Associate Dean Dan Filler Offers Insights on High-Profile Criminal Cases
August 3, 2012 — Media coverage of the Aurora Colo. shooting and other major criminal cases this summer continues to include commentary by Senior Associate Dean Dan Filler.
On Aug. 2, Filler was interviewed on Legal Talk Network concerning the shootings in which James Holmes was charged with the murder of 12 people and attempted murder of 116 people, including 58 who were wounded.
Filler said questions of Holmes’ mental state and competency to stand trial will become a central focus of the case.
Still, Filler said, “I have very little doubt that they will seek the death penalty in this case. The politics of it makes it pretty much an imperative for a district attorney in Colorado to seek death.”
In a July 30 Reuters article, Filler discussed the decision by prosecutors to charge Holmes with one standard count of first-degree murder plus one count of murder with extreme indifference. Filler commented that charging Holmes with two murder counts serves as "a prosecutor's insurance policy," because, even if the first-degree murder charge fails, it is likely prosecutors would prevail on the extreme indifference charge because "[n]obody is going to think this wasn't an unbelievably, crazy, reckless act," Filler concluded.
As a guest on Minnesota Public Radio on July 25, Filler said it is likely that Holmes' defense team has little choice but to use the insanity defense. Normally, in murder cases the typical defenses are mistaken identity or self-defense, Filler commented. Here, Filler added, those defenses are not an option as this was clearly not an act of self-defense or a situation where the shooter's identity is in question. Insanity is the only viable defense, especially in a case such as this where someone does something "wildly irrational," Filler concluded.
As Filler told the Christian Science Monitor on July 23, the insanity defense requires a defendant to have lacked the capacity to distinguish right from wrong. In this case, it might be difficult, "because even in the case of extremely mentally ill individuals, most would know that picking up a gun and shooting people in a movie theater was not a right thing to do," Filler added.
In a separate Christian Science Monitor article, Filler discussed the prosecution's potential pursuit of the death penalty.
The media has also quoted Filler extensively on the case involving former Penn State football coach and convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky.
On July 31, the Patriot News quoted Filler in an article about efforts to impose greater transparency requirements on state universities, in the aftermath of a scathing investigators' report alleging Penn State officials failed to respond to allegations of abuse by Sandusky.
Filler discussed the impact of the case in The Morning Call and in an opinion essay in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Filler's observations on Penn State and Sandusky have also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Huffington Post, a Reuters article that appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and MSNBC, a Patriot News article published on July 19 and TheWeek.com which highlighted the comments from Filler's The Faculty Lounge blog.
The Christian Science Monitor also tapped Filler to discuss recent developments in the Trayvon Martin murder case. George Zimmerman is charged with killing unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26.
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