The jury charged with ruling on the guilt of the man accused of killing Chris Kyle, the subject of the box office sensation American Sniper and the author of the book on which the movie is based, will not be dismissed for having seen the movie or read the book, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Judge Jason Cashon told potential jurors on Thursday that they would not be automatically removed if they had seen the Clint Eastwood film, which has topped $250 million at domestic box offices and had the largest opening weekend of any January film on record.
“It’s OK if you’ve seen the movie,” Cashon told potential jurors. “We’re aware that there’s a movie out there, called American Sniper.”
Eddie Ray Routh is alleged to have shot and killed Chad Littlefield and Kyle, who won fame for his book about his exploits as a sniper in Iraq, at a shooting range in February, 2013. Routh, also an Iraq war veteran, is said to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and one of his lawyers has said he would plead not guilty by reason of insanity.
“Under state law, jurors may be dismissed if they believe that they cannot be fair or impartial because of information they have heard,” the Morning News reported on the jury selection process.
Judges have at times allowed jurors who were familiar with the history of the victim or alleged perpetrator in previous high-profile trials.
During Michael Jackson’s 2005 sexual molestation trial, at the end of which he was acquitted, six jurors said they were fans of Jackon’s music and one had even been to Jackson’s Neverland ranch. During jury selection in 2011 for Conrad Murray’s manslaughter trial, for which he was found guilty in Jackson’s death, jurors were asked if they were fans of Jackson, but knowledge of Jackson was not considered automatic grounds for dismissal.
Another possible parallel was John Hinckley Jr.’s assassination attempt of President Ronald Reagan in 1981, for which he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. In its report on jury selection for Hinkley’s trial, the New York Times noted that one of the jurors had a background in psychology working in ”facilities for disturbed adolescents.” Another worked in the hospital where Reagan was treated and knew some of the potential witnesses in the case.
Kyle’s family released a statement on Friday saying that it had “the utmost confidence that a fair and just verdict” would result from the trial.