Johnathan Doody update: December retrial set for man in temple killings

PHOENIX - A judge on Thursday set a December retrial date for a man charged 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 in one of Arizona's most notorious murder cases.

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 a confession from him.

He was put on trial again in August, but a judge declared a mistrial Oct. 24 after jurors failed to reach a verdict, with 11 members of the panel believing Doody is guilty and one not guilty holdout.

Judge Joseph Kreamer set opening statements in Doody's third trial for Dec. 4.

"We're eager to start the trial again," defense attorney Maria Schaffer said Thursday outside court. "We intend to show that Mr. Doody wasn't at the temple, wasn't involved in these murders."

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 said the crime was Doody's idea and that the two wanted to steal gold and cash from 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. He has maintained his innocence.

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. They 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 lying now, while prosecutors argue the two were both equally culpable in the crime.

Garcia "will testify again. He will tell the truth again," said his attorney Benjamin Taylor. "His story has not changed."

The judge at Doody's first trial spared him the death penalty, noting it couldn't be determined beyond a doubt whether Doody was the triggerman.

Prosecutors couldn't seek the death penalty in Doody's retrial 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.

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