Three major loose strands in Bishop case

Tomorrow marks the one-week anniversary of the Amy Bishop case. And it seems that we may not have even reached the starting line of this story, which began when the University of Alabama professor was accused of killing three of her colleagues at a faculty meeting.

There are three major strands, only one of which is being thoroughly explored at the moment. Give it time. We’ve only just begun.

1. Why was the 1986 Seth Bishop killing not thoroughly investigated? For the moment, this is the only aspect of the story getting a good airing. It simply makes no sense that a 21-year-old woman could shoot her 18-year-old brother, flee the scene, threaten others with a gun, and then have the whole thing explained away as an accident.

Boston Globe columnist Brian McGrory has called for Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint “an independent prosecutor to investigate whether local and state authorities were corrupt or completely incompetent.”

At the very least, we are talking about a scandalous level of ineptitude. A proper investigation could implicate everyone from members of the Braintree police department all the way up to U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, who was the Norfolk County district attorney at the time.

2. Who sent a letter bomb to Harvard Medical School professor Paul Rosenberg in 1993? Bishop’s husband, James Anderson, says he and Bishop were questioned and cleared. But there was never an arrest. And now Anderson has been caught saying something rather suspicious.

The New York Times reports that Anderson said they had received a letter from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that said: “You are hereby cleared in this incident. You are no longer a subject of the investigation.” But former U.S. attorney Michael Sullivan, who was the interim head of ATF at the time, tells the Boston Globe that it would have been highly unlikely for such a letter to have been sent out, especially given that Bishop had not publicly been identified as a suspect. Sullivan adds:

There probably were one or two times during my career as a federal and state prosecutor where I felt an obligation to give that type of letter because a person’s reputation was harmed through no fault of their own and there was an exoneration of the individual.

3. What did officials at the University of Alabama know and when did they know it? Given that Bishop was not charged in either the 1986 or the 1993 incident, I can certainly believe officials there had no way of knowing about her dubious past. But her odd behavior as a professor on the Huntsville campus is becoming an issue.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, a colleague had said she was “crazy,” which may have been a factor in both her not receiving tenure and in a gender-discrimination complaint she filed. The professor asked not to be identified because he fears for his own safety. According to the Chronicle:

The professor, who was a member of Ms. Bishop’s tenure-review committee, said he first became concerned about Ms. Bishop’s mental health “about five minutes after I met her.” The professor said that during a meeting of the tenure-review committee, he expressed his opinion that Ms. Bishop was “crazy.” Word of what he said made it back to Ms. Bishop….

The professor was given the opportunity to back off the claim, or to say it was a flippant remark. But he didn’t. “I said she was crazy multiple times and I stand by that,” the professor said. “This woman has a pattern of erratic behavior. She did things that weren’t normal.” No one incident stands out, the professor said, but a series of interactions caused him to think she was “out of touch with reality.”

When he first heard about the shooting, the professor adds, his initial thought was “Oh my God. I bet it was Amy Bishop.”

According to the Associated Press, Bishop’s students knew there was something off about her as well.

Finally (for today), the Huntsville Times is compiling an archive of Bishop coverage that is well worth perusing.