The district attorney whose office will prosecute Amy Bishop had no comment today on her defense attorney's suggestion that she is mentally ill, but he said it wouldn't be unusual for someone in circumstances like Bishop's to plead insanity.
"This is certainly not the first case Iíve ever seen or handled where someone essentially is caught in the act and the next thing you know they are insane," said Madison County District Attorney Robert Broussard.
Generally, he said, juries in his jurisdiction seldom acquit defendants who plead insanity.
"In my experience, the public sees insanity defenses for what theyíre worth, which is not much," Broussard said, adding that any expert who testifies that a defendant is insane is giving an opinion, not a scientific fact.
"All they are are opinions," he said. "You can hire someone to say pretty much what you want. It will be left to a jury that studies the facts and the background and the jury will study the law and the jury will decide."
Bishop is accused of shooting six people, three of them fatally, at a University of Alabama Huntsville faculty meeting last Friday. Roy W. Miller, Bishop's court-appointed attorney, said today that she is likely insane.
Broussard said that if a defense lawyer pursues an insanity defense, he or she leaves the door open for a prosecutor to look into all aspects of the defendant's life, including prior crimes.
That means that if Miller tries to argue that Bishop was insane at the time of the Alabama shootings, Broussard could introduce evidence from the 1986 killing of Seth Bishop, Amy Bishop's brother, who died after Bishop shot him in the chest with a 12-gauge shotgun. The shooting was ruled accidental at the time, but new questions about the way the case was handled have raised doubts about whether Bishop should have been charged. After shooting her brother in their Braintree home, Bishop fled, still holding the shotgun, according to Braintree police reports written at that time. She pointed the weapon at a mechanic in an auto body shop and had to be apprehended by police at gunpoint.
Broussard said he plans to be in touch with Massachusetts authorities about the Braintree case. He said he was disappointed to learn of the way police handled the shooting more than 20 years ago, but was glad to learn authorities were now reviewing how the investigation was conducted.
"I think itís impossible not to have those feelings of frustration of what could have been had authorities up in Massachusetts perhaps done what they should have done," Broussard said. "But I donít waste a lot of time on what might have been and looking backwards."
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