American Sniper Texas murder trial nears as final jurors screened

Eddie Ray Routh is pictured in this undated booking photo provided by the Erath County Sheriff’s Office. Routh is accused of killing former Navy Seal Chris Kyle. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Eddie Ray Routh is pictured in this undated booking photo provided by the Erath County Sheriff’s Office. Routh is accused of killing former Navy Seal Chris Kyle. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

AUSTIN (REUTERS) - Final jury selection is set to begin on Monday in a Texas court for the United States veteran accused of fatally shooting Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL whose best-selling autobiography was turned into the hit movie American Sniper.

About 800 potential jurors began screening last week in a court in rural Erath County for the trial of Eddie Ray Routh, 27, charged with murdering Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield in 2013 at a shooting range about 110 km southwest of Fort Worth.

Opening arguments are planned for Feb 11.

Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence and defence attorneys said they will argue that Routh is innocent by reason of insanity due to a post traumatic stress disorder caused by his time serving with the U.S. military in Iraq.

American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, has grossed more than US$282 million (S$382 million) since opening in mid-January and has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture.

Kyle and Littlefield took Routh, a troubled Iraq War veteran, to the shooting range on Feb 2, 2013 to help him through psychological problems. Routh's relatives have said he was hospitalised at a mental institution shortly before the shootings.

Routh is accused of stealing Kyle's truck after the killings and driving it to the home of Routh's sister, who said he confessed to the crimes. Routh was arrested that day and has been jailed in Erath County on US$3 million bond.