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Screening for jurors in ‘American Sniper’ slaying starts

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / APRIL 2012
    Former Navy SEAL and "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle posed in Midlothian
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DALLAS » A judge Thursday told would-be jurors for a trial of a man accused of fatally shooting a former Navy SEAL who’s the subject of the blockbuster film "American Sniper" 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 Dallas Morning News reported. "We’re aware that there’s a movie out there, called ‘American Sniper.’"

Twenty-one potential jurors were dismissed Thursday for a variety of reasons, including six because of extensive pretrial publicity, the newspaper reported.

Candidates began reporting Thursday to district 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:

THE TIMELINE

About 400 people reported to court 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.

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.

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.

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.

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