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Testimony ends in Bishop inquest

Judge could take weeks to file report on shooting

Absent from yesterday’s hearing was William Delahunt, who was Norfolk DA in ’86. Absent from yesterday’s hearing was William Delahunt, who was Norfolk DA in ’86.
By Donovan Slack
Globe Staff / April 16, 2010

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QUINCY — A district court judge wrapped up testimony in the judicial inquest into the 1986 shooting of Seth Bishop by his sister, Amy, after hearing yesterday from a final witness: John Kivlan, who was the top assistant prosecutor at the time of the shooting and did not press charges against Amy Bishop.

Notably absent was his former boss in the Norfolk district attorney’s office, William Delahunt, who had previously been summoned to testify at the closed-door hearing. But after Kivlan’s appearance, the judge declared that he had finished hearing witnesses, according to two officials briefed on the case.

Delahunt has previously said he had no direct knowledge of the Bishop case, which he said Kivlan handled on his behalf.

Kivlan told reporters outside the courthouse that he hopes the inquiry will answer questions about why his office was not provided with key police reports in the death and why Bishop was released without charges just hours afterward, despite armed encounters with civilians and police.

“It’s important that the court seek the truth about what happened on the afternoon of Dec. 6, 1986,’’ he said.

After hearing from 19 witnesses over three days, Quincy District Court Judge Mark S. Coven is expected to file a report with his conclusions and recommendations for charges, if any, in Superior Court within the next several weeks. Norfolk District Attorney William R. Keating will then decide whether prosecution is warranted.

If not, the report could be released to the public. So far, proceedings have been held in a locked courtroom sealed from public view.

Until the judge issues his report, the inquest will technically remain open, and Coven “could choose to call or recall any additional witnesses for added testimony as he reviews the material already before him,’’ Keating’s office said in a statement yesterday.

Seth Bishop’s death at the family’s Braintree home was ruled an accident at the time but has received renewed scrutiny since Amy Bishop allegedly killed three people in a shooting rampage in Alabama in February. The goal of the inquest is to determine whether Bishop may have shot her brother deliberately. The only possible charge stemming from that day’s events, for which the statute of limitations has not expired, is homicide.

According to Braintree police reports, which Kivlan and Delahunt have said were not provided to them in 1986, Bishop told police that she had taken her father’s shotgun and loaded it, but couldn’t figure out how to unload the weapon. When she went to ask for help, Bishop told police, the gun accidentally went off, striking her brother in the chest. She then fled the Bishop home, tried to commandeer a car at gunpoint from an auto dealership, and trained the shotgun on police, who eventually persuaded her to drop the weapon, the reports say.

Bishop was released within hours and never faced charges.

But since the shootings in Alabama, Keating has said that those reports, along with crime scene photos, suggest Bishop may have intentionally shot her brother. One photo of her bedroom, where she loaded the 12-gauge shotgun, shows a National Enquirer with a story outlining actions similar to hers that day.

The article was about a teenager who had fatally shot the parents of “Dallas’’ actor Patrick Duffy with a 12-gauge shotgun and then commandeered a getaway car at gunpoint from an auto dealership.

This week, Coven heard testimony from several Braintree officers who responded to the Bishop home that day and who were in the process of booking Bishop at the police station when a supervisor allegedly told them to stop.

Former sergeant Kenneth Brady told reporters after his testimony that the order came shortly after Bishop’s mother, Judith, demanded to speak with the chief of police at the time, John V. Polio. His version of events mirrors that of Officer Ronald Solimini, who has said that Judith Bishop roared through the station, saying “Where’s John V.?’’

Polio declined to comment after testifying at the inquest Wednesday. He has denied in the past that he played any role in halting the booking process.

Judith Bishop, who testified twice during this week’s inquest, also declined to comment to reporters outside the courthouse. She has insisted through a lawyer that her son’s death was a tragic accident.

Whatever the case, there has been no explanation provided so far about why Braintree officers’ thorough reports on Amy Bishop’s actions that day, including her menacing auto dealership workers at gun point, apparently never made their way to prosecutors, who could have pressed charges even after she was released from Braintree Police custody that day.

Donovan Slack can be reached at dslack@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @DonovanSlack.

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