ALABAMA – Amy Bishop sought the death penalty

September 26, 2012

Amy Bishop, a Massachusetts native, is accused of killing her brother in Braintree in 1986.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — 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, did not want to live among other ­inmates because she was terrified of being sexually abused in Alabama’s lone prison for women, defense attorney Roy Miller told the Associated Press.

‘‘She wanted to die,’’ he said. Bishop did not want to ‘‘live in a chicken coop the rest of her life,’’ he said.

A judge sentenced Bishop, a Harvard University-educated biologist, to life without parole Monday after jurors convicted her during an abbreviated ­trial.

She had pleaded guilty earlier this month, but state law ­required a trial because she ­admitted to a capital murder charge.

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

Bishop, who has been held without bond in the Madison County jail since the shootings, could be transferred to Julia Tutwiler, the women’s prison, at any time.

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 did not mean to kill Seth ­Bishop, 18 at the time.

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

District Attorney Rob Broussard of Madison County 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 to comment.

Miller said Bishop would probably 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.’’

Bishop accepted a plea deal in Alabama 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 assertions on interviews with more than 50 women at the maximum-security prison, north of Montgomery.

Prison system spokesman Brian Corbett said Bishop would probably 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 e-mail. ‘‘I cannot address hers on an individual basis.’’

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.

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