Amy Bishop indicted in brother's 1986 shooting

John P. Kelly

Presented with evidence that had gathered dust for nearly 24 years, a Norfolk County grand jury indicted Amy Bishop on a first-degree murder charge in the 1986 shooting of her teenage brother in Braintree.

The 23 citizens impaneled to weigh that evidence and testimony from investigators who are still alive, rejected the conclusion Braintree and State Police reached after the killing: that it had been accidental.

“In Massachusetts we have evidence that there was a murder,” Norfolk District Attorney William Keating told reporters gathered at his office in Canton. Addressing the handling of the old investigation, Keating said, “Jobs were not done. Responsibilities were not met. Justice was not served.”

The indictment, returned on Wednesday, came four months after Bishop, a biology professor, was charged with shooting six colleagues, killing three, on the University of Alabama’s Huntsville campus. Bishop, 45, is charged with capital murder.

Unless convicted and sentenced to death, Keating said, Bishop will eventually stand trial for the murder of her 18-year-old brother, Seth.

Meanwhile, questions remain – at least for the public – over whether Braintree police and the district attorney’s office mishandled the old investigation.

Grand jury proceedings are secret. And the testimony of several Braintree police officers and investigators for then-District Attorney William Delahunt from a inquest in April remains under seal.

Keating, who ordered the inquest, said Bishop’s attorney is likely to protest the release of Judge Mark Coven’s report on grounds that press coverage could bias jurors in an eventual murder trial.

Questions over how the case was handled were first raised by Braintree Police Chief Paul Frazier. During a two-week probe by Keating’s office, officers said former Chief John V. Polio ordered Bishop’s release as she was being booked for murder.

Polio, who retired in 1988, said in an interview Wednesday that such “bold-faced lies” have angered him and may have prejudiced the grand jury. He said the indictment “doesn’t really prove anything at this point,” saying Bishop is innocent until proven guilty.

While Polio said he also questions aspects of the investigation – such as why State Police did not respond to the shooting that Dec. 6 on Hollis Avenue – he also questions the motivation for convening a grand jury this many years later.

“Is this a search for justice? If it is, I’m all for it,” Polio said, adding that he would be “bothered” if it were anything else. “I wouldn’t want to think that politics is a motivating factor. All I’m saying is this a great deal of exposure.”

Keating, a Democrat, is running for Congress in the 10th Congressional District. In response, his office issued a statement: “The indictment reflects the vote of 23 citizens with no interest in anything but justice.”

In February, Keating said investigators reviewing the 1986 case found evidence and police records appeared to be missing. Several inconsistencies arose during a review of police reports and in interviews.

Bishop, then 21, told police she had been trying to learn to load her father’s 12-gauge shotgun when it accidentally discharged, killing Seth. Her mother, Judith Bishop, was the lone witness and insisted the shooting was unintentional.

According to police reports, Bishop fled her home with the loaded shotgun afterward then tried to steal a getaway car at gunpoint from two men at a nearby auto body shop. Investigators in February found crime scene photographs that showed a newspaper clipping on Bishop’s bedroom floor detailing an eerily similar scenario. The National Enquirer article detailed a teenager killing the parents of actor Patrick Duffy from the television series “Dallas” then stealing a getaway car from an auto dealership.

John Kivlan, who was chief prosecutor for Delahunt – the former district attorney and now the 10th District’s outgoing congressman – said in a statement Wednesday that the newspaper clipping and other evidence that surfaced justified the steps that have been taken.

“Had this and other evidence been reported to the district attorney’s office at the time, it would obviously have been presented to a grand jury and an indictment for intentional homicide, or murder, could have resulted at that time,” Kivlan said.

Bishop’s attorney, Roy Miller, did not return a phone call on Wednesday. An attorney for Judith and Samuel Bishop, the parents of Amy and Seth, could not immediately be reached.

It is not expected that Bishop will be arraigned in Massachusetts unless and until her criminal case in Alabama is concluded.

John P. Kelly may be reached at