Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Boston Ghosts Of Criminal Past Continue To Haunt Prof. Amy Bishop, Now Accused Of Murders By Firearm

It would appear that the people of the Boston area dodged the proverbial bullet when Professor Amy Bishop (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) moved out of state. According to Alabama law enforcement, co-faculty members were not so lucky.

The Defendant stands accused at the moment of gunning down said members at a faculty meeting whereat it was revealed that she was not going to get tenure.

But her latest problems are not her first brushes with guns, assault and the law. In fact, the more the media dig into her past, the more is learned at how she allegedly skated by criminal prosecutions a number of times. Some such skating has left Massachusetts law enforcement officials scratching their heads.

For example, one of the first stories that were revealed were about the suspicions about her connection to an attempted bombing of a professor at Harvard when she worked there. She was apparently trying to become a famous scientist (see discovery of her book from Tuesday’s blog). Her supervisor was purportedly not pleased with her work. He received a bomb in the mail after an alleged dispute with her. Clearly, the federal officials did not believe there was enough to charge her and so nothing happened.

However, a cloud of mystery seems to have developed about that situation with her brother.

Yes, I know, all siblings argue. But this one ended a bit differently. She shot him in the back, killing him, and never got charged…for anything. After all, they figured it to be an accident. I made a comment on Tuesday that I have seen defendants arrested and prosecuted for lesser accidents.

Apparently, so have certain law enforcement officials, because everybody is suddenly scrambling to find out what happened and why she was not prosecuted.

It has now been decided that probable cause existed in 1986 to charge the Defendant with assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a dangerous weapon and unlawful possession of ammunition, Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating said in a statement. However, the statute of limitations on those charges has expired, as well as on a potential charge of “wanton and reckless conduct,” the lowest standard for manslaughter in Massachusetts, he said.

Apparently, recovered documents do not contradict investigators‘ conclusion at the time that the shooting was an accident, according to the statement.

A third incident occurred during her troubled days in the Commonwealth. This time, the altercation did not involve her career and apparently was no accident.

It involved…kiddie seats.

You see, one fine day in March, 2002, the Peabody police were called to an International House of Pancakes restaurant on a report of an assault. There, they found a crying woman who was the alleged victim, according to reports. She told police that she and her two children had been seated for breakfast. Apparently, a family with the Defendant was seated in a booth nearby. According to the report, the woman “then asked the waitress for a booster seat for one of the children and the waitress brought one over. The defendant Amy Bishop then also asked the waitress for a booster seat but Amy was told by the waitress that there were no more booster seats.”

Uh-oh.

The report continued, “The defendant … then became angry that [the woman] had the last booster seat and made the comment, ‘But we were here first,’ ” The Defendant then allegedly became loud and abusive to the woman, the report said, shouting profanity at her and at one point saying, “I am Dr. Amy Bishop.”

According to the police, the Defendant was asked to stop the profanity, but said request was not honored. She became louder.

The IHOP manager told police that the Defendant was acting “like a crazy person.”
When the manager asked the Defendant to leave, she allegedly (having no other weapons handy perhaps) struck the other woman on the right side of her head in front of the woman’s two children,

The Defendant was charged with assault and battery and disorderly conduct, police said. The Essex County district attorney recommended a year of probation and anger management classes, but the Defendant instead admitted that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute her for disorderly conduct and assault and battery and agreed not to contact in return for a continuance without a finding.

She was put on unsupervised probation for six months, according to Steve O’Connell, a spokesman for the Essex County district attorney.

Attorney Sam’s Take:

Even in the courts, hindsight is 20-20. Assuming that the Defendant had no prior criminal record, simply giving her a Continuance Without A Finding was not in the least unreasonable.

Yes, she got a break, but there was apparently no reason to believe she shouldn’t have.
Further, if there was no evidence other than innuendo (and it would appear that no evidence materialized later) to link her with the attempted bombing, then she should have been left alone as she was.

And then we come to the shooting of her brother. I cannot answer what she was not prosecuted for at least having the firearm or involuntary manslaughter or something of the like back when the event happened. However, other than a murder charge (which has no statute of limitation) it is too late to do anything about it now.

To me, the present district attorney of Norfolk County, Mr. Keating, deserves a certain amount of respect in this matter. He could do a flip-flop and, to appear the hero correcting the office’s mistakes in days gone by, decided to prosecute the Defendant for Murder. I am sure, especially given the present circumstances, he could come up with some explanation why they now believe such probable cause exists. Further, by the time the case went to trial, all this will probably have been forgotten, the Defendant would be convicted for her latest horror and something quietly could be worked out. After all, how many life sentences can one person serve?

The DA is not doing this and I hope that others in the system follow suit in their reasoning. You see, I have often written about how the fear of “what if I give the defendant a break and he/she goes out and kills somebody” hangs over the justice system like a shroud. It is a shroud which, in my opinion, perverts what is supposed to be a Justice system. It is dangerous to the ideals the system was supposed to be about.

And what does this have to do with you?

Well, it would appear that the Defendant had experienced attorneys acting on her behalf in the past. While it would take a miracle worker to help her too much now, if you were in her shoes, you would want someone who can give you the best shot at prolonging your freedom as well. You want an experienced and talented criminal defense attorney.

So, perhaps file this one under the “It could have been me” category. Well, maybe on a lesser level.

Either way…you need someone who understands the terrain and the risks…such as the omnipresent fear mentioned above.

Should you find yourself facing such a scenario and wish to discuss it with me, please feel free to contact me at 617-492-3000.

To find the original story upon which this story is based, please go to http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/02/17/alabama.shooting/?hpt=Sbin

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