Movie enthusiasts are split down the line on whether art imitates life or the other way around. Regardless of where anyone stands on the debate, it’s clear that there are more than a few intersections between the real world, and people’s perception of it. This situation may be good for healthy debate, but it can create a volatile atmosphere, which can lead to lasting consequences.
The court trying Eddie Ray Routh to the murder of Chris Kyle finds themselves in this condition. For anyone living under a political rock for the past few months, the Oscar nominated movie “American Sniper” depicts the life of the Iraq veteran sniper Chris Kyle. The soldier nicknamed “Legend” is the deadliest sniper in American military history, with a hundred and sixty confirmed kills.
The success of the movie – a hundred and five million over a January weekend – has given the case an unprecedented amount of press, as well as vitriol for the defendant. The movie made sure not to depict the actual shooting of Kyle, but noted that he was killed “by a veteran he was trying to help” at the end of the movie.
This line was enough to unite the fans of the movie against Routh, with many calling for a guilty verdict, with more extreme examples even suggesting execution. Kyle’s widow – Taya Kyle – went on record with the Los Angeles Times, condemning the defense’s strategy of using Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), to plea for temporary insanity.
The rush of media attention and the venom of public opinion are making it hard for the defense to see a fair trial coming for Routh. The likelihood that the movie will influence prospective jurors regarding Routh’s fate is very real. Surveys and legal studies on jury selection, as well as experience gathered from sources such as http://williamblylaw.com indicate that media such as movies and op-ed pieces are very influential in the mid-teen to young adult demographics.
Routh will just have to contend with the success of the movie hounding his trial, though it’s unlikely that a judge will approve a change of venue or postponement. The nationwide – and even international – attention the movie has received, renders the local bias argument redundant.