I have been asked several times whether I think the movie “American Sniper” would influence the jury’s view of Eddie Ray Routh, the man accused of killing Chris Kyle. For those unaware, Chris Kyle was the former Navy SEAL whose autobiography was recently turned into the hit movie “American Sniper” starring Bradley Cooper. Routh is being charged with murdering Kyle, as well as Chad Littlefield, at a shooting range. Jury selection in Routh’s trial began yesterday in Texas.
Even though the movie American Sniper does not specifically depict any of Routh’s alleged actions in the film or mention him by name, I think any juror who has seen the movie could absolutely be influenced by it. With the huge box office turnout of American Sniper, I would think it would be hard to find a prospective juror who had not seen it, heard about it, or even read the book, and formed some feelings or opinions about Chris Kyle and the person who allegedly murdered him. Understandably, Routh’s defense team has expressed concern that Routh will not be able to have a fair trial in light of the wide-spread popularity of Kyle’s book and subsequent movie.
However, in order to find a fair and impartial jury, you can be certain that during the jury selection process, the judge and attorneys for both sides will ask all potential jurors what they know about the case. For those jurors who have seen the movie or read the book, they will then be asked whether, knowing all that they know, they will be able to be fair and impartial during the trial. If the juror agrees that he or she can be fair and impartial, the fact that a potential juror has seen or heard about the movie will not necessarily be enough to have them stricken from the panel.
My previous blog regarding the jury selection process can be found here: What to Expect During Jury Selection
Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.