Former professor pleads not guilty in Ala shooting

September 22, 2011 - 11:30 AM

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A former biology professor accused of killing three colleagues and wounding three others during a faculty meeting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity Thursday in the shootings.

Looking thin and pale and standing between her lawyers in a red jail uniform, bulletproof vest and shackles, Amy Bishop looked down at a table as one of them entered the pleas on her behalf during a hearing. The Harvard University-educated professor is charged with capital murder and attempted murder in the shootings.

The judge set the trial for March 19 and told both sides not to expect any postponements.

"This case will not be continued absent a showing of a very good cause," Madison County Circuit Judge Alan Mann said.

Afterward, defense lawyer Roy Miller chatted briefly with Bishop before uniformed officers led her back to jail, where the mother of four is being held without bond.

"You ok?" asked Miller, who has described the woman as paranoid in media interviews.

"Yes," Bishop replied quietly, her short black hair tucked behind her ears.

Bishop is accused of pulling a gun out of her purse and opening fire during a February 2010 faculty meeting, killing three professors and wounding three other colleagues. Police and people who knew Bishop have described her as being angry over the school's refusal to grant her tenure, a decision that effectively would have ended her employment in the biology department at UAH.

After the killings, Bishop also was charged with killing her teenage brother in Massachusetts in a shooting that originally was ruled an accident in 1986.

Court officials said evidence about the Massachusetts slaying could become an issue in the Alabama trial should Bishop take the stand or if defense experts testify about her mental state and psychological history.

Mann ruled on several defense motions, including a defense request to seal the case from public view and keep spectators out of pretrial proceedings. While Mann initially sealed court records, he reversed himself during the hearing and said most documents would now be open to the public.