Ex-Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, author of "American Sniper," was an expert military shot who tried to help fellow servicemembers adjust to postwar life. But all his skills couldn't save him in a shooting at a Texas gun range.
On Saturday morning, Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield picked up a young Iraq war veteran named Eddie Ray Routh. Routh's mother had allegedly asked Kyle to help her son deal with returning to civilian life.
The trio headed to the range to spend the afternoon shooting. Several hours later, a hunting guide found Kyle and Littlefield shot dead; Routh was nowhere in sight.
After the shooting, police believe Routh took Kyle's pickup and drove from the range to his sister's house. There, he told her and her husband that he had killed Kyle and Littlefield, reports The Dallas Morning News.
Police arrested Routh later that evening. He's charged with two counts of murder and one count of capital murder. But what still eludes police is Routh's possible motive.
One possibility is linked to Routh's mental condition. It's believed that Kyle was trying to help him deal with the effects of post-traumatic stress when the men went shooting on Saturday, reports Reuters.
While it hasn't been confirmed that Routh has PTSD, if he does his mental state could affect the outcome of any case against him. That's because in general, mental illness affects the criminal trial process in two ways.
In some cases a defendant can argue insantity as a defense to the charges against him. But mental illness can also be used to postpone trial if the defendant isn't competent.
To avoid standing trial, the defense must show that the defendant is unable to understand the charges against him or assist in his own defense. If the court determines that to be the case, then the trial will be suspended until the defendant is competent.
In some situations, the defendant can be made competent with adequate psychiatric treatment. If that happens then the trial will resume at a later date. In the meantime, a mentally ill defendant is typically confined for the safety of the public.
Whether Routh does suffer from mental illness remains to be seen. But the fact is that, like Kyle, he was a decorated member of the military. Routh served as a Marine from 2006 to 2010 in both Iraq and Haiti and received several medals for his service, Reuters reports.
- Untouchable in Iraq, Ex-Sniper Dies in a Shooting Back Home (The New York Times)
- Insanity Defense (FindLaw)
- Jared Loughner Incompetent to Stand Trial (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Obama's Gun Proposals Target Mental Health Too (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)