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‘American Sniper’ Killer to Appeal Murder Conviction

Eddie Ray Routh was found guilty of murdering Chris Kyle, but his lawyer claims the blockbuster film hurt Routh’s case

Eddie Ray Routh was found guilty of murdering “American Sniper” subject Chris Kyle on Feb. 24, but his lawyers are fighting the verdict and plan to ask a Texas appeals court to overturn the jury’s decision.

Routh’s attorney, Warren St. John, claims the notoriety of the victim and publicity from Clint Eastwood‘s Oscar-winning film starring Bradley Cooper hurt his client’s case.

“Mr. Routh will appeal his case with one issue being the statement made to the Ranger. Others will be the change of venue issue because of the movie,” St. John said in a statement to TheWrap Friday.

Routh, 27, is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing Kyle, 38, and his friend, Chad Littlefield, 37, at a gun range in 2013 in Texas.

Routh, a former Marine, admitted to the killings but pleaded not guilty. The fact that he had shot and killed the men was not in dispute, but his defense attorneys argued that Routh was insane at the time of the shootings.

Just hours after Routh shot the two men, a Texas Ranger asked him if he understood his rights. Routh responded with a vulgarity, according to ABC affiliate WFAA, but he never said “yes.”

St. John said Thursday that he believed more than half of the 12 jurors had seen “American Sniper,” which was released three weeks before the trial started in Stephenville, Texas.

“They stated prior to being on the jury it didn’t, but I clearly do think it had an effect,” St. John said, according to the New York Times. “He [Kyle] had the label of an American hero, ‘American Sniper,’ decorated war veteran. I think it affected their ability to be fair and impartial.”

The rural town of Stephenville outside of Dallas has nearly 190,000 residents, and was chosen for the trial because it is the seat of Erath County, where the murders took place. The case captivated the town that calls itself the “Cowboy Capital of the World.”

The double homicide was featured in the final minutes of Eastwood‘s Oscar-winning film, as Kyle, played by Cooper, said goodbye to his wife (Sienna Miller) for the last time to go to the gun range with Routh and Littlefield. Having been deployed to Iraq and earthquake-ravaged Haiti, Routh’s mother had asked Kyle to help her son with his PTSD.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

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