AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Final jury selection began on Monday in a Texas court for the trial of the U.S. veteran accused of fatally shooting former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, whose best-selling autobiography was turned into the hit movie “American Sniper.”
The screening of about 800 potential jurors began 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 70 miles (110 km) southwest of Fort Worth.
Opening arguments are planned for Wednesday. The initial group of potential jurors has been reduced to 263 and those in the pool who have seen the movie are eligible to serve on the jury, county officials said.
Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence. Defense 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. Marines in Iraq.
“American Sniper,” directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, has grossed more than $282 million since opening in mid-January and has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture.
Kyle and Littlefield took Routh to the shooting range on Feb. 2, 2013 to help him through psychological problems. Routh’s relatives have said he was hospitalized 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 $3 million bond.
Additional reporting by Marice Richter in Dallas; Editing by Susan Heavey and Mohammad Zargham