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On Dec. 6, 1986, Harvard-educated neurobiologist Amy Bishop fatally shot her brother with a 12-gauge shotgun and fled her home in Braintree with the gun. Then she used the gun to threaten two men in an auto body shop before being arrested at gunpoint by two officers, according to documents (PDF) on the case released Tuesday.
John Kivlan was the assistant district attorney who reviewed the original police files in the case. He reviewed the new documents after their release and told WBUR they show probable cause for Bishop to have been arrested on the day of her brother's shooting, instead of being allowed to walk away in a case that was eventually closed as accidental.
“The state police report should have included important or material or significant or relevant information that they had received during the investigation, whether it be from the Braintree police, the medical examiner or anyone else,” Kivlan said. “And clearly the state police report did not include some of this information — some of it very significant information.”
Kivlan's conclusions echo those of Norfolk District Attorney William Keating, who released the documents Tuesday. Keating said the information could have allowed prosecutors to charge Bishop with three serious crimes: assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a dangerous weapon and unlawful possession of ammunition.
The release of the police files, which the Braintree Police Department had said were missing for more than 20 years, are the latest development in the bizarre case that has re-emerged since Bishop allegedly shot and killed three colleagues at the University of Alabama at Huntsville last week after learning she was being denied tenure.
Kivlan said the new information doesn't necessarily contradict the police's conclusion that Seth Bishop's shooting was accidental, but it "would have shed further light on the entire episode."
The 1986 report by the Massachusetts State Police, which represented the district attorney's office and conducted the investigation, should have included information obtained from Braintree police, Kivlan said, but in this case "did not contain the information from Braintree about this incident that occurred after the shooting."
Kivlan defended his own role in the case, pointing to the deficiencies of the state police report.
"You can't know what's not in it if it's not in it," Kivlan said. "For whatever reasons, information that should have been passed along up to the D.A.'s office wasn't. Nobody knows why. So I can understand that people would be, at the least, disappointed that police investigators handled the case the way they did."
Click "Listen Now" to hear the full interview with John Kivlan.
This program aired on February 17, 2010.
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