Videos of “American Sniper” Shooter Might Prove Insanity Defense

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As Eddie Ray Routh’s trial continues in the high profile American Sniper murder case, two videos shown to the jurors by the prosecution may in fact aid the defense in trying to prove an insanity defense. This case highlights the difficult of using the insanity defense in real life–any defense based on someone’s state  of mind requires a lot of guesswork and interpretation.

Routh is accused of killing retired Navy Seal and author of the bestselling memoir “American Sniper” Chris Kyle and his neighbor Chad Littlefield. The killings took place at the Rough Creek Ranch-Lodge-Resort shooting range in Erath County, Texas. Routh, who fled the murder scene, pleaded not guilty to both murders in a Stephenville, Texas courtroom, but many wonder if he’ll be able to receive a fair trial just months after the film adaptation of “American Sniper” grossed millions in the box office .

Yesterday the prosecution rested, allowing the defense to begin using Routh’s history of mental illness to argue an insanity defense, in hopes of combatting a potential death penalty outcome. Routh had spent two years in mental hospitals suffering from schizophrenia and post traumatic stress disorder prior to the murders.

The prosecution, on the other hand, is arguing that Routh was not insane, but rather abused drugs and alcohol. They are arguing he knew right from wrong in spite of his schizophrenia diagnosis for which he was taking medication. Despite this, they seemingly managed to lay foundation for his defense team with a video submitted Tuesday into evidence that sheds light on the what kind of mental state he was in around the time of the murders.

The court is not allowing the audio to be released to the public until after the trial, but in the video Routh is seen in the back of a cop car after being arrested. He is breathing heavily and teary-eyed.

According to CNN, an officer asks if he’s okay. Routh replies:

I’m just so nervous about what’s been happening in my life today. I don’t know what’s been happening. I’ve been so paranoid schizophrenic all day. I don’t know what to even think of the world right now. I don’t know if I’m insane or sane.

Routh clearly sounds disturbed in his ramblings, making me question why the prosecution thought this would benefit them. You can watch brief scenes from the evidence in USA Today’s video account of the proceedings below.

In another video shown to jurors of his police interrogation the night of the murders, Routh is shown sounding even more unhinged. According to USA Today he confesses to the shootings saying:

I knew if I didn’t take out his soul, he was going to take mine. You can’t let people keep eating your soul, you know? Warlords aren’t happy with me.

However, the prosecution painted a different scene with recordings CNN reports were also released Tuesday of a jailhouse interview between Routh and a reporter from The New Yorker magazine. In the interview, he is heard saying several questionable phrases such as:

So we’re shooting pistols here huh? Hmmm, OK, Again, that’s pretty much saying duel motherf*****.

I was like what the f*** are you even doing here man? This isn’t a spectator sport, it’s a shooting sport, you shoot. And that’s what got me all, you know, wired up.

I took care of business and then I got in the truck and left.

In those recordings, he sounds somewhat confrontational and like he is lacking remorse. There are just a lot of questions about what was really going through Routh’s head at the time of the murders.

No one doubts that Routh was the one who shot Kyle and Littlefield, but understanding if he was mentally competent enough to understand what he was doing is the real question. Despite what legal procedurals would have you believe, insanity defenses are only used in less than 1 percent of felony cases, and only a fraction are successful. Keeping that in mind, Routh’s defense has only just begun to plead their case while Kyle’s entire community of Stephenville anxiously watches. Whether or not the insanity defense will succeed remains to be seen.

Alexis Evans
Alexis Evans is an Assistant Editor at Law Street and a Buckeye State native. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and a minor in Business from Ohio University. Contact Alexis at



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