Published September 24, 2012
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A Harvard-educated biologist was sentenced to life in prison without parole Monday after being convicted of going on a shooting rampage during a faculty meeting at an Alabama university, killing three colleagues and wounding three others in 2010.
The jury deliberated for about 20 minutes before convicting Amy Bishop. The former professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville showed no reaction as the verdict was read. She did not speak in court, but her attorney said she has often expressed great remorse for the victims and their families.
"She is shattered beyond belief," attorney Roy Miller said.
Bishop avoided a death sentence by pleading guilty earlier this month to the shootings on Feb. 12, 2010. Before the guilty plea -- which she signed with a barely legible scrawl -- her attorneys had said they planned to use an insanity defense.
However, she was still required to have a brief trial because she admitted to a capital murder charge.
And she still could face a trial in Massachusetts, where she is charged in the 1986 killing of her 18-year-old brother. Seth Bishop's death had been ruled an accident after Amy Bishop told investigators she shot him in the family's Braintree home as she tried to unload her father's gun. But the Alabama shootings prompted a new investigation and charges. Prosecutors have said they would wait until after sentencing in the Alabama case to determine whether to put Bishop on trial in Massachusetts.
Bishop killed her boss, biology department chairman Gopi Padila, plus professors Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel Johnson. Associate professor Joseph Leahy, staff aide Stephanie Monticciolo and assistant professor Luis Cruz-Vera were shot and wounded.
Leahy said he was satisfied with the verdict and life sentence, but no amount of remorse by Bishop could change what she'd done.
"She has just sort of ceased to exist for me," he told reporters after the brief trial.
A police investigator testified that Bishop initially denied having anything to do with the rampage. And during the trial, Bishop shook her head anytime the judge or prosecutors described the killings as intentional.
District Attorney Rob Broussard said Bishop's reaction in court didn't make sense.
"You can't take a loaded 9 mm and hold it inches away from human beings' heads and tell me you didn't mean to do that," said Broussard.
Investigator Charlie Gray also said police believe Bishop opened fire during the faculty meeting because she was angry over being denied tenure, which effectively ended her career at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
"She would say, `It didn't happen. I wasn't there. It wasn't me,"' Gray said.
Bishop wore a red jail uniform in court and was shackled at the feet, seated between two attorneys at the defense table.
Also in court, sitting behind prosecutors, were relatives of the people killed in the rampage.
The only other witness to testify was Debra Moriarity, now the chairman of biological sciences at UAH. She testified about how a routine Friday afternoon faculty meeting turned into a scene of carnage with no warning.
Moriarty testified that Amy Bishop sat unusually silent during the nearly hourlong faculty meeting, during which discussions ran from a spring open house to plans for the following fall. People were seated around a crowded conference table in a small room on a chilly, overcast day, she said.
Moriarity said she glanced down at a piece of paper on the table. "And there was a loud bang," she said.
Moriarity said more shots followed in quick succession without Bishop ever saying a word. Moriarity said she was looking directly at Bishop when she shot professor Maria Ragland Davis, who was killed instantly while still seated at the table.
Moriarity said she dove under the table for safety and tried to grab Bishop's legs, but the woman stepped out of her grasp. "I was saying, 'Stop, Amy, stop. Don't do this. I've helped you before, I'll help you again.'"
Moriarity said Bishop pointed the gun at her and pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. She said Bishop continued trying to shoot her in a hall outside, but the gun had jammed.