APNewsBreak: Ex-Ala. prof convinced to take plea

AP News
Posted: Sep 25, 2012 6:02 PM
APNewsBreak: Ex-Ala. prof convinced to take plea

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A former college professor who killed three people and wounded three others during a faculty meeting wanted to go to death row and had to be convinced by her parents to accept a plea deal that spared her life, her lawyer said Tuesday.

Amy Bishop, 47, didn't want to live among other inmates because she was terrified of being sexually abused in Alabama's lone women's prison, defense attorney Roy Miller told The Associated Press.

"She wanted to die," he said. Bishop also didn't want to "live in a chicken coop the rest of her life," he said.

A judge sentenced Bishop, a Harvard-educated biologist, to life without parole Monday after jurors convicted her during an abbreviated trial. She pleaded guilty earlier this month, but state law required a trial because she admitted to a capital murder charge.

Authorities have said Bishop opened fire during a University of Alabama biology department meeting in Huntsville on Feb. 12, 2010, because she had been denied tenure.

Bishop, who had been held without bond in the Madison County jail since the shootings, was transferred to Julia Tutwiler, the women's prison, on Tuesday afternoon, a prison official said.

Bishop accepted a plea deal only after talking with her mother and father, Miller said.

"She was never inclined to plead guilty to life without parole," he said.

Bishop attempted suicide once in the county lockup by cutting her wrists, authorities said.

The Justice Department is reviewing allegations of rape, sexual assault and harassment by male guards at Tutwiler prison after a legal aid group filed a complaint in May. The Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative said it based the claims on interviews with more than 50 women at the maximum-security prison, located north of Montgomery.

Prison system spokesman Brian Corbett said Bishop would likely spend about a month in a cell by herself before moving into the prison's general population.

"I'm sure that every inmate entering the system has their own set of unique fears," Corbett said in an email. "I cannot address hers on an individual basis."

Bishop met at the jail Tuesday with a defense attorney representing her on a murder charge in her native Massachusetts, where she is accused of killing her brother with a shotgun blast in their home in Braintree in 1986. Authorities initially ruled the shooting accidental, based partly on claims by Bishop's mother, who said her daughter didn't mean to kill Seth Bishop, who was 18 at the time.

Authorities in Massachusetts said they would make a decision later this week on whether to pursue the case.

Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard said a prosecutor from Massachusetts phoned him last week to ask about Bishop's plea.

"He wanted verification from me on the guilty plea and that life without (parole) really means life," Broussard said. "It does."

A spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey in Massachusetts declined comment.

Bishop could have been sentenced to death by lethal injection if she had gone to trial and been convicted of capital murder, but none of the victims were pushing for a death sentence and some actively opposed it, Broussard said.

"The settlement was a just outcome," he said.

Miller said Bishop would likely never face trial in Massachusetts because Alabama is unlikely to send her there.

"Based on my experience, I don't foresee her ever going up there to face that," he said. "Practically speaking, it would be a disaster if she escaped or something happened."


AP writer Denise Lavoie in Boston contributed to this report.