Deliberations begin in Buddhist temple killings

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by Brian Skoloff, Associated Press

Video report by Mike Watkiss

Posted on January 13, 2014 at 5:35 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 15 at 11:54 AM

PHOENIX (AP) -- Deliberations have begun in the trial of a man charged with killing nine people at a suburban Phoenix Buddhist temple in 1991.

Jurors got the case late Monday afternoon and considered it only briefly before concluding for the day. Deliberations resume Tuesday.

Johnathan Doody was a teenager when he was found guilty in 1993 and sentenced to 281 years in prison. An appeals court threw out his conviction in 2011, ruling investigators improperly obtained his confession. His second trial ended in a mistrial in October after jurors deadlocked.

Doody's third trial began Dec. 4.

Authorities say Doody and an accomplice robbed the temple before killing witnesses, including six monks. Doody maintains his innocence. The accomplice is serving life in prison and has testified against him.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A man charged with killing nine people, including six monks, at a suburban Phoenix Buddhist temple in 1991 carefully planned the slayings and didn't miss a shot as he fired 17 rounds into the victims, most to the back of their heads, a prosecutor told jurors in closing arguments Monday.

Defense attorneys countered that the case against their client was flimsy, based solely on the words of a convicted murderer who was spared the death penalty in the killings in exchange for his testimony against Johnathan A. Doody.

Doody was 17 when he was accused of participating in the slayings at the Wat Promkunaram temple.

He was found guilty in 1993 and sentenced to 281 years in prison. But an appeals court threw out his conviction in 2011 after ruling that investigators improperly obtained his confession.

His second trial ended in October with a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a verdict.

Doody's third trial began Dec. 4. He has maintained his innocence.

"This was someone who planned out what was going to happen before he even stepped foot inside that temple," prosecutor Jason Kalish told jurors. "This is somebody going person to person and back again killing them, shooting them, making sure they were dead."

Allesandro "Alex" Garcia pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced to life in prison in exchange for his testimony and a promise that prosecutors wouldn't seek the death penalty.

During the retrials, Garcia described for jurors how the crime was Doody's idea, aimed at stealing about $2,600 cash and valuables from the monks.

Garcia said he tried to persuade Doody not to kill the victims after the robbery, but Doody was determined to leave behind no witnesses.

Police eventually found the stolen items at Garcia's house, where Doody was staying at the time.

Doody's brother and mother were members of the temple, but neither were there the night of the shootings.

Defense attorneys say Garcia is lying and only implicated Doody to avoid a death sentence, pointing out for jurors how he initially implicated four other men from Tucson who were later found to have had nothing to do with the killings.

Authorities "were under a lot of pressure to solve these crimes," defense attorney Maria Schaffer told jurors Monday. "The world was shocked by what happened with the murder of the monks."

She called Garcia a cunning manipulator, noting that without his testimony, "the state would not have a case against my client."

"The only killer, the only murderer that has been in this courtroom is Alex Garcia," Schaffer said. "And Mr. Doody isn't guilty, was not involved in the temple murders whatsoever."

Prosecutors say both men are equally culpable.

In his confession, Doody said he went to the temple with Garcia but claimed he was outside when the shootings occurred. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling meant prosecutors couldn't use Doody's confession at his retrials. They instead relied largely on Garcia's testimony.

Doody was spared the death penalty in his first trial.

Prosecutors couldn't seek the death penalty in Doody's retrials because of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibits authorities from pursuing that punishment against defendants who were younger than 18 years old when the crime occurred.

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