Judge declares mistrial in Ariz. temple killings

  • Article by: WALTER BERRY
  • Associated Press
  • October 24, 2013 - 5:30 PM

PHOENIX — One of Arizona's most notorious murder cases, the killing of nine people at a Buddhist temple west of Phoenix in 1991, is headed for a rare third trial.

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge declared a mistrial Thursday because of a jury impasse in the case.

Now 39-year-old Johnathan Doody, who has been incarcerated since his arrest at age 17, will remain in custody pending another retrial — likely to come in late November.

"The sooner, the better," defense attorney Maria Schaffer said. "I'm eager to impanel a new jury."

Brian Doody said a second retrial provides an opportunity for an "innocent verdict" for his son. "One day he'll come home," he said.

Doody originally was convicted 20 years ago, but won a second trial when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2011 that his confession was inadmissible partly because he wasn't properly read his rights.

The retrial started Aug. 12 and deliberations began Sept. 24.

One juror was removed and replaced after complaining the case had become too emotional. The reconfigured panel began deliberations anew Oct. 3, but jurors complained again that a separate juror was refusing to deliberate further.

That juror told Judge Joseph Kreamer she had already made up her mind and felt badgered by the others. The judge instructed them to continue deliberating in an attempt to agree on a verdict.

On Wednesday, the panel wrote that they had reached an impasse, complaining that the same juror was not adhering to instructions and was basing her decisions on personal feelings, not facts.

"Any further instruction creates the impression of coercion," Kreamer said before declaring a mistrial.

None of the jurors wanted to talk with reporters once they were dismissed Thursday.

Prosecutor Jason Kalish argued unsuccessfully to have the jurors continue deliberating.

"They've spent so much time on this, two months now. They want to work to a resolution," Kalish said.

Several lawyers around Arizona were shocked to hear the Doody case was headed to another trial.

"A third bite at the apple. It's not unheard of, but highly unusual," said Michael Piccarreta, a prominent Tucson defense attorney.

Piccarreta said he has been a lawyer for 39 years and has never had one of his cases go to a third trial.

"You ask 99.9 percent of lawyers and they've never had one. It's a tough case to prosecute," he said. "If there is another hung jury, the judge may say enough is enough. It's unlikely there would be a fourth trial."

Kalish didn't immediately disclose Thursday if he plans any new strategy for the third trial.

Doody originally was convicted in 1993 and sentenced to 281 years in prison.

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.

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.

Garcia, 16 at the time of the killings, said the crime was Doody's idea and the two wanted to steal gold and cash that they believed the monks kept. Authorities said the robbers ransacked the Wat Promkunaram temple's living quarters and made away with about $2,600 and other valuables.

The bodies were found arranged in a circle, and all had been shot in the head.

Doody has maintained his innocence. His brother and mother were members of the temple.

Garcia "will continue to tell the truth," said his attorney Benjamin Taylor. "He has nothing to gain from this."

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