ERATH COUNTY (CBS 11 NEWS) – Prosecutors called it an over abundance of caution as they prepared for a court hearing in Erath County for the Iraq War veteran accused of killing Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield.
While transporting Eddie Ray Routh to court, law enforcement officers were on rooftops and in the neighborhoods around the justice center. Streets next to the building were barricaded. And a caravan of law enforcement SUV’s transported Routh into a sally port where he was surrounded by officers in body armor as he exited the vehicle.
As he was escorted into the courtroom, it was quickly clear Routh’s appearance has changed considerably since his last hearing in the fall. He has shaved his beard, was wearing dark framed glasses, and is noticeably heavier.
“The purpose for today’s hearing, gentleman, is we’re set for a second pretrial hearing in this matter,” the judge said as he thumbed through a stack of 43 motions filed by Routh’s attorneys.
One of the motions asked the judge to take the death penalty off the table if Routh is found guilty of capital murder.
“I will deny and overrule,” the judge declared after hearing arguments, meaning the death penalty will remain an option for jurors if Routh is found guilty.
The judge also went down a long list deciding what lawyers can and cannot admit as evidence. For instance, Routh’s lawyers don’t want jurors to hear interviews between Routh and law enforcement officers. The judge says he’ll decide whether to allow the interviews in a hearing scheduled for March 7. Jury selection is expected to begin May 5.
It has been more than a year since Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield were shot and killed at a gun range near Stephenville. Routh was arrested for the shootings and indicted for murder in July 2013.
Court filings and statements from family members indicate that Routh will use Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a defense in his upcoming trial. It is a defense Kyle’s widow, Taya, says is no excuse for murder.
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