Success of ‘American Sniper’ May Prevent Fair Trial of Chris Kyle’s Killer
The success of Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper took Hollywood utterly by surprise. In its early limited release, the film boasted a modest box office return and mixed reviews from critics (it currently sits at 73% on Rotten tomatoes). Cue Sniper’s wide release, in which the film obliterated all expectations, and January box office records, grossing over 107 million dollars. Fueled by 6 Oscar nominations, the film became a cultural lightning rod for pundits on both sides of the aisle. Conservatives found it to be a champion of American ideals, while liberals felt that it glorified blind heroism while ignoring the larger context of the Iraq war.
The film centers around the deadliest sniper in American history, Chris Kyle. Eastwood admirably showcases the egregious effects war has on the young men who participate, all while showcasing Kyle as an American hero. In the latter half of the film, Kyle finds salvation through volunteer work with other veterans. The film culminates on a tone of foreboding dread where Kyle steps into his truck with a clearly unhinged veteran, staring blankly at his wife. Before the end credits, the film states that Kyle was killed by the very veteran that he was attempting to help.
The failure to show Kyle’s death may have been a result of a gag order imposed by the judge in the murder trial of Eddie Routh, the veteran that murdered Kyle in cold blood. Citing “extensive local and national media coverage this case has already generated,” the judge gagged the majority of participants from discussing the case with the media.
Now, Routh’s lawyer claims that the popularity of the movie may prevent Routh from getting a fair trial. Apparently, the defendant plans to mount an insanity defense premised on his post traumatic stress disorder, a strategy that may be ineffective given the widespread sympathy for Kyle. Furthermore, the judge also denied Routh’s attorneys attempt to change the location of the trial in early 2013. Thus, Routh is left with little options to cure the alleged bias of possible jury members. Regardless, with American Sniper playing in nearly every movie theater in America, there is little chance that Routh could find another venue where the jury members have not been biased by the film.