The sequel to “American Sniper” is about to begin.
Jury selection will get underway Thursday in the trial of the man accused of gunning down Chris Kyle at a Texas shooting range.
Attorneys for alleged killer Eddie Ray Routh tried unsuccessfully to delay and move the trial. They said Kyle is just too popular in Erath County, population just under 38,000.
“American Sniper” has grossed nearly $250 million and has been nominated for six Oscars, including best picture and best actor for star Bradley Cooper. Kyle’s autobiography of the same name has sold millions of copies. Texas Governor Greg Abbott also proclaimed February 2 “Chris Kyle Day.”
The trial will be held in Stephenville, Texas, where the local courthouse typically sends out 175 jury duty notices before a criminal trial. This time, they delivered 800 notices.
Among the questions Judge Jason Cashon will ask potential jurors on Thursday and Friday: “Did you see the movie ‘American Sniper’?” An affirmative answer alone will not disqualify potential jurors.
Attorneys will narrow the pool down to 12 jurors and two alternates on Monday and Tuesday. Opening statements are due to be given next Wednesday. The trial is expected to last at least two weeks.
Kyle become American’s deadliest sniper during four tours of duty in Iraq. Insurgents put a bounty on his head, nicknaming him the “Devil of Ramadi.”
However, Kyle struggled to adapt to civilian life but found strength in sharing his skills and serving other veterans.
Kyle started his own company, Craft International, which provided tactical training to law enforcement and military personnel. He also helped found FITCO Cares, a non-profit group that helped veterans stay in shape.
He was fatally shot at Rough Creek Lodge, a shooting range 90 miles southwest of Dallas, on Feb. 2, 2013. Fellow Iraq veteran Chad Littlefield was also killed.
Routh’s attorneys said their client will plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors said they will ask for life without parole, instead of the death penalty.