptoms, hypervigilance symptoms, and the overestimation
of danger.” Some jurisdictions have recognized PTSD “as a valid basis
for insanity, unconsciousness, and self-defence,” the authors found.
However, Georgia recently executed Vietnam veteran Andrew Brannan in the
1998 murder of a deputy sheriff, despite arguments from his attorneys
that he had PTSD and was 100 per cent mentally disabled.
Q: Much has been written about American Sniper author Chris Kyle. But who was the other victim, Chad Littlefield?
Littlefield, 35, had a wife and young daughter. According to a June
2013 New Yorker Magazine story, the two men met on the sidelines of a
youth soccer game and became friends. They lived in the same
neighborhood, and hunted and worked out together. Although he had never
been in the military himself, Littlefield — facilities and logistics
manager with a lab in DeSoto, Texas — also volunteered his time to work
with veterans. By the time of that fateful outing with Routh, he had
accompanied Kyle “on similar trips dozens of times,” according to an
April 2013 article in D Magazine.

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