February 2nd marked the anniversary of Chris Kyle’s death. Legendary Navy SEAL sniper was murdered by a fellow veteran at the Rough Creek Lodge in Glen Rose, Texas on this date 2013. After putting his life on the line for fellow soldiers during four tours in the Middle East, his murder by a veteran is disturbingly ironic.
The release of the acclaimed film “American Sniper” does not bode well for Eddie Ray Routh, the man who killed Kyle. Since the film’s release, Routh sought to move his trial out of Texas. His request has been rejected. At this point, it is going to be near impossible to find a set of jurors who haven’t seen the movie, or haven’t heard of Chris Kyle.
Background on the Murder
Kyle took Routh to the shooting range about an hour from where Kyle lived. He got in touch with Routh after his mother contacted Kyle asking for his help. Kyle’s plan was to help Routh with his PTSD, by providing a safe place for Routh to talk and open up to Kyle. A huge problem that comes along with PTSD is the inability to trust others. Kyle wanted to help Routh with this problem and make him feel heard and not alone.
Once settled at the gun range, they raised the red Bravo flag, to indicate they were going to start shooting. Kyle had helped design the range, and could come and go as he pleased. He reserved the space until 4 pm. At 4:55 pm, a guide noticed the flag was still up and drove towards the platform. He then discovered the body of Kyle with a bullet in his back and head and the body of a second veteran, Littlefield, with multiple gunshot wounds. Both were dead.
Routh is facing charges of capital murder.
Insanity Defense for Veterans with PTSD
As expected, Routh’s lawyers will be defending him with an insanity defense. He admitted to police that he killed Kyle and Littlefield, and then fled the scene with Kyle’s truck. Routh was formally diagnosed with PTSD, and also suffered from depression, mania, and nightmares. According to Routh’s family, he has had a long list of incidences relating to his PTSD. He had threatened to kill himself and his family in the past, and was admitted to psychiatric wards numerous times. He was in the Dallas V.A. Medical Center and Green Oaks Hospital in Dallas just days before the murder.
A 2014 study revealed that veterans suffering from PTSD or alcohol abuse are seven times more likely to commit violent crimes than fellow veterans. Also, dozens of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have been accused of murder, some even killing themselves. 2.6 million Americans have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan, and half a million suffer from PTSD. Some people with PTSD can also have flashes of anger, that turn into hallucinations. These hallucinations can bring veterans back to the battlefield, and make violent decisions that can turn them into criminals.
In recent years, it has become apparent that a change needs to be made to the criminal justice system. Too many soldiers are being sent to jail for crimes committed due to their PTSD. In 2013, the Veterans Defense Project published a manual for defense attorneys to use when defending a veteran with a post-battle mental illness. The book is “The Attorney’s Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court.” The book helps explain PTSD and traumatic brain injury and its effects on soldiers. It also has a section that explains how PTSD can be used as an insanity defense in court. The projects goals are to help rehabilitate suffering veterans, assist attorneys in understanding their clients and their illness, and to help increase public knowledge of issues within the criminal justice system.
Individual Veterans Treatment Courts have started to spread throughout each state. A key aspect to these courts is the option of alternative rehabilitation treatment instead of incarceration. The programs can be for mental health or substance abuse, and are often lead by veteran mentors. PTSD has increasingly become a defense for an insanity plea because of this system. This type of court is essential to keeping mentally unstable veterans out of jail, and into the help they really need. But it does not come without its issues. It is still being decided if felonies or violent crimes should be held in veteran’s court, or go through the regular criminal justice system.
In the case of Routh, he will be tried in the conventional criminal justice system. His PTSD and depression will definitely be used by his lawyers as a basis for the insanity defense plea. Either way, the murder of legendary veteran Chris Kyle, will not be forgotten.
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