The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

November 20, 2012

Bishop lawyers get $553K for work, more possible


Associated Press

— BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Two court-appointed lawyers who represented Amy Bishop before she pleaded guilty to shooting six colleagues — killing three — at the University of Alabama in Huntsville will receive about $550,000 from the state for their work, and more payments could be coming.

Circuit Judge Alan Mann ordered a payment of $452,681 on Tuesday for Barry Abston, one of three attorneys who represented Bishop at taxpayer expense on capital murder and attempted murder charges after she was declared indigent.

Mann earlier ruled that another defense lawyer, Roy Miller, would get $100,426. Mann also ruled that attorney Robert Tuten was due compensation for his defense work on the complex case, but the judge did not immediately set an amount.

Some of the payments to lawyers could include thousands of dollars in expenses for testing by mental health experts or medical scans, but a breakdown amount wasn't available.

While Abston did not return a message seeking comment, Miller said his payment included several thousand dollars for travel and lodging for a week in Massachusetts, Bishop's home state.

"We have to front capital cases in Alabama," said Miller. "We don't get paid until it's over."

Bishop, a biology professor educated at Harvard University, is serving life for her colleagues' killings. She pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors that allowed her to avoid a possible death sentence.

While Bishop waived her right to an appeal under the agreement, she instructed her lawyers to challenge the conviction and sentence anyway. Abston, Miller and Tuten withdrew from the case, and the judge appointed a new attorney to represent Bishop during the appeal. Taxpayers will fund that lawyer, too.

Miller said he worked on the case for about 30 months and wasn't paid until Mann approved his compensation request last week.

Bishop also had a court appointed lawyer in Massachusetts, where she was charged in the shotgun slaying of her brother — which originally was ruled an accident when it occurred in 1986 — after the Alabama shooting. Prosecutors in Massachusetts decided again pursuing the case after Bishop pleaded guilty in Alabama.