Screening for jurors in 'American Sniper' slaying starts

AP News
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Posted: Feb 06, 2015 12:35 AM
Screening for jurors in 'American Sniper' slaying starts

DALLAS (AP) — Nearly 40 potential jurors were dismissed Thursday from the trial of a man accused of fatally shooting the former Navy SEAL who's the subject of the blockbuster film "American Sniper," according to the Erath County district court, where the trial is scheduled to begin next week.

The candidates were dismissed for a variety reasons, more than a dozen because of extensive pretrial publicity, The Dallas Morning News reported.

A judge told would-be jurors that they won't be dismissed simply for having seen the movie or read the book on which it was based.

"It's OK if you've seen the movie," Judge Jason Cashon told potential jurors as court officials began the process of screening for the jury, the newspaper reported. "We're aware that there's a movie out there, called 'American Sniper.'"

Thursday was the first day candidates began reporting to court in the small town of Stephenville, about 80 miles southwest of Fort Worth. Those selected will be deciding the case of former Marine Eddie Ray Routh, 27, who's charged with capital murder in the killings of sniper Chris Kyle and friend Chad Littlefield two years ago at a gun range outside of Stephenville.

Here are some details about jury selection and the case:

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THE TIMELINE

About half of the 400 people summoned to court reported to get information on juror qualifications and potential exemptions Thursday. Four sessions will be held over two days to accommodate all potential jurors. Jury selection is set for Monday and Tuesday. Opening statements are expected Wednesday.

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A LARGE POOL

Pringle says that instead of a typical jury pool of 175, about 800 were summoned. Of them, about 300 were eliminated before Thursday, including people who are exempt and others whose summons were mailed to the wrong address.

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INTEREST IN THE TRIAL

The trial is expected to garner international attention. The court issued an extensive list of rules related to media coverage and police issued information on road closures when the trial starts. The Oscar-nominated movie "American Sniper," based on Kyle's memoir of the same name starring Bradley Cooper, was recently released. Kyle served four tours in Iraq before retiring from the military in 2009.

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THE DEFENDANT

Routh, who struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder after leaving the Marines in 2010, had served as a small arms technician in the Iraq war and was deployed to earthquake-ravaged Haiti on a relief mission. Kyle took Routh to the shooting range at a luxury resort in the rolling countryside outside of Stephenville after Routh's mother asked if Kyle could help her son. Routh's attorney has said he'll pursue an insanity defense.