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Alabama Supreme Court refuses payment bid by professor in murder case

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Alabama Supreme Court refused Friday to make the state pay for mental screenings to aid the defense of a former Alabama university professor charged in the gunshot slayings of three colleagues during a faculty meeting.

The court, ruling unanimously in an unsigned opinion, said lawyers for Amy Bishop failed to include enough evidence in their appeal to warrant an order mandating the payments.

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The justices did not get to the heart of Bishop’s argument that the state comptroller’s office is wrongly refusing to follow a judge’s decisions ordering the expenditures.

Bishop is accused of killing three colleagues and wounding three others at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in February 2010. She was declared indigent, and taxpayers are paying for her defense against capital murder charges.

Authorities say Bishop, who is originally from Massachusetts, opened fire during a faculty meeting more than two years ago because she was angry at the school’s decision to deny her tenure. The department chairman and two other people were killed. Three others were wounded, two of them seriously.

Bishop, who is jailed without bond, also is charged with murder in the shooting death of her brother in Massachusetts in 1986. Authorities originally ruled the shotgun slaying accidental, but they reopened the case and filed murder charges after the Alabama shootings.

Bishop’s trial is set to begin Sept. 10 in Huntsville before Madison County Circuit Judge Alan Mann.

‘We’re left to go to trial with what we’ve got. We haven’t considered any options for going into federal court.’

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‘‘We’re left to go to trial with what we’ve got,’’ said Roy Miller, a lawyer for Bishop. ‘‘We haven’t considered any options for going into federal court.’’

The Supreme Court said an initial defense assessment performed by a neuropsychiatrist, Dr. James Merikangas, showed that the Harvard University-educated Bishop had a mental illness or neurological injuries that required additional testing. The defense sought $25,000 for more psychiatric reviews.

Mann approved the payments but the comptroller’s office, which issues checks for the state, refused to pay. The agency says state law requires such payments to be made only after services are performed, not in advance.

The defense argued that Mann ordered the comptroller’s office to make the payments three times without success and that Bishop’s lawyers repeatedly filed documents asking the judge to hold the state in contempt for its refusal. The justices said they were denying Bishop’s appeal because her lawyers did not submit those contempt requests with other documents, however.

‘‘[Bishop] . . . has not shown that the circuit court has refused to enforce those orders,’’ said the court.

Bishop’s trial was previously delayed because of the comptroller office’s refusal to make the payments.

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