Ala. University Suspect Wants Report Kept Secret

By Salon Staff

Published January 25, 2012 10:09PM (EST)

DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) — A lawyer for an Alabama professor who could be executed for allegedly killing three colleagues asked a judge Wednesday to keep a report into the 1986 killing of her brother secret, arguing it could prejudice a jury against her.

Amy Bishop was indicted in the murder of her brother Seth in June 2010, after she was charged with opening fire on her co-workers at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in February 2010, killing three and wounding three others.

The charges in her brother's death came after a Massachusetts judge conducted a closed-door inquest.

The shooting of 18-year-old Seth Bishop at the family's Braintree home was initially ruled an accident after Amy Bishop told police she accidentally shot her brother while trying to unload her father's shotgun.

The Boston Globe challenged a judge's decision to keep the inquest records sealed, saying the release of the documents could shed light on why authorities didn't prosecute Bishop in her brother's death 26 years ago.

Bishop's lawyer, Larry Tipton, said Wednesday that releasing the "highly prejudicial information" contained in the inquest report, two months before Bishop is scheduled to go on trial in Alabama, could undermine her chances of receiving a fair trial.

"I think that that's a very important, unique consideration," Tipton argued to Norfolk Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fishman.

Deana El-Mallawany, a lawyer for the Globe, said the newspaper has been seeking the inquest report since June 2010.

"There's a strong interest in knowing the adequacy of law enforcement investigation," El-Mallawany said.

She said Bishop's lawyer in Alabama has already said Bishop will use an insanity defense, and her Massachusetts lawyer hasn't shown that releasing the inquest report would taint the jury pool.

But the judge challenged the assertion that publicity about the report wouldn't affect Bishop's trial in Alabama, saying it could "potentially weigh heavily" on her lawyer's ability to defend her in the university killings.

Fishman did not immediately rule on the defense request to keep the report sealed.

Last month, the highest court in Massachusetts ruled that the inquest report into Seth Bishop's death could be released publicly. But it also said Bishop's lawyer could go to court to argue that there was "good cause" why it should remain sealed.

The Supreme Judicial Court's decision also outlined new rules for the release of inquest materials. The high court said the automatic impoundment of the records ends after the subject of the inquest is indicted by a grand jury or after prosecutors decide not to present the case to a grand jury.

Salon Staff

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