Guilty Verdict in Phoenix Buddhist Temple Killings
An Arizona jury Thursday returned guilty verdicts against a man charged in the 1991 killings of nine people, including six monks, at a suburban Phoenix Buddhist temple.
Jonathan A. 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.
Deliberations during his second trial were halted several times, including once when a juror was removed from the case after complaining it had become too emotional. The judge eventually declared a mistrial in October after the panel failed to reach a verdict.
Doody’s third trial began Dec. 4. He has maintained his innocence.
Jurors got the case on Jan. 13 and, after several breaks, deliberated for five full days before finding Doody guilty on Thursday of nine counts of first-degree murder and 11 armed robbery and burglary charges.
Sentencing is set for March 14. He faces multiple life sentences.
Doody’s father rested his head in his hands after the verdict was read, overcome with grief, his eyes welling with tears.
He believes in his son’s innocence and had hoped to take him home to start a new life.
“I’m just at a loss for words,” Brian Doody said while sitting in the courtroom gallery. “I just don’t understand.”
The verdict brings an end to a bizarre case that saw three trials over about 20 years on the same charges.
He 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.
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 said Garcia was 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 crime.
Prosecutors argued both men are equally culpable and that Garcia had no reason to fabricate his story.
In his confession, Doody said he went to the temple with Garcia but claimed he was outside when the shootings occurred. The appeals court’s decision meant prosecutors couldn’t use Doody’s confession at his retrials. They instead relied largely on Garcia’s testimony.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)