The homicide by Amy Bishop 24 years ago which was not even investigated

Over the years, Dr. Bishop had shown evidence that the smallest of slights could set off a disproportionate and occasionally violent reaction, according to numerous interviews with colleagues and others who know her. Her life seemed to veer wildly between moments of cold fury and scientific brilliance, between rage at perceived slights and empathy for her students.

So we learn in a 2,600 word article in today’s New York Times on the background of University of Alabama triple murderer Amy Bishop. The article focuses on her fatal shooting of her brother, Seth, in the kitchen of their family home in Braintree, Massachusetts in 1986. The killing was never investigated by police, because authorities instantly accepted the family’s story that the shooting was an accident. As the Times’ account makes clear, however, the quick dropping of the case was a shocking miscarriage of justice. Here are just three reasons I have for saying that (there are more reasons contained in the story which you can see for yourself):
  1. Amy Bishop’s explanation of why she loaded the shotgun with which she “accidentally” shot her brother was unbelievable on its face. She had just had an upsetting argument with her father. She then proceeded to load her father’s shotgun for the first time ever. She told the police that she wanted to learn how it worked, because there had been a break-in at the house not long before. How likely is it that immediately after an argument with her father she would for the first time suddenly take an interest in how to use his shotgun against possible burglars?

  2. She engaged in criminal conduct immediately after the shooting, including threatening a man with the shotgun.

  3. She made statements at the time that indicated guilty knowledge of her brother’s death.

The facts as presented by the Times establish that the stopping of the investigation was an outrage. Yet, bizarrely (or shall we just say “Timesly”?), the Times fails to mention the name of the main actor in that outrage. As though teasing us, the Times informs us that the current district attorney of Norfolk County, whose name it provides, William Keating, is highly critical of the handling of the case 24 years ago. But the Times does not give the name of the then district attorney who ordered police to drop the investigation. His name, of course, is William Delahunt, Democratic congressman from Massachusetts.

The whole article is worth reading. Here I’m copying just the part dealing with the fatal shooting of Seth Bishop.

On the morning of Dec. 6, 1986, there was an argument at the home of Judith and Samuel Bishop, a Victorian house among the grandest in Braintree, Mass., a middle-class suburb of Boston.

Judy, active in local politics and well known around town, was out horseback riding. Seth was outside washing his car. Sam Bishop, a film professor at Northeastern, was heading to the mall before lunch to do some Christmas shopping. But before he left, he and his daughter, Amy, had some kind of dispute, according to police records. It was over something Amy had said.

Amy went upstairs to her room and would later tell the police that she had decided to load her father’s shotgun. She wanted to learn how it worked, she said, because there had been a break-in at the house not long before.

Sam Bishop had bought the gun a year earlier in Canton, Mass., and he and his son joined the local Braintree rifle club. He had left the gun, unloaded, on the top of a trunk in his bedroom, enclosed in a case. The shells were in a nearby bureau.

Amy had never used the shotgun before.

She loaded it and a blast went off in her room. Police later found evidence that she had tried to conceal the results of that blast, using a Band-Aid tin and a book cover to hide holes in the wall.

Carrying the shotgun, she descended the stairs to the kitchen, where her brother and mother were standing.

“I was at the kitchen sink and Seth was standing by the stove,” Mrs. Bishop told the police. “Amy said, ‘I have a shell in the gun, and I don’t know how to unload it.’ I told Amy not to point the gun at anybody. Amy turned toward her brother and the gun fired, hitting him. Amy then ran out of the house with the shotgun.”

Mrs. Bishop said the shooting had been an accident.

As police officers and emergency medical technicians tended to Seth, who was bleeding to death on the floor, another group of officers went in search of Amy, who had headed toward Braintree’s commercial district.

Tom Pettigrew, who was working in the body shop of a Ford dealership, said he and his friends saw a young woman walking around, looking into cars, carrying a shotgun.

“I kind of stepped back and said, ‘What’s going on, what are you doing here?’ ” Mr. Pettigrew said in an interview. “She said, ‘Put your hands up.’ I put my hands up and repeated the question.”

He continued: “She was distraught. She was hyperaware of everything that was going on. She said: ‘I need a car. I just got into a fight with my husband. He’s looking for me, and he’s going to kill me.’ “

Minutes later, the police found Amy Bishop, still holding the gun, near a village newspaper distribution agency, where workers were busy unloading Sunday papers. According to Officer Ronald Solimini’s report, she appeared frightened, disoriented and confused, but she refused his orders to drop the gun until another officer approached her from the other side.

When the police took her into custody they found one shell in the shotgun and another in her pocket.

As Officer Solimini and a partner drove Amy Bishop to the police station, she made a remark that surprised him, according to the report. “She stated that she had an argument with her father earlier,” Officer Solimini wrote. “(Prior to the shooting, she stated!)”

Police officers began to question Amy, but her mother arrived and told her not to answer any more questions. Paul Frazier, the current police chief of Braintree, said that Amy Bishop’s release “did not sit well with these officers,” and that the lieutenant in charge of booking that night told him a higher-up had given instructions to stop the booking process.

In an interview Wednesday, the area’s current prosecutor, William R. Keating, district attorney of Norfolk County, was highly critical of the handling of the shooting 24 years ago, particularly because it appears that Amy Bishop’s actions after her brother’s shooting—demanding a car at gunpoint and refusing an officer’s orders to drop the gun—were not conveyed to state authorities who investigated the case.

“It’s not a minor thing that would be omitted,” Mr. Keating said.

Mr. Keating said Amy Bishop could have been charged with weapons and assault felonies, which would probably have prompted a psychiatric evaluation. Had such a charge, or any of the others that followed, been on her record, it could have changed the course of Dr. Bishop’s career, and the fate of those who died in Huntsville.

Instead, the investigation was stopped.

Did someone intervene to save Amy Bishop from prosecution? Her mother served on the town committee, an elected legislative panel of 240 members that set the town’s spending. Or was Amy’s release merely a town’s way of caring for its own, the way small towns do?

That night, after the gory mess in the kitchen had been cleaned up by helpful neighbors, one of the investigating officers, Billy Finn, stopped by to see if the family needed food.

“You cannot imagine how kind the Braintree police were to us,” Judy Bishop told The Braintree Forum and Observer a week later.

Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts has ordered the State Police to review its role in the case, and the district attorney is also conducting an inquiry.

[end of Times excerpt]

- end of initial entry -

James N. writes:

There must be more here than meets the eye.

I lived in Eastern Massachusetts for 22 years. I’m very familiar with “the system,” the depth of the corruption. You can’t get routine government services without “knowing somebody.” You can’t get a government job, or a grant, unless you’re “with somebody.” And although most “somebodies” can fix a parking ticket, to get a bigger favor, like fixing a tax problem or a DUI, your “somebody” has to be with “somebody bigger.”

All that having been said, getting cleared of murder or assault with a deadly weapon is outside the scope of “the system,” unless you ARE a Kennedy. Knowing a Kennedy, or “being with” a Kennedy lickspittle like Delahunt, would be insufficent for Amy Bishop to beat THAT rap.

Unless money or sex was changing hands here, the story makes no sense.

Paul K. writes:

The “presence of the absence” of the name of the district attorney who ordered police to drop the investigation is quite striking. One would it assume it was some non-entity, long gone, whose name could be of no possible interest.

It reminds me of the Sherlock Holmes story “Silver Blaze,” in which the key clue is the watchdog that didn’t bark at the intruder.

Inspector: “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?” Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” Inspector: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.” Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”

The New York Times is the watchdog that doesn’t bark at Democrats.

LA replies:

Yes, there’s a parallel with the famous Holmes story, but the dog that didn’t bark has nothing to do with Times’ totalitarian message to its readers, which is: “We know that the DA who canceled the investigation was Delahunt; and you know that we know that the DA who canceled the investigation was Delahunt; but we are not going to mention Delahunt, just to stick it in your face that we can do what we like, and that all you can do is stew about it. We run things here.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 21, 2010 04:56 PM | Send

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