Eddie Ray Routh mugshot. Photo courtesy of Erath County Sheriff's Office
STEPHENVILLE, Texas, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- The success of the movie "American Sniper" is likely to complicate the trial of the veteran accused of killing Chris Kyle at a Texas shooting range.
Jury selection was to begin Thursday in Stephenville, a city of about 17,000 people and the seat of Erath County. Officials said the capital murder trial of Eddie Ray Routh will be the biggest in the county's history, bringing national reporters and TV crews to the courthouse.
Routh allegedly gunned down Kyle and his friend and fellow veteran Chad Littlefield at Rough Creek Lodge, an 11,000-acre ranch resort 90 miles southwest of Dallas, on Feb. 2, 2013, and then fled in Kyle's SUV. Kyle was trying to help Routh, an unemployed former Marine, overcome post-traumatic stress disorder.
Kyle, with 160 confirmed kills in Iraq, was already a celebrity because of his book, also titled "American Sniper."
Routh is expected to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.
Wanda Pringle, the district clerk in Erath County, said 800 people have received summonses to report for jury duty Thursday and Friday. They were scheduled to be screened in four batches over the two days.
At a session for news media Monday, Pringle said no recording equipment or electronic devices would be allowed in the courtroom, only pens and notebooks.
Routh's lawyers have asked that the trial be moved elsewhere. They argue that the combination of Kyle's fame from the book and movie -- which has grossed $240 million in the weeks since it opened -- and the shock of the double homicide in the mostly rural county make finding an unbiased jury unlikely.