Rare third trial to begin in temple killings case

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX (AP) -- One of Arizona's most notorious murder cases is headed back to court for a rare third trial as prosecutors again seek a conviction in the killings of nine people, including six monks, at a suburban Phoenix Buddhist temple in 1991.

Johnathan A. Doody, now 39, was just 17 when he was accused of participating in the August 1991 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.

Doody was put on trial again in August, but a judge declared a mistrial in October after jurors failed to reach a verdict.

Opening statements in his third trial are set for Wednesday morning.

Doody remains incarcerated and has maintained his innocence.

Another man, Allesandro "Alex" Garcia, pleaded guilty in the killings 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.

Garcia, who was 16 at the time of the killings and testified again at the second trial, said the crime was Doody's idea and that the two wanted to steal gold and cash from the monks. Authorities said the robbers made away with about $2,600 and other valuables.

All nine victims were shot in the back of the head. Doody's brother and mother were members of the temple.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Doody's conviction and ruled his confession inadmissible partly because he wasn't properly read his rights.

In the confession, Doody said he went to the temple during the robbery but claimed he was outside when the shootings occurred.

The appeals court's decision meant prosecutors couldn't use Doody's confession at his retrial and instead relied largely on Garcia's testimony.

Garcia said Doody was determined to leave no witnesses and shot each victim. Items taken from the temple were found at Garcia's house, where Doody was staying at the time.

Defense attorneys say Garcia lied then, and is still lying, while prosecutors argue the two were equally culpable in the crime.

Garcia plans to testify again.

Doody was spared the death penalty in his first trial.

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