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February 19, 2010, 09:00 AM ET

Amy Bishop's Lawyer Says She Is Probably Insane

Amy Bishop's court-appointed lawyer says the professor accused of killing three of her colleagues appears to have paranoid schizophrenia and while she is "aware of what she's done" and is full of remorse, she can't remember the shootings. Roy W. Miller, the lawyer, told the Associated Press that her failure to get tenure at the University of Alabama at Huntsville was the likely key to the shootings.

"Obviously she was very distraught and concerned over that tenure," Mr. Miller said. "It insulted her and slapped her in the face, and it's probably tied in with the Harvard mentality. She brooded and brooded and brooded over it, and then, 'bingo.'"


1. nyhist - February 19, 2010 at 03:53 pm

ah yes, the Harvard mentality! I know it well, having been educated there myself.

2. eryx1959 - February 19, 2010 at 04:07 pm

And that will probably be her defense. I wonder how the facilities in an Alabama hospital for the criminally insane compare with those in an Alabama women's prison. Probably her best chance at avoiding the death penalty.

3. 22108469 - February 19, 2010 at 04:07 pm

Thank goodness I have that good ol' state university mentality of being satisfied with my presumed mediocrity.

4. malcolmx - February 19, 2010 at 04:34 pm

Not excusing her actions, those adminisrative thugs probably pushed her over the edge. I have been in higher education administration for 10 years at the University of Wisconsin, and I have witness first hand how these administrative thug operate with their legal counsels backing up their sexist and racist dirty deeds.

5. blue_state_academic - February 19, 2010 at 04:44 pm

There's a difference between being paranoid schizophrenic, and being "insane." All of the news reports have talked about how none of her friends or colleagues, even her husband, had noticed any unusual behavior on her part -- other than being a little "weird." So it appears that this may be a very difficult defense, unless her attorney can show that the alleged insanity came over her very recently.

6. drhypersonic - February 19, 2010 at 04:50 pm

"Amy Bishop's Lawyer Says She Is Probably Insane"

Well, certainly no more so than malcolmx (no. 4).

7. 11272784 - February 19, 2010 at 05:04 pm

I am shocked, SHOCKED to hear her lawyer make this assertion.

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

8. cwinton - February 19, 2010 at 05:40 pm

Sounds like a trial baloon.

9. linguisticoboist - February 19, 2010 at 06:13 pm

It's about time someone brought up the paranoid schizophrenia possibility. That's the first thing I thought of when I heard about Amy Bishop's history and her reaction when she was arrested. I suppose insane is not a politically correct word these days.

10. stevenkass - February 19, 2010 at 07:08 pm

How can the Chronicle's editors think this is newsworthy? What's tomorrows headline, "Pope Praises Catholicism"?

11. seiu615 - February 19, 2010 at 07:37 pm

I wonder if "the Harvard mentality" will become a new legal defense?

12. willynilly - February 19, 2010 at 09:02 pm

This woman clearly laid out a chain of public behaviors, over a period oy years, that identified her as very disturbed and consistently irrational. All those who witnessed these behaviors, including her family, and failed to take any action, share in the blame for her latest actions. And as we react to this tragedy, we immediately have another disturbed and irrational person step up and identify himself as needing immediate mental health counseling. See No. 4 above. The folks at the University of Wisconsin need to be certain that there is not a copy-cat action at their institution.

13. tolerantly - February 20, 2010 at 02:10 am

willynilly, read a freaking newspaper. Those who witness her actions did what they could, for the most part, given legal constraints. No matter how creepy someone might be, no matter how off her rocker she seems, if there's no shrink willing to step up and say she's some variety of nuts, and not only that but dangerous, it's a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Just how easy do you think it is to get someone committed? There are families out there dealing with floridly insane family members who don't look crazy and dangerous *enough* when someone finally gets them to a shrink, and then there's nothing you can do about it. There's no shortage of cases in which a family warned authorities about a dangerous family member, but again, unless the case hits all the right bumpers, there's nothing the cops can do, either.

It does sound like in this case the cops could've done more in Mass., but we still don't really know what went on with the cops there.

14. info8036 - February 20, 2010 at 04:49 am

The Harvard mentality? Is that going to be a new defense due for law book history? Followed perhaps by Stanford, Oxford, and Ole Miss? Give me a break.

15. 22228715 - February 20, 2010 at 11:19 am

I'm happy to be corrected by someone with deeper expertise in law or mental health, but I believe that "insane" is a legal term, and "paranoid schizophrenic" is a psychological term. The lawyer has more credibility on the first rather than the second, although if he is even a basically competent lawyer, his statements from now until after the case wraps up are designed for his defense strategy and not truth or explanation.

16. professor13 - February 20, 2010 at 11:24 pm

From reading his/her other posts, malcolmx seems to have an insider's perspective on the misuse of the tenure process. I would call him a whistleblower, not a potential psycho. I saw some research a few years ago that in the hiring process, people tend to hire others most like them, in height, dress, personality, geographical roots, etc. I think the tenure process does the same thing. Diversity is legally defined very narrowly. There are certainly many ways to discriminate.

17. professor13 - February 21, 2010 at 12:17 am

PS. I have an Ivy League BS and PhD, even though I am from a working class background. I had to turn down 2 acceptances into public university PhD programs because they didn't offer me enough financial aid. The Ivy League university did. The faculty member who spearheaded my tenure denial was from a much more privileged background and got her PhD from a Southern state university. When I started working with her she made numerous snide remarks about my Ivy League PhD. If she had made those comments about my race or gender, I would have a winnable case with the EEOC. Discrimination takes many forms.

18. skocpol - February 21, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Water under the wall from the overflowing tub or sink in the next door apartment. Strange stirring, shuffling sounds inside. We knock. Door opens a crack. "Please turn off the water in the bathroom. Are you OK?" "Yes." Thirty-six hours later -- knock on our door -- other occupant says "I'm sorry for the trouble but I have been struggling with sleepless nights and am very hungry. Will you cook me some eggs?" "Yes." We try unsuccessfully to reach the landlord for information about said occupant. Next night, acrid burning smells in the middle of the night. Call the fire department, pound on the doors, evacuate. Firemen enter said apartment. Batteries cooking in grease on the stove. 5-gallon can of gasoline in apartment. Unrolled tapes everywhere. Occupant is gone. Firemen summon police to show the total wreckage inside. "Can't do anything," they say. Next day occupant returns. We stand guard. When he leaves, we lock the outside door so that it can't be opened. Occupant reappears with a hatchet and pounds on the brick wall. We call police. "We can't do anything, and you can't lock him out of his home, unless he is a demonstrated threat to himself or others..." Fortunately(?)he wanders over to the supermarket and threatens several people with a knife. Now he gets arrested, and the police assure us that he will be arraigned and sent for psychiatric evaluation. No need for us to testify. Deep restful sleep. Next day, he's back. "We have met the forces of Evil, and overcome them. I truly am God." Shocked we call the police. "Sorry, but the Judge refused to believe us. He thought that it was a culture conflict between our straightlaced values, and the countercultural tendencies of young folks." Fortunately, we have reached our landlord who has an address and phone number for him in New York. The address is Central Park West. A servant answers. He will tell the mistress. The next day the older brother arrives to take the occupant home. He apologizes. "We thought it would be good for him to be out in the world. We didn't know he went off his meds. He was supposed to be coming home for *Easter* this weekend." Forty years later, we remember the young man, his family, their heartaches, and the virtual impossibility of getting someone committed without their consent short of immense tragedy. I wonder what his life has been like since then? I hope that the meds have worked and there have been no more incidents. I wish that were always the case.

19. cu_alum - February 21, 2010 at 06:50 pm

The legal definition of insanity (at least in the context of a criminal defense) is the inability to dinstinguish between right and wrong. It can arise from various psychological or psychiatric conditions and can be either permanent or temporary. Mounting such a defense will require expert testimony, but it will not require proof that Prof. Bishop had any particular mental illness.

20. adjunctinct - February 22, 2010 at 07:57 am

It is amazing that it did not take long for this to happen. She went in there with a gun and bullets in a bag - are they going to use the same excuse when they exume her brother's body to find out if that really was an accident as well? If I had killed my brother, I probably would have been insane a long time ago.

21. kmurphy - February 22, 2010 at 09:33 am

I suspect that she may have "Borderline Personality Disorder." Can anyone with familiarity with the disorder comment? I have a brotherinlaw with BPD and his behavior often centers around rage, irrational behavior driven by storms of emotions, and narcasism. When they feel you cross them in some way, they can ruthlessly make your life a living hell.

22. bekkajean - February 22, 2010 at 09:37 am

RE: #, 4, 12, and 16.
Almost all of the comments regarding the Amy Bishop 'incident' center on her state of mind or the tenure process. A great majority of the comments focus on a faculty member and reactions to the 6 year quest for tenure and what happens when the vote is negative.

#12 notes that the U.of Wisconsin should be aware of copy-cat actions. I am a 'veteran' of the Wisconsis system and have, thankfully, escaped. Malcomx, #4, is correct in his whistleblowing comments about administrative thugs. This system encourages and rewards workplace violence every single day and it comes from the chancellor, provost, and dean levels. TAUWP, the quasi union deals unendingly with cases from several different campuses in this system to try to bring relief to faculty members who are actively mobbed and bullied. Patterns of abuse have been clearly documented by TAUWP. The violence comes from those charged with 'leading.' Contact TAUWP, The Association of the University of Wisconsin Professionals if you doubt me.

23. dpjenny - February 22, 2010 at 09:50 am

Persoannally, I doubt she really is leagally or any other variety of 'insane'- given the steps taken to obtain a gun, hide the gun, wait for the right moment to shoot. As well, regardless of the quality of her research, she was fairly accomplished. Now, if she is indeed suffering from mental illness- BPD, schiznophrenia, depression or some other not yet suggested disorder- it does not change the fact that she killed three and attempted to kill more. We can not put it off on tenure, administration or the energizer bunny. I am also not sure trying to hang a mental illness tag on this crime does any service to true sufferers that wrestle with thearapy and medications and decide not to harm others. At the end of the day it was her choice. The families of the victims and surviving members in that room deserve better than most of our comments acknowledge.

24. dpjenny - February 22, 2010 at 09:51 am

I spelled 'personally' incorrectly.

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