Eddie Ray Routh, the ex-Marine who shot and killed “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at a Texas gun range in February 2013, was found guilty Tuesday night of murder.
His attorneys had been pursuing an insanity defense, but his pleas were rejected after less than three hours of deliberations by the 10-woman, 2-man jury, which instead convicted Routh of capital murder.
Since prosecutors weren’t seeking the death penalty, Routh received an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole, which was pronounced upon him within minutes of Tuesday night’s verdict.
After the verdict, Judy Littlefield, the mother of Chad, told reporters at the Stephenville, Texas, courthouse that family members “just want to say that we’ve waited two years for God to get justice for us on behalf of our son and as always God has proved to be faithful, and we’re so thrilled that we have the verdict that we have tonight.”
Despite the automatic sentence, Judge Jason Cashon went ahead with victim-impact statements Tuesday night.
Widow Taya Kyle had left the courtroom earlier Tuesday and was not present when the guilty verdict was returned.
Neither team of lawyers had any immediate comment.
Routh, 27, had always admitted killing the former Navy SEAL and his friend at an outdoor gun range in 2013 but pleaded not guilty. His attorneys and family members asserted that he suffers psychotic episodes caused by post-traumatic stress disorder and other factors.
But prosecutors said in closing statements earlier Tuesday that whatever episodes Routh suffered were self-induced through alcohol and marijuana abuse.
“This defendant has gone to the deep well of excuses for his violent behaviors one too many times,” Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash said.
“I am tired of the proposition that if you have mental illness that you can’t be held responsible for what you do,” he continued.
Defense attorneys cited testimony by their experts that Routh was insane when he shot Kyle, 38, and Littlefield, 35.
“He was not intoxicated, folks. He was psychotic,” defense attorney Warren St. John told jurors, accusing prosecutors of giving them a false impression of Routh’s drug use.
Furthermore, there was no evidence to indicate that Kyle would take someone who was intoxicated to a firing range, they said.
Kyle and Littlefield, both military veterans, took Routh, who had deployed to Iraq and earthquake-ravaged Haiti, to the 11,000-acre Rough Creek Lodge firing range as a kind of therapy.
Routh’s mother had asked Kyle to help her son cope with PTSD and other personal demons.
Interest in the trial has been partially driven by the Oscar-nominated film “American Sniper,” which was based on Kyle’s autobiography and directed by Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood.
The film’s fictional scenes end with a smiling Bradley Cooper as Kyle going off to a gun range to help a buddy — the previously unseen Routh, looking somewhat deranged.
The film was largely snubbed at Sunday’s Academy Awards, winning only for sound editing among its six nominations, but has grossed over $300 million worldwide.
At the trial Tuesday, Routh’s attorneys also pointed to the gunman’s use of Kyle’s pickup truck after the shooting to purchase tacos at a drive-through window and run assorted errands as evidence of delusional behavior. They called it insanity.
Prosecutors called it cold-bloodedness. They also noted that Routh led police on a high-speed chase before finally surrendering.
“He wasn’t one bit sorry for what he did,” Mr. Nash said. “He knew it was wrong.”
The state’s lawyers also noted that Routh had apologized to Kyle’s family — evidence, they said, of a guilty mind.
“This defendant gunned down two men in cold blood, in the back, in our county. Find him guilty,” Mr. Nash said.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.