American Sniper Chris Kyle Murder Trial: Jury Selection Begins
Eddie Ray Routh was allegedly suffering from PTSD when he shot and killed Kyle and another man on Feb. 2, 2013
Jury selection began Thursday in Stephenville, Texas, in the trial of Eddie Ray Routh, who stands accused of killing Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL played by Bradley Cooper in the Oscar-nominated film American Sniper.
Prosecutors say Routh, 27, shot and killed Kyle and another man, Chad Littlefield, at a Texas gun range on Feb. 2, 2013, while they were helping him cope with his PTSD.
About 800 people have been called as potential jurors, ABC News reports. Twelve jurors and two alternates will be selected from that pool.
Defense attorneys had requested a delay due to the success of American Sniper, which has shattered box-office records since its Jan. 16 nationwide opening. But they were denied.
“The film will be an issue,” Routh’s attorney, J. Warren St. John, told PEOPLE last month. “I think any case with significant publicity has an issue with picking a jury.”
He added: “I’ve had them in the past, and anything that has significant national attention makes it hard to pick a jury.”
Kyle quit the military in 2009 at the urging of his wife, Taya Kyle. For years, she’d dreaded he’d die abroad while serving in Iraq, never thinking of the dangers at home.
When an officer showed up at her house that fateful February afternoon, Taya told PEOPLE she resisted going to that “dark place” she feared. “I was just focused on what I had learned over the years: Don’t go there until you know.”
She added: “I leaned against the wall with tears pouring down my face and said, ‘Is there any way you’re wrong? Is there any mistake?’ ”
But there was no mistake. “[The officer] said, ‘They wouldn’t tell me to tell you unless they were certain.’ ”
Telling her kids was one of the most difficult moments of her life. Sitting on her front lawn with a child on each knee, she says she told them, ‘Something really bad has happened.’ ”
When she told them their father was dead, “The tears just poured out. We just sat out there in the grass for a while and I just held them.”
Routh will plead not guilty by reason of insanity, his lawyer confirmed to PEOPLE. Prosecutors for the State of Texas have said they are not seeking the death penalty in the case.
Jury selection is expected to last four days, with the opening statements scheduled for Feb. 11.
American Sniper is nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.