It’s good to hear that the attorneys for Eddie Ray Routh have filed a motion for a new trial, appealing his conviction and sentence of life imprisonment. It never gelled that what we’d garnered was justice; only vengeance. And it was in our quest for that self-righteous reprisal that we lost our best shot at a fair trial. See, along the way, we ignored many of the trials givens and the expectation they created.
There were many things that we, and the jury, readily accepted about the case and its particulars; especially sentiments and feelings surrounding the “American Sniper”. But at the same time, the jury made some notable exemptions; exclusions of character, judgment, state of mind and most important, mercy. It’s these exemptions that butt up against our concepts of fair trial standards.
Some givens, those societal attitudes and assumptions that shape a trials dynamic, were disregarded. The first given-Chris Kyle is a hero, not only because of his service in Iraq, but also because he sought out troubled returning vets to assist-was readily accepted. As such, the second given that he could identify those in need of help was never questioned; mainly because of his own experiences as a soldier and veteran.
So when he picked out Routh as one such “project”, we all went along with it; pigeonholing each man into our own segments of ‘healer’ and ‘sick’. At that time, we all readily accepted that Routh was mentally sick. Kyle even believed it, exclaimed it, texting a comrade saying, “This Dude is straight-up nuts”; a fact Routh’s defense attorney tried to use during the trial. This was the third given; except it was a given that was exempt from consideration.
When Kyle was alive we didn’t question the viability of his judgment to take Routh under his wing nor did we question whether Routh was sufficiently sick enough for such compassion. It was only after Kyle’s death that we effectively deleted such an idea entirely from the picture.
All of a sudden, Routh’s no longer an ex-Marine with PTSD; he’s a cold-blooded, methodical killer daring to bite the hand that fed him and hoped to heal him. He was found guilty; the jury disregarding defense’s appeals to recognize him for what he was; a sick and troubled returning vet who, unfortunately, wasn’t healed in time to prevent him from taking that most unfortunate of lives.
Routh was effectively exempt from being a candidate for any compassion from the jury. He was also exempt from Kyle’s initial judgment. That along with his state of mind were both issues hijacked by the prosecution who asked us to overlook all that we’d previously praised and supported in the weeks before the trial and while the film made its rounds across the country.
If you accept all that Kyle was-hero, healer, friend-then it stands as a given that you must accept his judgment and in turn, accept all that Eddie Ray Routh was; not only the seemingly ungrateful, sneaky killer but also the troubled, returning soldier. There then should follow expectations that we would have mercy for him, maybe even because of what he’s done. I’m just saying that with the vengeance component ever-present in our judicial system notwithstanding, we can’t appreciate one and at the same time, disregard the other. Or, can we?