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Professor pleads not guilty in Huntsville murders

bishop.jpgAmy Bishop, the biology professor who allegedly gunned down three colleagues at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2010, entered a not-guilty plea, “by reason of mental disease or defect”, in an Alabama courtroom yesterday.

Today, the judge in Madison County circuit court ordered that Bishop’s trial begin on 19 March, 2012. He also unsealed court records in the case.

The prosecution is seeking the death penalty for the mother of four, who was denied tenure at the university eleven months before the shootings.

The unsealed records reveal that Bishop’s lawyers in May asked the court to declare the death penalty (as applied in Alabama) to be unconstitutional, partly on the grounds that court-appointed lawyers for death-penalty defendants in the state receive “grossly inadequate” wages and that there are no state-specified standards for their performance beyond five years of criminal law experience. Four days later, the request was denied.

Bishop, 46, opened fire with a 9-millimeter pistol during a biology faculty meeting in a small conference room on 12 February, 2010. Three of her colleagues were killed and three were wounded. Nature wrote about the events of that day, and the faculty’s first steps toward recovery, in detail here. We also reported on the department one year after the shootings here.

A Massachusetts grand jury has since indicted Bishop on charges of murdering her 18-year-old brother in 1986. That death had originally been ruled accidental.


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