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tv   The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell  MSNBC  February 24, 2015 10:00pm-11:01pm PST

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f the architect of the capitol. no person shall coast or slide a sled within capitol grounds. that was apparently some sort of national imperative after 9/11, even though they don't always enforce it. national imperative after 9/11, even though they don't always enforce it. but for whatever reason they are enforcing it right now in d.c. snow. and d.c.'s delegate to congress is now trying to overturn what she calls this scrooge-like ban. when people have flouted the sledding on capitol hill ban, al qaeda has not been able to take advantage of that to harm us and our national security. so for the record, i'm with ellenor holmes-norton, free the sleds. we'll see you again tomorrow. now time for "the last word with lawrence o'donnell." >> you should have seen me on my sled on capitol hill when i worked in washington on those snow days.
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>> snow disks. i know, man. well, mitch mcconnell has a new strategy to end the strandoff over the funding of homeland security and republicans don't like it. and a texas jury is deliberating right now. they are deciding the fate of eddie ray routh, the man who killed the real american sniper, chris kyle. >> it's really sad to see the gamesmanship, the -- i don't know what to call it, the silliness. >> i can't find nibble who thinks it's a good idea to shut down the department of homeland security. >> congress races against the clock. >> the standoff that threatens to shut down homeland security. >> this bill removes excuses, it sets up a simple political equation. >> mitch mcconnell offered a vote on a funding bill without immigration measures. >> the problem is, everybody, i'm waiting to hear from the speaker. >> we need a commitment from
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speaker boehner. >> where's the house? >> i'm waiting to hear from the speaker. >> the jury is about to get the case in the american sniper trial. >> two weeks of testimony from three dozen witnesses boils down to this. was he insane or deliberate when he shot the two at the texas gun range two years ago? >> the fiery moments just after impact sent panicked passengers scrambling for their lives in a metro linked train hit the truck on the tracks. >> it makes me wonder what is the next story? >> alaska became the third state to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. >> rudy giuliani published an op-ed in "the wall street journal" today. >> you're a new yorker, you may remember him as the mayor who replaced all your porn and drugs with m&ms. >> come on, rudy, of course president obama loves america. he has to.
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being president of the united states is the worst job in the world. the spending bill for the department of homeland security is what they call a must-pass bill in the congress. it must pass, because the alternative is unthinkable. the alternative is allowing the homeland security department to partially shut down, which, in the age of terror, is unthinkable. so goes the political thinking in washington. must-pass bills have always been hard to resist for mischief makers. if one party attaches something that the other party hates to a must-pass bill, the party that hates that thing might still have to vote for it because it's attached to a must-pass bill. no one can be caught voting
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against a must-pass bill. that's always been the rule about must-pass bills, but that dynamic no longer works in the 21st century. democrats have been happily voting against this bill, because it undoes president obama's executive orders on immigration. senate majority leader mitch mcconnell wants to give up and clearly give up this hopeless attempt to pass the department of homeland security spending bill that guts the president's orders on immigration, because mitch mcconnell knows that the democrats in the senate are going to continue to filibuster, and even if for some reason the democrats relented and let it pass, president obama would then veto it. so mitch mcconnell now wants to do what any reasonable majority leader in the senate would do in
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that situation, separate the two issues, vote on a clean spending bill from the department of homeland security, and then separately vote on a stand alone bill that would kill the funding for the president's executive orders on immigration. >> i don't know what's not to like about this. this is an approach that respects both points of view and gives senators an opportunity to go on record on both funding the department of homeland security and expressing their opposition to what the president did last november. >> we're going to have to break this. we have breaking news from texas. we have a verdict in the trial of eddie ray routh, who has been accused of murdering -- tell me who is joining us now? brian weiss from texas. brian, what can you tell us? >> well, i think at this point, without knowing what the verdict
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is, i think the consensus would appear to be it's probably a one word verdict, guilty of capital murder, which carries an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole. if that's what it is, it's not surprising considering that juries in drunk driving cases seem to be out longer than the jury in this case. when all was said and done, this jury determined that this wasn't a young man caught in the grip of psychosis, but rather a cold blooded assassination. >> and brian, it seems that the jury deliberated probably for about an hour and a half, possibly even less. but it is a relatively simple fact base. there's nothing to contend about the facts. the issue was he legally insane or not. >> lawrence, you're right. like the prosecutor told this jury early on, this is not a who
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done it, this is a why on earth did he do it? whether you accepted the reality put forth by the defense, every crime is a tragedy. every tragedy is not a crime. this is a young man who could not understand the difference between right and wrong or the prosecution's narrative which i believe this jury is going to embrace, that this again was a cold blooded assassination, and the fact that this young man may have had mental issues did not mean that when he pulled the trigger he could understand the difference between right and wrong. and lawrence, we know that's the test for sanity in the great state of texas. >> we're joined by charles hadlock, he's been covering the trial in texas outside the courtroom in stevenville. charles, one of the interesting things today in the closing arguments is that the defense attorney very specifically suggested to the jury that a hung jury is a possibility, that it is possible for them not to come to an agreement.
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that's the one thing we know hasn't happened. >> reporter: that's correct. he did try to float that possibility. of course, he also said at the same time there is no reason to turn in a guilty verdict, because we know that he's guilty. it's, is it a matter of him being sane or insane at the time, and that is the key question. they argued nine days of testimony throughout this trial that he was insane at the time of the trial. that he was suffering from a psychosis that led him to kill the two men who were trying to help him. the state says that is hogwash is what they called it today. they said that this man had marijuana and alcohol problems, and was high at the time of the killings. and being intoxicated at the time of a crime does not amount to insanity. and they wanted the jury to find him guilty of killing two men by shooting them in the back.
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>> charles, is there kind of a courthouse consensus on what the expected outcome is here? >> reporter: not really. if you talk to a wide range of people, some people are on the fence saying he does seem like he has some mental problems. maybe he should be found insane. but the key in this case, was he insane at the time of the crime, and did he know at the time of the crime that his actions were wrong. that is the key in this case. the jury will have to deside that, and they obviously have decided something. we'll find out shortly. >> what do you think was probably the key element here for the prosecution in their final arguments today? >> reporter: lawrence, if i had to find the final piece of the puzzle, as in many cases, it's probably, in my mind, the defendant's own words. i know that the jury during the state's rebuttal portion, heard a phone call between the defendant and a reporter from
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"the new yorker" magazine and the jury could figure out that the remorse, the regret, the guilt that eddie ray routh felt in the commission of this offense was tantamount to acknowledging what he was doing was wrong. so the six favorite words for any prosecutor to hear, your honor, we call the defendant. >> brian, it indicates he knew what he did was wrong. but the question is that present tense moment at the commission of the crime, did he know it again? >> as we said on the show -- you can form intent to kill in an instant. if at the time he pulled the trigger he could understand the difference between right and wrong, whether he was coming in and out of this psychotic state, really doesn't matter much. again, it will be interesting to
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see what happens when these 12 good folks tell the world what they already know. lawrence? >> charles hadlock, what is the judge's rules on the reading of the verdict in the courtroom? he has allowed video but not allowed audio to come out of the courtroom. >> reporter: he will allow audio and video to come out for the verdict. he allowed audio and video for the opening statements. but throughout the trial, for testimony and closing arguments, he would only allow the video to be recorded without audio. at the end of this trial, there will be a punishment phase, if he's found guilty. and immediately after that, we'll be able to play some of the auldio that happened during the trial. after the punishment phase, they'll go into a victim's impact statement. one person, a relative, has signed up to speak to the court. we won't be able to show you that. we can only report that in
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written word. >> do we know which relative that is? >> we don't know. it could be taya or another relative. it could be chris kyle's brother or a littlefield family member. we just don't know yet. >> so charles, it's only one relative for each of the victims in this killing? >> all we're told is that one victim -- one person was going to come forward for the victim impact statement. that's all we know. we believe it's a family member. it also has to be a family member to give an impact statement. >> we're joined by michael snipes, a former dallas county district court judge and current defense attorney. judge snipes, we just heard what will happen after the verdict in this case. can you give us a timetable for that? >> well, he discussed something
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called a punishment phase, but that's slightly incorrect. there's not going to be a punishment phase in the sense of testimony coming in, because if there's a verdict of guilty, then the sentence is automatically life without parole. the victim impact part of the case, just to clarify this for our audience, can be as many as one or five or more victims, and all of that is not actually on the record and it's a very private time for the family, which the judge has quite a deal of discretion over. >> judge snipes, if there's a guilty verdict here, the sentence is automatic life without parole and no details, it's just that. >> that's exactly right. actually, i had several of those types of cases myself. it was all done at one time. the guilty verdict was rendered,
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then i would immediately pass the sentence almost contemporaneously. >> it's hard to see the point of any other process when you have an automatic sentence. and judge snipes, why would an automatic sentence, would they go to the point of including victim impact statements? >> it's a statute in the state of texas to allow the family to have closure, basically. it's something that's gone for the victims of crime. it's done to allow them to get over what's happened basically. >> if there's only one of those victim impact statements to be made, is it conceivable that could be done tonight also? >> well, i was surprised that the judge allowed deliberations to go on into the evening. certainly that's within his discretion. so if he was willing to do that, i would say that there's a very good possibility that the victim
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impact statements would be tonight. >> judge snipes, you could see this entire proceeding being wrapped up in its entirety tonight? >> it appears to me that's what is going to happen. >> brian weiss, the defense attorney, in a way that was quite clear today, basically suggested to the jury very clearly that a hung jury was a possibility here. he said you can find him guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity, and you might also just not be able to agree. he says, if you're back there and eight of you are for one way and four for the other way, the law contemplates that you try to talk it out and come to an agreement. but sometimes you can't. that's just all there is to it. you can't get to a unanimous verdict and that's okay, too. that happens in criminal cases.
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that's about as plain a request for a hung jury as i've heard. >> it's standard fair in the criminal defense attorney playbook. and what prosecutors try to do when a defense attorney advances that argument is to tell the jury, folks, they want you to get a divorce and y'all aren't even on the honeymoon yet. it's something that makes sense as a defense attorney because sometimes that's the best that you can ultimately hope for. but again, given the way the system shaped out in this case, given the fact that the state had the last word, which judge snipes will tell you is a very powerful element in the criminal justice system, i don't think we're going to necessarily be surprised if this jury comes back with a verdict of guilty. >> charles hadlock, in the final statements, it did come down to an argument among doctors about the psychiatric opinions of the
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defendant. any hint that some aspects were landing stronger than others? >> reporter: well, it was a battle between the psychiatrists. one psychiatrist for the prosecutor said he was not a psychotic killer, that he was basically high at the time of the killings. and the psychiatrist for the defendant said that he had a psychosis problem, that every time he had been in the hospital he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia or psychosis. i can tell you why we're perhaps going on late tonight with this verdict. the judge wanted this case pushed through tonight, because a winter storm is on the way. now the judge is coming into the chambers. let's listen.
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all right. i've been advised that the jury has reached a verdict. let the record reflect that the jury is not in the courtroom at this time.
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let's bring the jury in. >> we are waiting for the jury to enter the courtroom in stevensville, texas. they have reached a verdict in the murder trial of eddie ray routh. >> all right. let the record reflect the jury has returned to the courtroom at this time. ms. stafford, you're the foreperson of the jury? >> yes, your honor. >> i've been advised a verdict has been reached. is this correct? >> yes, your honor. >> if you'll hand the verdict form to the bailiff.
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mr. routh, if you'll please stand. we the jury find the defendant eddie ray routh guilty of the felony of capital murder as charged in the indictment. that verdict is signed by ms. stafford as foreperson of the jury. you may be seated at this time. do you wish to have the jury polled? >> yes, judge. >> what i will do at this point is individually start at the first seat first juror and ask you the same question of each juror. is this a unanimous verdict of the jury in >> yes. >> jury number two? >> yes.
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>> juror number three? >> yes. >> juror number four? >> yes, sir. >> juror number five? >> yes, sir. >> juror number six? >> yes, your honor. >> jury your number seven? >> yes, sir. >> juror eight? >> yes. >> jury your nine? >> yes, sir. >> all right, this completes your service as jurors in this matter. i will receive and accept your verdict in this matter and hand it to the clerk to have it filed. >> all right, mr. routh, if you would please stand again. having received and accepted the jury's verdict in this matter, my statute, i will now impose sentencing in this matter, confinement for life in the texas criminal justice
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department without the possibility of parole. you may be seated at this time again. you have the right to appeal to the 11th court of appeals, which is the court for this jurisdiction and also your rights with regard to filing a petition for discretionary review for the court of criminal appeals in texas. i will remand your custody to the sheriff to carry out the imposition of this court and the jury verdict in this matter. do you have any legal reason that this should not be imposed? [ inaudible ] >> finding nothing, i will enter judgment and remand your custody
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to the sheriff in accordance with the rules and regulations of the texas department of criminal justice. now then, turning back to the jury. certainly appreciate your effort in this matter. i have constantly talked to you about the rules of what you can and can't do. from this point forward, i have no other control over you. i am discharging you from those rules and obligations. i want to talk to you briefly about that. you're free to discuss this case with anyone at this point or to not discuss the case. that's certainly up to you. i want to issue a statement to you and that is the lawyers in this matter are professionals and they're not going to bother you about your verdict, i can assure you of that. should anybody else attempt to bother you about your verdict, make it known to any of these officers of this court and we'll
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get it stopped, quick, fast, and in a hurry. i have been asked by the media that they want to talk to you about your service as a juror. that's a decision that's wholly up to you at this point. i will issue a word of caution in this regard. you can talk to me if you want or you don't have to. remember, what you say will be looked at from time now on. once it's recorded, there's no takebacks. so be careful and judicious about what you're going to say if you decide to make those interviews. i have the transport available to take you back -- >> we have lost transmission from the courtroom where eddie ray routh was just sentenced to life in prison without parole. the judge is about to discharge
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the jury. he has given them some instructions and warnings about talking to the media and talking publicly about this case. after they are discharged, we are joined now by charles hadlock, who is outside the courtroom there. charles, do we know if we're going to get that transmission back from the courtroom? >> we're probably not. that was the judge's order that after punishment, the feed would be pulled. he will instruct the jury that they can or can't talk to the media as they leave. then they will begin that victim impact statement that will not be recorded at all. but the people in the courtroom will be able to hear from the victim. >> and michael snipes is also still with us, former texas judge. so judge snipes, it seems to be occurring exactly as you predicted, an immediate imposition of sentence. since it's an automatic sentence. now it seems there will be that relatively private victim impact
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statement in the courtroom. >> that's absolutely customary. in fact, as i listened to the judge, it brought back memories of the kind of instructions that he gave to the jury and the way that he pronounced sentence in the case. it was nothing that i did not expect once the verdict came in. >> and how long do you anticipate the victim impact statement taking in that courtroom? >> that's entirely up to the judge pretty much. but typically anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or so. i wouldn't think it would take all that long in this case. everybody knows what the victim's sentiments are in the case. and this is, again, as i said before, just their way to try to clear their souls and move forward with their lives. >> judge snipes, at the conclusion of that victim impact statement, is that it? is that the moment where the judge gavels this try to a close?
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>> that is it. of course, then we go into appellate matters, possible motion for a new trial, and who knows how long all that will take? >> let's listen to what was the -- we are now authorized to use video and sound from the trial, and i want to listen to what the prosecutor said today, what was the winning argument in this case today, saying that the bottom line was that the defendant knew what he did was wrong. let's listen to that. >> the bottom line was the defendant knew what he did was wrong, according to dr. price. and then he's setting up his defense, like many times before, he commits the crime, he does a violent act, he gets wiped out of his gourd and goes to the mental hospital. that's what he wanted to see happen again, the night of february 2nd. he was setting up his defense.
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then he comes up with this preposterous hybrid pig man story that he sold to the doctor who fell for it hook, line, and sinker. and you know that is a load of hogwash. >> so brian weiss, there's a prosecutor telling that jury there perfectly empowered to overrule a psychiatrist in this case. >> and again, this jury is instructed at the beginning of the trial that they are not supposed to leave their common sense in the courthouse hallway. i think the prosecutor did an outstanding job in that byte we just heard, saying it's not about the experts, it's not about anything but your own collective wisdom and good sense. and i really do believe that what happened in this case was not unexpected.
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listen, lawrence, it's one of the dirty little secrets of the criminal justice system that not all victims are created equal. while there was some outcry in the wake of the release of the movie "american sniper," the people on this jury, i'm fairly confident, don't follow michael moore and seth rogan on twitter. >> we're joined by former congressman patrick murphy, veteran of the iraq war. you're one of the first people we talked to about this trial and the issue ptsd might play in this trial. what is your reaction to this verdict tonight? >> lawrence, it's a sad day. i mean, you have a marine, two marines who were killed. another marine now who is going to spend the rest of his life in prison. i'm glad that justice was served, but it breaks my heart to see what happens. it's a tragedy, and to know that there's hundreds of thousands of veterans from the iraq and afghanistan war that have ptsd.
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we have 22 veterans that commit suicide every day. there's 29,000 veterans home homeland security across america. i'm glad justice was served and he's held accountable. but it breaks my heart when you see so many tragedies going on every day in america. >> what was your reaction to the prosecution's argument that ptsd had nothing to do with this, and mental illness had nothing to do with this? >> listen, i personally disagree. it was clear that mr. routh had some serious issues, documented issues time and time again in the v.a. but at the end of the day, we all know that eddie was going to jail -- he was going away for the rest of his life, whether to a mental institution or a jail. i think it clearly played a role, there's no doubt. he was disturbed.
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chris kyle's own text message the day of his death was that this guy was crazy, saying watch my six in the car. >> let's listen to what the defense attorney said today about schizophrenia and the diagnosis and what he called the prosecution and defense testimony of doctor against doctor. >> we brought you dr. dunn, who works with schizophrenics every single day of the week. and he has for 20 years. they brought you dr. price, who is a nice man, a smart man and a good psychologist, but he doesn't deal with schizophrenia, and he's only diagnosed this psychosis one time in 30 years. and they brought in another doctor, who is president of the medical association of texas. that sounds like what he does most of the time.
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he's not dealing with patients like dr. dunn does every single day. and dr. dunn told you, eddie has schizophrenia. >> brian weiss, with your experience in texas courtrooms, how do you score the argument between the attorneys about the psychiatrist? >> well, make no mistake, they did an outstanding job of defending their client. they did everything i would have expected a reasonably competent criminal defense attorney in texas to do, lawrence. they had lay testimony. they had their expert testimony. and they attempted to craft a narrative that they truly believed that this jury would embrace. and the fact that they were unsuccessful in doing it doesn't mean that they are graded off for any substantial reason. this was a tough case involving an american hero in a small town where the perception was that chris kyle was the kind of man that we want our sons to grow up
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to be. in a case like this, i think that patrick murphy is correct, that there are no winners. it is a sad day, but we have to believe that these 12 good folks did what they thought the facts requires. >> patrick murphy, i want to go back to the issue of ptsd, which has been around this trial, introduced to some extent in the evidence of the trial and the diagnosis of schizophrenia was introduced by the defense early in the trial. what do you think this trial does to the discussion of ptsd nationally? >> lawrence, i think this trial will bring the light that there are a lot of veterans out there that are suffering as they come back from war. when we send our young men and women into harm's way, it better be damn right for the right reasons.
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just like i would say the movie "american sniper" showed how chris kyle went and served four deployments, came back, and had some issues. it was not easy for him when he came home. it's not easy for most veterans when they come home. and lawrence, i say that. i'm a champion for my fellow veterans. the majority of them are doing great. but when you have hundreds of thousands coming back from the longest war in american history, the iraq and afghanistan wars, you know, 20% of them are suffering from ptsd. that's a problem. it's not a problem just for the government to solve. it's a problem for all of us as americans. we're the ones, our political leaders are the ones that sent them in harm's way. it's our responsibility to be there for the reintegration. >> brian weiss, what do you say about the state of insanity
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defenses in texas, and then also the issue of bringing some ptsd into trials like this? >> well, i think, lawrence, in the cake of the now famous john hinckley acquittal 25, 30 years ago, really those chickens are still coming home to roost in courtrooms across america, certainly across the great state of texas. it is exceedingly difficult in the wake of what happened with hinckley for any criminal defense attorney to successfully advance an insanity defense. we have a narrow statute. the test is difficult. when we look back over the last decade or so here in texas, the only real high profile case that comes to find where an acquit at carried the day was not the first, but the second trial in the andrea yates case here in houston. ptsd, again, is a scourge that
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afflicts the men and women who are the real-life heros in this country, who we do send in harm's way. it's a tragedy that ptsd, at least in the context of this case or any other case, might not be the avenue through which someone who is gripped in that psychosis, but again, the fact that this jury, on these facts and the law that they were given by the judge ultimately reached the decision that they believed was the right thing to do. >> i want to go back to charles hadlock outside the courtroom, if we still have him there. charles, what can we expect to happen next? we have cameras set up there, microphones, attorneys. >> reporter: we have microphones and cameras set up. we were told by the court that someone would speak after the
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trial. we were also told it would not be a member of the prosecution. in fact, i asked the district attorney during the break if he would come out and speak. he said he would not at this time. so we're not sure exactly who will come to the microphones tonight. we're waiting to see and hear who that will be. lawrence? >> i want to go back to judge snipes for one of the original -- the first questions raised in this trial, which was a petition by the defense for a change of venue. that was denied. the argument was that this community is too charged an area to have this trial. what did you make of the judge's ruling in that, and what are the elements that a judge in texas is faced with in making a change of venue? >> the judge has to decide whether or not the jury can put anything they've heard out of their mind and render a fair and impartial verdict in the case. from what i saw, the judge did a
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masterful job in making his decisions on that. whether he was correct or not will be up to the appellate courts, but i saw no reason to criticize him whatsoever. >> brian weiss, when a judge is considering change of venue in texas, is it also a factor that in a situation like this, there probably isn't any community in texas that is any less saturated with publicity about this trial? >> that's a great point. where are we going to try this, in west harper, connecticut? at the end of the day, judge snipes is right. it's not a question whether there's been a firestorm of publicity or whether a juror has read papers or magazine articles, but whether or not they can take their oath as a juror and swear they'll decide this case and rendor a verdict on the law and the facts.
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and we have seen some of the most highly publicized cases that your viewers are privy to. and they say in town, because thankfully we have jurors who are able to say that what i seen and what i heard and read will not impact my ability to be fair and impartial. and the odds for the court of appeals overturning this verdict because of the venue issue is far-fetched. >> a texas judge is not empowered to move a trial out of the state, is he? >> no. as a matter of fact, that's not a possibility. >> and patrick murphy, to go back to the issues that are raised here, it seems like the veterans community has just a
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mix of torn sympathies in a situation like this. impossible to not have feelings for eddie ray routh and whatever drove his mother to beg chris kyle to help him and take care of him and then obviously the horrible, horrible outcome for chris kyle and chad littlefield. a tragedy and a horrible crime committed against them. >> yeah, to read the transcripts how chris kyle's widow left the courtroom today because they were talking about as if eddie routhh's mother would have told chris kyle how violent he was in the past, that 20-20 hindsight they'll be playing for the rest of their lives. the bottom line is, you have two great american veterans, you
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know, who are up in heaven right now. and you have another marine who killed them, who is just convicted. and will spend the rest of his life in jail. that's three lives and three families that will never get back that person that they gave the u.s. military several years ago. all three of which are combat veterans. >> brian weiss, what were the two different times that were possible to tonight? what is the difference between being institutionalized for criminal mental illness in texas versus life in prison? assuming he never would have been released as a mental patient, because that is the huge difference is it does leave open at least at minimum the technical possibility that he could, at some point, have been released from custody. >> sure, lawrence. once he pulled the trigger two
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years ago, it was clear that he was never going to see the free world as you and i know it. whether it was life without parole in the institutional division of the texas department of criminal justice, or whether it's a lockdown 24-7, stringent mental health facility. at the end of the day, this man's life was over as he knew it as soon as he ended the lives of these two great american heroes. lawrence? >> judge snipes, what is the difference in those facilities? how grim or how positive an atmosphere would the mental institution be? do we not have michael snipes anymore? brian weiss, can you deal with that, do we know much about the difference between the texas mental health facility that the
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finding criminal insanity would have led him to, the difference between the life lived there and in prison? >> not a tremendous amount of difference. in the confines of the texas department of criminal justice, you have guards with guns and 24-hour lockdown. it's not that much different in the type of mental facility that eddie ray routh would have been confined to. while the judge would have retained jurisdiction over this case and conceivably could have had the ability to modify or ultimately release this defendant, if he believed that eddie ray routh was no longer a danger, but obviously that was never going to be an issue. >> we are awaiting a statement from possibly one of the relatives from chad littlefield. we have microphones and cameras set up there, just outside the courtroom. charles hadlock, if you're still
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with us outside the courtroom, is there anymore word on who might be appearing in front of those microphones? >> reporter: not yet, lawrence. i will say that at the opening of the closing statements by the prosecution, they said that this should not be the american sniper trial, because two people i doed that day, chris kyle and his best friend chad littlefield. they were just trying to help eddie ray routh. they were taking him out to an upscale shooting range here, and they were trying to help him. in that long ride, about a 90-minute ride out there, the two men texted each other, that this guy is straight up nuts. and chad littlefield responded, "watch my 6:00, he's right behind me." but the prosecution said we don't know what the two men thought of eddie ray routh. but when they got to the lodge, they unloaded their truck that was full of guns.
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a dozen or so guns were unloaded. if they thought he was that dangerous, they probably couldn't have done that. they thought they were trying to help him. instead, eddie ray routh shot them in the back, one, two, three, four, five, six times, each man. each man had a service revolver in their hollister. they never had a chance to pull it out, because eddie ray routh surprised them, the prosecutor said, by shooting them in the back. and he asked the jury to find them guilty. they killed two men in this county. find them guilty. those were the last words the prosecutor said to the jury. and less than two hours later -- >> charles, we seem to have chad littlefield's mother now, possibly approaching the microphones outside the com. she is now approaching those microphones. >> good evening. we just want to say that we've
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waited two years for god to get justice for us on behalf of our son. and as always, god has proved to be faithful. and we're so thrilled that we have the verdict that we have tonight. and thank you, guys, for being so compassionate. and treating us with love and honoring us. thank you very much. >> thank you. >> that was judy littlefield, mother of chad littlefield, the second man who was killed. judged by this jury to have been criminally murdered by eddie ray routh at that shooting range in texas two years ago. judge michael snipes, i think urbach with us now with the
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audio. the situation that a judge is facing on the issue of sentencing here, it's automatic obviously when this comes back, you've told us about that, that it's automatic life in prison. we were discussing the actual day-to-day life difference between that and the opposite verdict, which would have sent eddie ray routh into a confined mental institution. what is your understanding of the day-to-day life difference in those two facilities? >> contrary to what one of the analysts said, it's a significant difference. the mental institutions are about rehabilitating the individual that's assigned there, it's not about punishment but trying to make them better. ultimately, there's the possibility that they could be found to be sane later, and a judge could decide to allow them to go back into society.
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in addition to that, there's no sort of barbed razor wires, no prison guards. it's very different. i'm not saying it's a walk in the park, but it's not a locked down facility like you might have down at the texas temperature of corrections in huntsville. >> i want to go to more of what the prosecution had to say in the closing argument. he argued that eddie ray routh was not criminally insane, but the argument he was high, on drugs. let's listen to this part. >> he got up early, drank some vodka from the freezer, drank whisky when his uncle james came over. smoked some leftover marijuana. then smoked some more with his uncle. the guy is intoxicated.
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and remember, we're talking about 3:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon, after all of this going on in the morning, drinking and smoking. we're talking about is he under the influence of some substance 3:00, 4:00 in the afternoon when he killed these men? >> charles hadlock, that gave the jury an alternative to the insanity defense as much as anything else, this was someone mixed up on drugs and alcohol. >> that's correct. and that was their position from the beginning. the state said this man may have had emotional problems, but he was not insane at the time of the killings. they claimed he was high on drugs and alcohol, that he had a problem with drugs and alcohol since he was a teenager. they continued until the morning that chris kyle came to pick him up to take him to the shooting range.
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>> i would like to hear more from the prosecutors, since now this video is just now becoming available to us, the judge did not allow us to use any of the video and audio during the trial. so it's now available. i want to get what the prosecutor said today about the -- i'm sorry, what we now have actually, we now have the right to use video from much earlier in the trial. i want to get to a spot where eddie ray routh's mother talked about asking for help. >> he got out of the military -- [ inaudible ] >> that was obviously the attorney describing the mother's approach to this. brian weiss, the defense obviously had very little to talk about here. it was going to turn on entirely whether or not this doctor
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accepted the psychiatrist's system. it seems any sympathetic chords that could be struck by family testimony were going to be more than overwhelmed by the emotional testimony coming from chris kyle's widow and others. >> and not just that, lawrence. obviously this story recognizes that all of our relatives, our moms, dads, brothers and sisters, would want to do what they could if we were found sitting at the defense table. this was a question of what expert, this jury ultimately found more critical. in a situation like this, where the state has the opportunity for rebuttal and particularly with that powerful, compelling and ultimately inculpatory evidence during the taped phone calls, it's something that this jury embraced, because in their
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mind's eye it's what the law and facts required. >> i want to go to an earlier decision that the judge made in this trial, and that was to not sequester the jury. the jury was allowed to come and go every day. they were exposed to all of the news media, instructed to not pay attention to it. but michael snipes, the instruction to not pay any attention to it is very different from sequestering. judges around the down trip at different times decide it's just an inhumane kind of pressure on jurors if we allow them to be out there in the world surrounded by all this media. what is your reaction to the judge's decision not to sequester this jury? >> it's also kind of an inhumane question to sequester them every night and take them away from life as they know it. my practice was, once the jury goes out for the verdict in a
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death penalty case, i sequester them then. but not during the trial itself. >> i want to go back to charles hadlock. charles, what do we know about the victim impact statement which was the final procedure that was closed to us in that courtroom tonight? >> reporter: i'm just getting a note from the reporters in the courtroom listening to the impact statement. it's from jerry richardson, littlefield's stepbrother. he says in part, speaking directly to eddie ray routh, you took the lives of two heroes, men that tried to be a friend, and you bill an american disgrace. your disregard for life will put you in a world you'll never escape. your actions have brought humiliation to your family, who will forever have to carry the scar that you have become, a murderer. those are the words of jerry richardson, chad littlefield's
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stepbrother. chad littlefield was with chris kyle when they were both gunned down on the shooting range, not far from here, just over two years ago. >> charles, is it your impression that given that chris kyle's widow testified in the case, that the victim impact statement was then left to someone who had not testified for that reason? >> i'm not sure about that. i think the other guests here have said it pointedly. the victim impact statement here in texas is a chance to give the victims a chance to speak directly to the defendant and tell them what has gone on in their lives in the last two years. i think that's what it is. just a bit of closure for people here. it has no impact on the judge's decision on punishment. that was mandated by law in this
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case. but in texas, victims can speak sometimes at the judge's discretion directly to the defendant to let them know exactly what they've done to their family. that's what jerry richardson did tonight. >> brian weiss, that must be a difficult decision for family members and loved ones to make in a decision like this, that decision should one of us speak directly to this person, directly to the person who murdered our husband or brother, whoever it is we're talking about. i can imagine many people deciding i don't want to be the person who does that. >> it's not an easy thing to do. i have seen so many victim impact statements of the course of the two decades since the victims acquired the right to make the victim impact statements. it was never a god given right in texas until a couple of decades ago when family members in a horrible double capital murder went to the legislature and lobbied for the right to be
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able to look the defendant in the eyes and tell him or her exactly how they feel. again, having seen far too many of these that i can imagine, it tears at your inside. of all the things we can think of what we have to do in life, i would suggest that making a victim impact statement is one of the most difficult. lawrence? >> it's incredibly difficult. i don't think i would be capable of doing it. but judge snipes, i have to believe it's one of the more important advances that's occurred in the criminal justice system, this ability to allow the victims to actually give voice directly to a convicted defendant about what this has meant to them and what they are suffering. >> i would totally agree with that. to clarify a point, it is a right of the victims, by statute, so the judge has the discretion to possibly limit the scope of the victim impact
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statements. but as to whether or not they want to give them or not, that's an absolute statutory right. >> and it takes a certain kind of strength and poise to be able to do it. i imagine there may have been things that you've witnessed where things might have gotten emotionally out of control in victim impact statements. >> and what you do as a judge, you very -- you try to be very kind about it. very polite about it. but suggest to the victim that they might have said enough. >> uh-huh. brian weiss, what is the defense bar in texas take from the experience of this trial? what does it tell defense lawyers in texas, if anything, that they didn't already know about insanity defenses?
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>> how very difficult it is to successfully mount one. i think we have the best criminal conference bar in america right here in this state. and as an analyst for so many networks, including the original court tv, i've seen lawyers from all over america. my position is, that we have the finest criminal defense bar and some of the finest prosecutors that i've ever seen. i think what it reaffirms is that these two defense attorneys did what all of us that have a law license are supposed to do, you bring your a-game, and when it's over you can look at yourself in the mirror and know that you did the absolute best that you possibly could. >> judge snipes, before we go, i want to review whether there's anything that suggests a possible hook for an avenue of appeal of any kind in this case?
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>> you have to review the record of trial. but from what i've seen in media reports, and of course, i wasn't in the courtroom or anything, i don't see anything that would be reversible error in the case. but for people in higher courts are going to have to decide that. >> brian, it's true that unless you're in the courtroom for every minute, you can't give an authoritative answer about this. but the question, if anything jumped out at any point in these proceedings? >> no, because the judge did what we want trial judges to do, call balls and strikes, not squeeze the strike zone on either side and not care who wins or loses. as an appellate lawyer in this state for 30 plus years, the reversal rate in nondeath penalty cases is right around 4%. the eastland court of appeals will give this appeal the consideration it deserves, but when all is said and done, what this appellate process is
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concluded, i am confident that the verdict that was accepted by the judge tonight will ultimately remain undisturbed on appeal. >> i want to thank everyone for joining us tonight. our coverage of the verdict in the trial in texas continues right here on msnbc. big deals. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. two huge stories tonight, both pointing to historic breakthroughs. the first involves homeland


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