Amy Bishop Trial: Defense Faces Uphill Battle With Insanity Plea

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Dr. Amy Bishop Anderson is sitting in a cell at the Madison County Detention Center charged with capital murder.  February 12 will mark the two-year anniversary of the shooting in which she is accused of killing three of her UAHuntsville colleagues and wounding three more.

Next month, unless there’s a delay, Bishop will go before a Madison County jury to learn if she’ll live or die.  Her trial is scheduled to begin March 19.

To many, it seems like an open and shut case.  After all, even her own attorney admits she committed the crime.  But her trial promises to be much more complex.

In most murder trials, the burden of proof lies with the state.  But because Bishop has decided to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, that burden shifts to her attorneys.

Amy Bishop Anderson is a lot of things.  Among those, she’s an accomplished violinist, a renowned researcher and as of February 2010, an accused mass murderer.

“There are people in our community who are walking time bombs,” said Roy Miller, Bishop’s attorney.  “There are paranoid schizophrenics that come into this office.  I’ve done criminal law a long time.  I’m not worried about the average defendant that comes in here.  I’ve never had a problem.  What you worry about is the loaded cannon, the paranoid schizophrenic.  They are so hard to identify.”

Miller spoke to us in 2010 before a judge placed a gag order on all those involved in the case.  Probably what he said that got the most attention during that interview is also the basis of Bishop’s defense.

“I think the case speaks for itself,” Miller said.  “I think she’s wacko.”

Miller now says he regrets making that comment, but it’s just a more blunt version of his client’s plea, that’s she’s not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

“Moving the gun from one person to the next, and the next,” said Deb Moriarity.  “I mean, she was there at the head of the table so she had a clear shot all the way down the side of the table, and when I told you, I thought this has to stop, part of that thought was she’s just going to shoot everyone in here.”

Moriarity was in that conference room inside the Shelby Center back in February of 2010.  She says Bishop calmly pulled out a gun and started shooting.  When it was over, three people were dead and three others wounded.

“Mass killings will typically involve some notion of being done wrong,” said Dr. Frankie Preston, a local criminal psychologist.

Reports say Bishop was upset about being denied tenure.  For most of us, that would not lead to us killing someone, but Dr. Preston says in some people, something is missing.

“Whether or not a person has the capacity to regulate these impulses or not,” said Dr. Preston.

“It’s not a ‘who done it’,” said Huntsville attorney Mark McDaniel.

McDaniel is not involved in Bishop’s case, but has practiced criminal defense in Huntsville for decades.  He says if you think Bishop’s attorneys will have an easy time proving she is insane, that’s only half the task.

“People always say, ‘Oh, Amy Bishop, she must be crazy,” said McDaniel.  “She must have a severe mental disease or defect.  That’s not enough.”

McDaniel says every time the defense produces a witness or evidence that Bishop is somehow insane, Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard will counter, reminding jurors after the shooting Bishop allegedly hid the gun, indicating she knew she’d done something wrong.

“What the prosecutor will hang their hat on is, did you run, did you hide, did you flee?” McDaniel explained.  “What did you do before, during and after this.”

When Amy Bishop Anderson goes on trial, the jurors will be asked to do something that none of us would envy.  They will have to get inside her remarkable, yet clearly troubled mind and find out what makes it tick.

Bishop’s attorneys have asked the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals for the trial to be delayed because they say their client has not had access to proper mental evaluations.  No word on when the court will rule.

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