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Updated Dec 11, 2013 - 5:50 pm

Convicted killer testifies in Arizona temple killings case

PHOENIX — A co-defendant in one of Arizona’s most notorious murder cases
described for jurors Wednesday how the victims, including six monks, were calm
and obedient as his accomplice ransacked their suburban Phoenix Buddhist temple
in 1991 before each was executed.

Johnathan A. Doody, now 39, was just 17 when he was accused 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 overturned his conviction in 2011 after
ruling that investigators improperly obtained his confession.

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

His third trial began last week.

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.

During testimony Wednesday, Garcia calmly described the events leading up to
the killings, saying the crime was Doody’s idea, aimed at stealing cash and
valuables from the monks to help him buy a car.

“I am far removed from the 16-year-old juvenile, the punk delinquent who
obviously participated in the murder of nine individuals,” Garcia told jurors.
“I am here to take responsibility.”

Authorities said Garcia and Doody made away with about $2,600 and other
valuables. All nine victims were shot in the back of the head.

Police eventually found the stolen items at Garcia’s house, where Doody was
staying at the time.

Garcia said Doody first brought up the idea of robbing the temple, and the two
then talked about it for weeks before eventually carrying out the plan. Doody’s
brother and mother were members of the temple.

Garcia said the night of the killings, he and Doody dressed in camouflage and
covered their faces with scarves. Garcia carried a 20-gauge shotgun, and Doody
had a .22 caliber rifle.

They burst into the temple yelling then gathered the nine victims together
while Garcia initially stood guard as Doody ransacked the rooms.

“No one said anything. No one questioned anything. They came right out …
very obedient,” Garcia said.

Garcia said he began having second thoughts after all the valuables were
collected, even though they had planned to kill the witnesses.

“Robbery is one thing; murder is another,” Garcia said he told Doody. “I
told him, `Let’s take off.”’

Doody refused, Garcia said.

“Everybody was down on the ground, and he started shooting,” Garcia added,
noting that he, too, then began shooting at the victims.

Defense attorneys say Garcia lied at the time and is still lying, calling him a
cunning manipulator who wrongly accused Doody to escape the death penalty.

“He’s becoming very professional at telling his story,” defense attorney
David Rothschild said outside court. He added he hoped jurors would “see
through it to the truth” during Garcia’s cross-exanimation Thursday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Doody’s first 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 with Garcia 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 retrials. They are instead relying largely on Garcia’s testimony.

Doody was spared the death penalty in his first trial.

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

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