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Lawyer: '86 shooting by Ala. suspect was accident

BOSTON — The attorney for the parents of a woman accused of a triple murder at an Alabama college said Friday there's "no question" it was an accident when she fatally shot her brother in Massachusetts in 1986, despite doubts now being raised by the district attorney there.

"The DA has not gotten his facts right, but that's characteristic of the whole proceeding," said attorney Bryan Stevens.

He made the comments a day after Norfolk District Attorney William Keating announced he had ordered an inquest into the death of Amy Bishop's brother, 18-year-old Seth Bishop, in their Braintree home in suburban Boston.

Bishop's mother, Judith Bishop, was the only other witness to the shooting, and both she and her daughter told police the shotgun went off accidentally. Stevens said Judith Bishop told police the truth and will tell the same story to the judge during the inquest.

"There's absolutely nothing that will be new," he said. "She'll say the same thing in 2010 that she said in 1986."

"It was an accident, no question about it," Stevens said.

The 1986 shooting has come under scrutiny since Amy Bishop, 45, was accused of shooting to death three colleagues at the University of Alabama in Huntsville on Feb. 12.

Keating, the district attorney, has highlighted what he said are serious flaws in the 1986 investigation that ruled the shooting accidental, including that Bishop and her parents weren't questioned by police until 11 days after the shooting.

Also, police reports that Amy Bishop used a shotgun to try to steal a getaway car from a local dealership before being arrested at gunpoint weren't mentioned in a 1987 report on the killing by a state trooper assigned to the district attorney's office.

On Thursday, Keating said new evidence raises questions about Amy Bishop's state of mind the day of the shooting. He said police photos of her bedroom floor show a newspaper with an article on a shotgun killing in which the suspects fled in a car stolen at gunpoint from a local dealership — striking parallels to what Bishop had done that day.

Judith Bishop told police her daughter had been trying to learn how to use the shotgun when she accidentally fired it into her bedroom wall. She said her then-21-year-old daughter came downstairs for help unloading the gun and again accidentally fired it, right in front of her, as Seth Bishop was walking through the kitchen.

The timeline of the inquest is not yet known. The proceedings are closed, but the judge can make details and testimony public and the Bishops can be subpoenaed to testify under oath.

Keating said he might not have requested the inquest if the Bishops had cooperated with two state troopers who visited their Ipswich house last week. The Bishops didn't answer the door, he said, and then Samuel Bishop cut off a phone call between the troopers and his wife.

Stevens said his clients believe an inquest is "perfectly all right" and they will cooperate.

"When it comes time to tell what they have to tell, they'll tell it," he said.

Samuel Bishop was a professor in the art department at Northeastern University, while Judith Bishop was active in local politics as a member of Braintree's Town Meeting governing board.

Stevens said reports that former police chief John Polio interfered for the Bishops in the 1986 case were "simply not true." Polio has also denied trying to help the Bishops.

The Bishops have not commented since their daughter was arrested in Alabama, and Stevens said they won't.

"They have no interest at all in getting involved in this media frenzy here," Stevens said. "They have no comment. They basically want to be left alone."