Defense lawyer: Prof. accused in Ala. campus slayings can’t recall shootings but is remorsefulBy Jay Reeves, AP
Friday, February 19, 2010
Lawyer: Prof. accused in Ala. slayings remorseful
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The Alabama university professor accused of shooting six colleagues has a genius-level IQ, yet wonders whether she has been fired from her job — a clear sign that she has trouble relating to the world, her attorney said Friday.
One week ago, the Harvard-educated Amy Bishop was accused of opening fire at a faculty meeting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, killing three co-workers and injuring three others. She is remorseful, but doesn’t recall pulling the trigger, said her attorney, Roy W. Miller. She exhibits signs of mental illness and needs evaluations, he said.
“Something’s wrong with this lady, OK?” Miller said, laying the groundwork for a potential insanity defense during a news conference.
Later, Miller lectured Bishop’s husband James Anderson in front of the media for more than five minutes, pleading with him to quit talking to reporters about his wife. Miller said Anderson might hurt Bishop’s case.
Anderson has said he and Bishop went to a shooting range in the weeks before the killings and has given varying accounts of where she might have gotten the handgun used in the shootings.
Anderson has called his wife a “dedicated, loving mother” and said they fell in love over similar interests of science, music, reading and writing. But he said he doesn’t know his wife’s birthday.
“You never ask a woman her age and you never ask her her weight,” Anderson said.
Court records say Bishop is 45; school records have her as 44.
Bishop is being held without bond on charges of capital murder and attempted murder.
District Attorney Robert Broussard said prosecutors have not decided whether to seek the death penalty if Bishop is convicted. Under Alabama law, the only other possible punish for a capital offense is life without parole.
Miller said Bishop breaks down and cries during their talks in the county jail. She wants to see her four children and was worried about her position at the university.
“She said, ‘Do I still have a job out there?’ She asked me that yesterday,” Miller said. “She said, ‘Do you know if I have a job? I assume they fired me. Did they fire me?’”
University officials have said she remains on the payroll, but her $83,000-a-year job was ending at the end of the semester because she was denied tenure.
Miller said he hasn’t discussed the tenure decision with Bishop at length, but during an earlier interview with The Associated Press he said she was “very distraught and concerned over that tenure.”
Bishop, who has a doctorate from Harvard and has taught at the University of Alabama in Huntsville since 2003, apparently was incensed that a lesser-known school rejected her for what amounted to a lifetime job.
Anderson told ABC’s “Good Morning America” he also thought the failed tenure battle was involved.
“Only someone who has been intricately involved with that fight understands what a tough, long, hard battle (it is). … That I would say is part of the problem, is a factor,” he said in an interview aired Friday.
Broussard, the district attorney, said his office had yet to review Bishop’s troubled past, including when she shot her younger brother to death in 1986. Authorities in Massachusetts ruled that killing accidental, though State Police officials said Friday they will review their agency’s investigation.
Since the Alabama shootings, questions have been raised about why Bishop did not face any charges a quarter-century ago after she fled the house after killing her brother and allegedly pointed the gun at people at a nearby car dealership’s body shop.
In Bishop’s only public comments since the Alabama shooting, the professor told a reporter after her arrest that her university colleagues were still alive. Miller said Bishop now knows three people were killed.
“It tears her up. She’s eaten up about what she’s done,” he said.
Associated Press writer Jay Reeves contributed to this report.
Tags: Alabama, Biology, Geography, Harvard, Huntsville, Massachusetts, North America, Teaching, United States, Violent Crime