PHOENIX – Lawyers are scheduled to make opening statements Wednesday at the retrial of an Arizona man whose conviction for killing nine people 22 years ago at a Buddhist temple was reversed after a court said his confession wasn't given voluntarily.
Johnathan A. Doody, 39, is accused of killing six monks, a nun and two helpers during a robbery at the Wat Promkunaram temple west of Phoenix in August 1991. Their bodies were found arranged face-down in a circle, each shot in the back of the head.
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.
Doody's brother and mother had been members of the temple.
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 maintains that he is innocent.
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 was outside during the shooting. He denied killing anyone. He acknowledged borrowing the .22-caliber rifle that was used in the killing but said he returned it to its owner before the murders.
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 time 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 the temple, Doody was determined that no witnesses would be left behind.