Former professor makes insanity plea in Ala. slayings
Also accused in 1986 killing of sibling in Mass.
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A former biology professor accused of killing three colleagues and wounding three others during a faculty meeting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity yesterday.
One of Amy Bishop’s lawyers entered the pleas on her behalf during a hearing. The Harvard University-educated professor faces charges of capital murder and attempted murder. The judge set the trial for March 19.
“This case will not be [delayed] absent a showing of a very good cause,’’ Madison County Circuit Judge Alan Mann said.
Afterward, defense lawyer Roy Miller talked briefly with Bishop before uniformed officers took her to jail, where the mother of four was being held without bond.
Bishop has been accused of pulling a gun from her purse and opening fire at a February 2010 faculty meeting, killing three professors and wounding three other colleagues. Police and people who knew Bishop have described her as being angry about the school’s refusal to grant her tenure, a decision that effectively would have ended her employment in the biology department at UAH.
After the killings, Bishop also was charged with killing her teenage brother in Massachusetts in a shooting that originally was ruled an accident in 1986.
Court officials said evidence in the Massachusetts slaying could be an issue in the Alabama trial should Bishop take the stand or if defense experts testify about her mental state and psychological history.
Defense lawyers have not indicated whether Bishop would testify.
Mann ruled on several defense motions, including one to seal the case from public view and keep spectators out of pretrial proceedings. While Mann initially sealed court records, he reversed himself during the hearing and said most documents would be open to the public.
Bishop’s boss, biology department chairman Gopi Padila, and professors Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel Johnson were killed. Professor Joseph Leahy and staff aide Stephanie Monticciolo received head wounds, and assistant professor Luis Cruz-Vera also was wounded.
While not revealing the prosecution’s strategy, District Attorney Rob Broussard said he does not plan to show jurors clothes worn by the victims, who were seated around a conference table when shots were fired.
He also said his office would not use evidence about Bishop’s past “bad acts and crimes’’ during its main case, but could do so later if needed.
Broussard said his office has plenty of physical evidence about the shootings, including many documents and photographs, and had provided everything it was required to turn over to the defense.
Mann told prosecutors to be forthcoming with evidence “so that’s not an issue later on.’’