Amy Bishop gets off scot-free in brother’s murder
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, September 28, 2012
Ex-Alabama prof won’t be tried in brother’s death
BOSTON (AP) — A former Alabama professor convicted of fatally shooting three colleagues won’t face a Massachusetts murder trial in the 1986 death of her brother after prosecutors withdrew their indictment.
The announcement Friday by the Norfolk district attorney follows Amy Bishop’s sentencing this week to life in prison without parole for the killings at the University of Alabama-Huntsville in February 2010.
In a statement, Michael Morrissey said the life sentence his office would have pursued in the killing of 18-year-old Seth Bishop was identical to the punishment she received after her guilty plea in Alabama, so there was no need to move forward.
‘‘We will not move to have her returned to Massachusetts,’’ Morrissey said. ‘‘The penalty we would seek for a first degree murder conviction is already in place.’’
The office withdrew the indictment ‘‘without prejudice,’’ meaning Morrissey could reinstate it if something went wrong in the Alabama sentence, though he said he considered that unlikely.
Bishop said she accidentally shot her brother while she trying to unload her father’s shotgun in the family’s Braintree home. Her mother backed up the story, and authorities ruled the death accidental.
After Bishop was arrested in the Alabama murders, Norfolk prosecutors took another look at the case and concluded that local police didn’t share important evidence, including an alleged carjacking attempt by Bishop after the shooting.
Several key witnesses in the 1986 case are dead, including former Braintree police chief John Polio. Asked if that would have complicated things at trial, spokesman David Traub said the district attorney’s office acknowledges it would have been a difficult case.
Bryan Stevens, attorney for Bishop’s parents, Judith and Sam Bishop, said he wasn’t surprised by Morrissey’s decision.
‘‘They didn’t have a case to start with,’’ he said.
In a transcript of the Norfolk inquest, which led to the indictment, Bishop’s parents said their daughter was traumatized by a previous burglary at their home and may have had her father’s 12-gauge shotgun because she’d been home alone and was afraid.
Her mother said that shortly after she and her son arrived home with groceries, Amy Bishop came into the room to ask for help unloading the gun and it accidentally went off, killing Seth Bishop.
But Norfolk prosecutors said Braintree police didn’t share key details about the incident with prosecutors, including that Bishop tried to commandeer a getaway car at gunpoint at a local car dealership, then refused to drop her gun until officers repeatedly ordered her to do so.
Also, investigators studying an old crime scene photo noticed she had an article about the 1986 killings of ‘‘Dallas’’ actor Patrick Duffy’s parents, which described how a teenager allegedly shot Duffy’s parents with a 12-gauge shotgun and stole a getaway car from an auto dealership.
Then-district attorney William Keating, now a congressman, said at the time of Bishop’s indictment that he didn’t understand why charges weren’t initially filed.
‘‘Jobs weren’t done, responsibilities weren’t met and justice wasn’t served,’’ he said.
Bishop’s parents said Keating’s review was biased and rooted in finger pointing between past and present police officers and prosecutors. They called it ‘‘an enormous waste of public resources.’’
Amy Bishop won’t go to trial for killing her brother in 1986, DA says she was fixated on Massachusetts case
Published: Friday, September 28, 2012, 8:21 PM Updated: Friday, September 28, 2012, 8:31 PM
DA Michael Morrissey said his office would withdraw the indictment issued against Bishop two years ago because her recent capital murder conviction in Alabama ensures she will be in prison for the rest of her life.
“We will not move to have her returned to Massachusetts. The penalty we would seek for a first degree murder conviction is already in place,” Morrissey said.
Massachusetts does not impose the death penalty.
Morrissey said that if circumstances were to change in Alabama then prosecution could take place, but that is unlikely given that Bishop this month waived her appeal rights when admitting to killing three people at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2010.
Bishop, 47, a Harvard-trained biologist, was rejected for tenure at UAH in 2009 and was reportedly angry and distraught over the decision.
During a faculty meeting on Feb. 12, 2010, she stood up suddenly and, without saying a word, began firing a 9 mm pistol at her colleagues. Gopi Podila, Stephanie Monticciolo, Adriel Johnson, Maria Davis, Luis Cruz-Vera and Joseph Leahy were each shot.
Podila, Johnson and Davis died. The other three were wounded, two seriously. Bishop on Monday also received three consecutive life sentences for the attempted murder charges.
After she was arrested for the UAH shooting, Massachusetts authorities opened an investigation into her brother’s death.
The death of 18-year-old Seth Bishop in the family’s Braintree, Mass., home on Dec. 6, 1986 had been ruled an accident and Bishop was never charged with a crime.
In preparing for the UAH shooting trial, Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard and his staff listened to hundreds of hours of recorded jail phone conversations of Bishop. Broussard said the recordings suggest “she was kind of consumed” with the Massachusetts case.
“We have some phone conversations where she seems to show great concern about that case and talks about that she did not murder her brother,” Broussard said.
The DA also said he talked to a psychologist paid by the State of Alabama to interview Bishop for the UAH shooting trial.
“He said she was fixated on the Massachusetts business,” Broussard said. “He’s trying to interview her on UAH and she’s kind of obsessed over fact that (Massachusetts authorities) had indicted her or were looking at it.”
Bishop attempted suicide at the Madison County Jail in June of 2010, a few days after the Norfolk County indictment.
A closed-door inquest was held in April of 2010 and the findings from the proceeding led to the indictment.
Bishop’s parents were among those who testified at the inquest. Her father, Samuel Bishop, testified his wife and daughter never touched the shotgun which he kept unloaded in a closet. He said he bought the gun for Seth, who was a member of a high school rifle team.
Samuel Bishop testified that Amy was not at all mechanical and wouldn’t know how to work the gun. He said she had been traumatized by a burglary at their home a year earlier and expressed fears that someone would break into the house again.
Samuel Bishop testified that he had reprimanded both Seth and Amy regarding doing chores
on the morning of Dec. 6 , but said it was not an argument and there was no animosity between his son and daughter. He said he left the house unconcerned, feeling as though the issue had been resolved.
Judith Bishop testified that she and Seth arrived home at about the same time. He helped her bring groceries in the house. They were standing side by side setting bags on the counter when Amy Bishop came through the door holding a shotgun, she said.
“She was carrying the shotgun and said ‘Help me unload this,’” Mrs. Bishop said. “He went to reach for it. I mean he put his hands up to reach for it, and I said ‘Don’t point it at anyone” and she turned and it fired.”
Mrs. Bishop testified that she called 911 and Amy left to go find a next-door neighbor who was a nurse. Amy Bishop brought the gun with her and after calling for the neighbor wandered down the street, her mother testified.
Police witnesses testified that Bishop went to a nearby Ford dealership, held up employees at gunpoint and demanded keys to a car.
Shortly after that, Bishop was confronted by Braintree police officer Timothy Murphy. He testified she stood in front of him, pointing the gun at him and not speaking.
“…I told her to lower the weapon, to drop the weapon,” Murphy testified. “I’m a police officer, so lower the weapon. It appeared to me like it was about five minutes but it was probably maybe a minute, and she lowered the weapon.”
Broussard said he had spoken to Morrissey about the case and told him that life in prison without parole in Alabama means just that.
The Braintree murder case would not have been easy to try, Broussard said, and would have largely depended on circumstantial evidence, such as the workings of the shotgun.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a state’s case get stronger with age, unless it’s newly discovered evidence,” Broussard said. “For the most part the passage of time is not a helpful condition for a successful prosecution. And from what I know from their facts, the only eyewitness is the mother.
“I believe she’s always said it was an accident.”