Alabama Woman Sentenced to Life in Prison After Victims Oppose Death Penalty


Amy Bishop puts her head down during sentencing hearing.Photo by Michael Mercier, The Huntsville Times

Former University of Alabama at Huntsville professor Amy Bishop was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole on Monday after she pleaded guilty to capital murder in the shooting deaths of three people during a faculty meeting.

Amy Bishop is a mother of four children and a Harvard-trained biologist who suffers from severe mental illness. Defense attorneys sought funds to demonstrate that she suffers from psychotic episodes and organic brain damage. She says she does not have a clear recollection of committing the crime or remember what happened during the shooting spree. She attempted suicide in the county jail by cutting her wrists, authorities said, and constantly expressed great remorse.

EJI filed an emergency appeal for Ms. Bishop when the state would not provide necessary funds to hire experts so that she could prove her mental illness.

She entered a guilty plea on September 11 after Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard learned some of the victims’ families strongly opposed capital punishment. On Monday, the trial court held a shortened hearing required by Alabama law, where prosecutors told jurors the life sentence without parole is a just sentence.

Victims spoke in court on Monday about the appropriateness of the life-without-parole sentence in this case.

Dr. Jacqueline Johnson, whose husband Adriel Johnson was killed, told reporters after the verdict, “It’s very difficult when something so heinous and senseless strips you away of your support system. I’ve come to terms with what has happened. But in my heart, I feel that the loss will not be diminished by this sentence.”

Dr. Joseph Leahy, who was shot in the head and seriously wounded, said he was not actively seeking the death penalty for Amy Bishop. He told reporters that God saved his life that day and that makes him want to be a better man.