PHOENIX — Deliberations stalled for a second time Wednesday in the retrial
of a man charged in the 1991 killings of nine people, including six monks, at a
suburban Phoenix Buddhist temple after the jury foreman told the judge one panel
member refused to continue talks.
Johnathan A. Doody, now 39, was just 17 when he was accused of participating in
the slayings at the Wat Promkunaram temple in August 1991.
He was convicted in 1993 and sentenced to 281 years in prison, but an appeals
court threw out his conviction in 2011 after finding that investigators
improperly obtained a confession from him.
Doody’s retrial began Aug. 12. Jurors deliberated for less than a week before
one of them said it was too emotional for her to continue. Deliberations were
halted, and she was replaced with an alternate juror. The judge then instructed
the panel to begin anew Oct. 3.
The fresh jury deliberated for three days before stalling again.
On Tuesday, the jury foreman sent the judge a note indicating the panel was
“having difficulty coming to a decision due to a member of the jury not willing
to deliberate and follow instructions.”
“We need some instructions on how to proceed,” the note read.
Judge Joseph Kreamer questioned the foreman Wednesday, seeking more details
about the problem.
“In what way is she not willing to deliberate?” Kreamer asked the man.
“I think she is being emotional,” the foreman replied, explaining the juror
is basing her decision on speculation and not facts presented at trial.
The foreman didn’t say what verdict the juror had settled on, but he noted
other members of the panel have sided with her.
“She says nothing is going to change her mind,” the foreman said.
Kreamer was expected to continue questioning jurors Wednesday afternoon before
deciding on a course of action.
“It is expected that their emotions would run high,” Doody’s attorney, Maria
Schaffer, said outside court. “It sounds like your classic hung jury.”
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 against him.
Garcia said he and Doody wanted to steal gold and cash that they believed the
monks kept. Authorities said the robbers ransacked the temple’s living quarters
and made away with about $2,600 and other valuables.
Each victim was shot in the back of the head, their bodies found arranged
face-down in a circle inside the temple.
During the retrial, Schaffer urged jurors to discount Garcia’s testimony,
saying he was a “sophisticated and savvy” teenager at the time who lied to
minimize his involvement.
Prosecutor Jason Kalish told the panel that the evidence showed only Doody and
Garcia were responsible for the killings, and he insisted Garcia was telling the
Doody’s brother and mother were members of the temple. He has maintained his
Garcia’s attorney, Benjamin Taylor, speculated Wednesday that jurors are
struggling over his client’s testimony.
“Either you believe him or you don’t,” Taylor said. “He’s the only one that
places Doody at the scene.”
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
before authorities interrogated him.
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 masterminded the robbery, 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.
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 was committed.