A former university professor has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for killing three of her colleagues, including Gopi K. Podila, and wounding three others during a faculty meeting on Feb. 12, 2010. According to local reports, Amy Bishop, a former professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, was sentenced Sept. 24. She avoided a death sentence by pleading guilty last month to the shootings.
The Harvard-educated biologist will not be prosecuted in the 1986 death of her brother, Seth Bishop, in the family’s home in Braintree, Mass., The Boston Globe reported. His death had been ruled an accident, but the Alabama shootings prompted a new investigation and charges. Prosecutors had said they would wait until after sentencing in the Alabama case to determine whether to try Amy Bishop in Massachusetts.
According to The Associated Press, Bishop, 47, was dressed in a red jail uniform, was shackled at the feet and seated between two defense attorneys in court. Relatives of those people killed in the rampage as well as survivors were also in court. The jury deliberated for about 20 minutes before convicting her, the AP said, adding that Bishop showed no reaction as the verdict was read. Circuit Judge Alan Mann then imposed the life sentence.
Bishop stood up during a faculty meeting and began firing with a 9 mm pistol, killing biology Professors Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel Johnson, along with Podia, the biology department chair, and wounding Professors Joseph Leahy and Luis Cruz-Vera and staff assistant Stephanie Monticciolo. Bishop was captured after attempting to flee, according to local reports. She is said to have opened fire due to anger on being denied tenure at the university.
Professor Debra Moriarity and investigator Charlie Gray were the only witnesses to testify during the brief trial. Bishop sat silently as Moriarity, now the chair of biological sciences at the university, described the killings, staring either at the table or a prosecutor who questioned her former colleague, the AP reported.
Moriarity testified that Bishop sat unusually silent during the nearly hourlong meeting, during which discussions ran from a spring open house to plans for the following fall. Moriarity said she glanced down at a piece of paper on the table, “and there was a loud bang.”
Moriarity recollected Bishop pointed the gun at her and pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. She said Bishop continued trying to shoot at her in a hall outside, but the gun had jammed. Moriarity continued that she stepped back into the room alone, slammed the door and saw colleagues bleeding all around her. She described a co-worker using napkins to try to stop bleeding from Leahy’s head.
Podila, 52, had a B.Sc. degree from Nagarjuna University in Ongole, Andhra Pradesh. He obtained a master’s degree from Louisiana State University in 1983 and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Indiana State University in 1987. Prior to joining the University of Alabama in Huntsville, he worked at Michigan Technological University from 1990 to 2002. Podila is survived by his wife, Vani, and daughters Bindu and Anila.