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American Sniper Chris Kyle: Film success occurs as real-life murder trial begins

With a trial set to begin next week for the man accused in the fatal shootings of famed Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and a friend of Kyle's, court officials in Texas have started the process of screening potential jurors.

Eddie Ray Routh, 27, charged with murder of Kyle and Chad Littlefield

In this April 6, 2012 file photo, Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL and author of the book American Sniper, poses in Midlothian, Texas. Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield were fatally shot at a shooting range southwest of Fort Worth on Feb. 2, 2013. (Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/The Associated Press)

With a trial set to begin next week for the man accused in the fatal shootings of famed Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and a friend of Kyle's, court officials in Texas have started the process of screening potential jurors.

Candidates began reporting Thursday to district court in the small town of Stephenville, about 130 kilometres southwest of Fort Worth. Those selected will be deciding the case of former Marine Eddie Ray Routh, 27, who's charged with capital murder in the killings of sniper Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield, two years ago at a gun range outside of Stephenville.

About 400 people reported to court to get information on juror qualifications and potential exemptions on Thursday. Four sessions will be held over two days to accommodate all of the potential jurors. Erath County District Clerk Wanda Pringle said she does not yet know whether attorneys on those days will choose to give potential jurors a questionnaire containing questions specifically related to the Routh case. Jury selection is set for Monday and Tuesday.

Opening statements are expected Wednesday.

Trial expected to receive international attention

Pringle says that instead of a typical jury pool of 175, about 800 were summoned. Of them, about 300 have been eliminated, including people who are exempt and others whose summons were mailed to the wrong address.

The trial is expected to garner international attention. The court has issued an extensive list of rules related to media coverage and police have issued information on road closures when the trial starts.

American Sniper, a major motion picture based on Kyle's memoir of the same name starring Bradley Cooper, was recently released and exceeded all box office expectations by earning about $250 million US in just one month.

The film was nominated for Best Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards, and Cooper earned an acting nomination for his portrayal of Kyle, who served four tours in Iraq before retiring from the military in 2009. All told, American Sniper garnered six Oscar nominations.

Routh, who struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder after leaving the Marines in 2010, had served as a small arms technician in the Iraq war and was deployed to earthquake-ravaged Haiti on a relief mission. Kyle took Routh to the shooting range at a luxury resort in the rolling countryside outside of Stephenville after Routh's mother asked if Kyle could help her son.

Routh's attorney has said he'll pursue an insanity defence.

Eddie Ray Routh is pictured in this booking photo provided by the Erath County Sheriff's Office shortly after the killings of Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield. (Erath Country Sheriff's Office/Handout/Reuters)

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