American Sniper Trial: Is Chris Kyle's Killer Insane or Is His Insanity Defense Inspired by Seinfeld?
A medical expert says confessed killer Eddie Ray Routh may have gotten insanity defense ideas from the popular sitcom
Confessed killer Eddie Ray Routh was sane at the time he gunned down real life American Sniper Chris Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield, say two doctors who testified at his murder trial on Friday.
Dr. Randall Price, a psychologist who interviewed Routh in December of last year and again in January, testified that the former Marine “did know what he was doing and did it anyway.” Later in the day, Dr. Michael Arambula, a forensic psychiatrist and president of the Texas Medical Board, said Routh “was not insane” when he shot the two men at a gun range on Feb. 2, 2013.
Routh’s defense team is hoping to prove that the former Marine should be found not guilty by reason of insanity. But according to Arambula, “it’s obvious” that Routh was drunk or high at the time of killings, and if a defendant is intoxicated in any way during the crime, “the game is over in an insanity defense.”
The defense’s medical expert, Dr. Mitchell Dunn, said on Thursday that Routh was schizophrenic and thought Kyle and Littlefield were “some kind of pig assassins, or hybrid pigs sent to kill people.”
But on Friday, Price noted that Routh has a television in his cell and is a fan of the show Seinfeld.
“There’s an episode where Kramer believed he saw a pig man – half man, half pig,” Price said, adding that Routh told someone by phone that he’s been watching Seinfeld in jail. In the episode, Kramer claims the government is responsible for the hybrid, yelling, “They’re probably creating a whole army of pig warriors!”
Assistant Attorney General Jane Starnes, one of the prosecutors in the case, tried to establish a pattern of Routh “committing a violent act, police are called and he goes to the hospital.” That was the outcome in September 2012, when he threatened the lives of family members at a fish fry, and it was also the end result of a knife-wielding incident at his girlfriend’s apartment in January 2013.
With the talk of pig hybrids and other ramblings, “would you say he’s setting the stage for that to happen again?” Starnes asked.
“It seems likely,” Price said, also calling the Seinfeld similarities “suspicious.”
“He knew he was in trouble,” Price added, “and was setting the stage for, ‘It wasn’t my fault.’ ”
Arambula agreed that Routh “was trying to look out for himself.” Especially notable to the psychiatrist was something Routh said while sitting in the back of the patrol car following his arrest. Upset and gasping, he told an officer, “I’ve been paranoid and schizophrenic all day.”
“People with a severe mental illness have difficulty saying that they do,” he said. “He was showing his hand. In other words, he was looking to get out of what he’d done.”
Noting Routh’s history of getting in trouble and then becoming hospitalized for mental problems rather than being sent to jail, “sometimes a person might go to the well too many times,” he added.
Routh has told several people that he felt threatened and scared for his life at the gun range. But when Arambula talked to him, Routh shared a detail that was very telling to the psychiatrist.
“After they first started loading the weapons, he walked around the railing and walked down range,” Arambula said, “because it was too far for him to shoot. Chris Kyle, not surprisingly, was at a farther distance.”
At that moment, “he had his back to both Chris and Chad, who had guns,” he added. “That’s very significant to me. If someone is suspicious, much less paranoid about someone, you’re not going to turn your back on them when they have all these guns. It’s just not going to happen.”
Routh then walked back behind the railing, looked at Littlefield, took note that he wasn’t shooting and killed him.
“He had no issue with Mr. Kyle,” Arambula recalled. “He said, ‘If I shot only Chad, then Chris would shoot me.’ ”
So he felt like he had to kill Kyle at that point, Arambula said, adding, “I know it’s terrible, but it makes sense, and that’s not psychotic thinking.”
After the men were dead, Routh told Price that he stood on the now-quiet range and felt “immediately remorseful.”
“Jesus Christ,” Routh recalled thinking. “What have I done?”