Inquest into Mass. shooting by Amy Bishop to begin

BOSTON (AP) — Long before three professors at the University of Alabama-Huntsville were fatally shot during a faculty meeting, Amy Bishop, who is accused in that shooting, was cleared in her 18-year-old brother's killing when authorities ruled his death an accident.

More than two decades later, a Massachusetts judge will re-examine the death of Seth Bishop to determine if Bishop shot her brother intentionally. The judge's report could potentially be used by prosecutors to pursue a murder indictment against Bishop.

Norfolk District Attorney William Keating called for the inquest in February after Amy Bishop was charged with fatally shooting three of her colleagues at the school and new details emerged about her brother's 1986 shooting in Braintree, Mass.

The closed-door inquest is set to begin Tuesday in Quincy District Court, south of Boston, and is expected to continue through Friday.

Prosecutors who handled the 1986 investigation said they weren't told that after Seth Bishop was shot at the family home, his sister, then 21, held workers at a local car dealership at gunpoint and demanded a getaway car. She also allegedly initially refused to drop the shotgun used to kill her brother when police confronted her.

In an old crime scene photo, investigators also discovered a newspaper article about the 1986 killings of actor Patrick Duffy's parents. The clipping, which was near shotgun shells in Amy Bishop's bedroom, described how a teenager shot Duffy's parents with a 12-gauge shotgun and stole a getaway car from an auto dealership.

Keating has said that Bishop's actions at the auto dealership should have led to weapons charges against her.

Those charges, as well as a manslaughter charge, cannot be brought now because of a statute of limitations. The only potential charge Bishop could face is murder, which has no statute of limitations in Massachusetts.

Judge Mark Coven, the presiding judge at Quincy District Court, will conduct the inquest.

Up to 24 witnesses could be called to testify. The witness list has not been made public, but it is expected to include Amy Bishop's parents, Judith and Samuel Bishop.

Judith Bishop was the only other witness to the shooting. She told police in 1986 that her daughter had been trying to learn how to use the shotgun when she accidentally fired it into her bedroom wall. She said her daughter came downstairs for help unloading the gun and again accidentally fired it, right in front of her, as Seth Bishop was walking through the kitchen. A bullet struck him in the chest.

The elder Bishops' lawyer, Bryan Stevens, did not return a call Monday seeking comment on the inquest. Stevens said earlier that Judith Bishop told the truth about the shooting and will tell the same story during the inquest.

"There's absolutely nothing that will be new. She'll say the same thing in 2010 that she said in 1986," Stevens told The Associated Press during an interview in February.

"It was an accident, no question about it," he said.

The Bishops have not commented since their daughter was arrested in Alabama.

Robert George, a Boston defense attorney who has been involved in other inquests, said both the judge and prosecutor may question witnesses. Bishop has the right to attend but will not be there because she is being held without bail in Alabama in the Feb. 12 shootings.

The judge later will issue a report and recommendation, which Keating can then use to pursue an indictment or end the inquiry.

The judge is not expected to make findings on any flaws in the original investigation.

"An inquest is to look into the death and investigate the death of Seth Bishop and determine whether murder charges should be presented to a grand jury," George said.

"It is not for the judge to assess blame as to how the investigation was conducted."