Shooter Amy Bishop Likely Schizophrenic, Says Lawyer

Scientists lawyer said he will use insanity defense: paranoid schizophrenia.

ByABC News
February 18, 2010, 5:58 PM

Feb. 19, 2010— -- Alleged shooter Amy Bishop has no memory of the rampage at University of Alabama and is likely insane, according to her lawyer.

"She just doesn't remember shooting these folks," her court-appointed lawyer Roy W. Miller told the Associated Press.

"She's very sorry for it," he said.

Miller, 44, said the mother of four breaks down and cries, asking to see her children.

"She said, 'Do I still have a job out there?' She asked me that yesterday," Miller said. "She said, 'Do you know if I have a job? I assume they fired me. Did they fire me?"'

Miller, a professor of biology, is still on the university payroll, earning $83,000 a year. Her position was due to end in May because she was denied tenure.

Bishop, 45, appears to have paranoid schizophrenia, according to Miller. The Harvard-educated Ph.D. opened fire on her colleagues at a staff meeting last week, killing three and injuring three others.

To use an insanity defense, her lawyers would have to prove that Bishop lacked the capacity to know right from wrong. She could face the death penalty on capital murder charges and is being held without bond.

Since 1983, only one woman out of 44 who have been executed has died on Alabama's death row, according to statistics from the Department of Corrections. All were executed at the Holman Correctional Facility -- the most recent by lethal injection.

Bishop's husband, James Anderson, a freelance scientist who has steadfastly supported his wife, said that he believes denial of tenure was to blame for the rampage. Anderson, who spoke this morning with "Good Morning America," has had only telephone contact with his wife since the arrest.

Her lawyer said that Bishop has been "very cogent" in jail, though she cannot explain the shootings.

"Obviously she was very distraught and concerned over that tenure," Miller told the AP. "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."'

"She gets at issue with people that she doesn't need to and obsesses on it," Miller said. "She won't shake it off, and it's really (things of) no great consequence."

Reports have mounted since the Feb. 12 shooting that Bishop had a violent past, though her husband has insisted she never had any mental problems.

Psychiatrists say that schizophrenia can go undiagnosed for years, especially for those who lead insular lives.

It is unclear how an insanity defense might play out with an Alabama jury if Bishop is tried on capital murder charges.

"People in science and computers are solitary people," said Dr. Igor Galynker, associate chairman for the department of psychiatry and behavioral science at psychiatry at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City and professor of psychiatry at Albert Einstein college of Medicine. "They work in solitude and they don't need to interact in complex social situations and can be paranoid for a long time without someone realizing."

Schizophrenia can be marked by social isolation, odd behavior, "strange disordered" thinking and speaking, poor hygiene and lack of friends, according to Galynker.

Often people don't notice signs until more serious symptoms emerge.

"Brilliant scientists are supposed to be crazy," he told

John Nash, the Nobel-winning economist from Princeton, portrayed in "A Beautiful Mind," could be brilliant in his field, even as he suffered from schizophrenia.

Psychotics like Seung-Hui Cho, the student who killed 31 at Virginia Tech in 2007, are particularly dangerous.

They view others as inconsequential and often humiliation can set off a psychotic depression that could make a person violent or suicidal, said Galynker.

Madison County District Attorney Robert Broussard, who will prosecute the case against Bishop, said he would not oppose a mental evaluation.

Bishop's only public comments since the killings have been, they "didn't happen. There's no way," as police led he away after the massacre. "There's no way. They're still alive."

Both Bishop and her husband Anderson have been described by "oddballs" but neighbors and colleagues in both Boston and in Alabama.

Anderson has been talking to media outlets across the country, downplaying his wife's past outbursts.

He has said faculty sabotaged his wife's aspirations for tenure, sending "nastygrams," and that she may have even been the target of a stalker.

"I don't buy that," said Tom Capozzoli, an associate professor of psychology at Purdue University and an expert in workplace violence.

He speculated the shooting was "well-planned," and impulse control disorder may have played a role. But he wonders about Anderson, as well.

"I'd be very curious about his mental stability," Capozzoli said. "I seriously can't believe that he didn't know that something was going on.

"There were lot of trigger events," Capozzoli added, "and if he knew what to look for, he might have prevented it."

In an interview this week, Anderson deflected questions about Bishop shooting her 18-year-old brother, her being interviewed by police over a mail bomb sent to a professor at Harvard University and even the punching of a woman at an International House of Pancakes over a booster seat.

When asked if his wife had mental problems, Anderson told, "I know what's inside the brain, I don't know how it works."

"Part of me is a scientist and I can't do anything until I get all the data in," he said.

Of the revelation that his wife hit a restaurant customer in the head in 2002, Anderson said, "Another patron started it and tried to blow it out of proportion. When someone jumps in your business, in your face, you get upset."

A judge disagreed, sentencing Bishop to probation as prosecutors recommended she take anger management classes, according to a report in the Boston Globe.

He backed up his wife's claim that the 1986 death of her brother Seth Bishop was "accidental," even as new reports revealed that in the hours after the shooting she still carried the shotgun when confronted by police at a nearby Ford dealership.

"She's like, 'Hands up!' and I'm like, 'Yes ma'am,'" auto body worker Tom Pettigrew told the Boston Herald.

Of the reports that he and his wife were questioned in 1993 when one of Bishop's colleagues, Harvard University's Dr. Paul Rosenberg, received a pipe bomb in the mail, Anderson said, "We were cleared of that."