Jury selection begins in retrial for 1991 killings

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX (AP) -- It was a crime that was stunning not only in its violence but also in its location: A Buddhist temple where monks clad in saffron robes helped worshippers from metropolitan Phoenix's small Thai community.

Inside the single-story concrete block building, six monks, a nun and two helpers were shot in the back of the head, their bodies found arranged face-down in a circle, marking one of the most notorious crimes in the Phoenix area over the last 25 years. It became known as the "Buddhist Temple Massacre."

On Monday, lawyers will begin selecting a jury in the retrial of one of two men convicted in the robbery and killings at the Wat Promkunaram temple west of Phoenix in August 1991.

Johnathan A. Doody, 39, was convicted in the killings in his first trial and was sentenced to 281 years in prison, but his conviction was reversed after an appeals court ruled his confession wasn't given voluntarily.

Another man who pleaded guilty in the killings told investigators that he and Doody wanted to steal large amounts of gold and cash they believed to be kept by the monks. Investigators said the robbers ransacked the temple's living quarters and made away with about $2,500 in cash, cameras and other items.

The killings stirred outrage in Thailand, where monks are revered and where most men serve a brief stint as apprentice monks at some point in their lives. Doody's brother and mother had been members of the temple.

Doody, who was born in Thailand, maintains that he is innocent. "We will show that Johnathan Doody didn't participate in the temple murders," said Maria Schaffer, one of Doody's attorneys.

The Maricopa County attorney's office, which is prosecuting the case, declined to comment on Doody's retrial.

Lawyers are tentatively scheduled to make opening statements Aug. 21.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Doody's conviction, ruling that his confession wasn't voluntary, partly because he wasn't properly read his rights by the officers who were interrogating him. The court said the nearly 13 hours of relentless overnight questioning of Doody, then 17 years old, rendered his confession involuntary.

In the confession, Doody said he went to the temple during the robbery and claimed he was outside during the shooting. He denied killing anyone. He acknowledged borrowing the .22-caliber rifle that was used in the killings but said he returned it to its owner before the robbery.

The appeals court's decision means prosecutors can't use Doody's confession at trial. They are expected to rely on the confession of Alessandro Garcia, a high school classmate of Doody who was 16 at the t17ime of the killings.

Garcia pleaded guilty to the nine murders and was sentenced to life in prison in exchange for his testimony against Doody and a promise that prosecutors wouldn't seek the death penalty against him.

Garcia told police that Doody was the mastermind behind the plan to rob the temple and that, once inside, Doody was determined that no witnesses would be left behind. Garcia said Doody shot each victim in the head with the borrowed rifle. Items taken from the temple were found in Garcia's house.

Prosecutor Jason Kalish said in court papers that Garcia's plea agreement requires him to testify against Doody, but he expects Garcia will refuse to testify at Doody's retrial. The prosecutor intends to introduce a transcript of his testimony from Doody's first trial.

The judge at Doody's first trial spared him the death penalty, saying he couldn't determine without a doubt whether Doody was the triggerman in the killings. He was sentenced to 281 years in prison.

Prosecutors can't seek the death penalty against Doody at his second trial because a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision prohibits prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against people who were under 18 years old when they committed a crime.