Judge declares mistrial in Arizona temple killings
October 24, 2013 1:56PM
PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona judge on Thursday declared a mistrial because of a jury impasse in the case of a man charged with killing nine people at a suburban Phoenix Buddhist temple in 1991.
The judge’s mistrial declaration means 39-year-old Johnathan Doody will face another retrial, possibly starting in late November.
Doody’s father, Brian Doody, said he and his wife were elated by the mistrial declaration.
“It could have been a guilty verdict. This gives us the opportunity for another trial where he will get the innocent verdict,” the father said. “One day he’ll come home.”
The retrial that ended Thursday began Aug. 12 because an appeals court had overturned his previous conviction. The jury had deliberated for about seven days over two weeks when they informed the judge Wednesday they had reached an impasse.
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, but on Wednesday, the panel wrote that they had reached an impasse, complaining that the same juror was not adhering to instructions and is basing her decisions on personal feelings, not facts.
None of the jurors wanted to talk with reporters once they were dismissed after the mistrial was declared, Kreamer said.
During a Thursday court session, without the jurors present, 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.
However, Kreamer said it appeared that the one juror “is never going to change her position.”
“Any further instruction creates the appearance of coercion,” Kreamer said.
Defense attorney Maria Schaeffer said she was pleased that Kreamer declared the mistrial.
“It was time to happen. I’m eager to impanel a new jury — the sooner the better.”
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.
Garcia said the crime was Doody’s idea and that the two 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.
Doody faced 20 counts, including robbery and burglary and nine charges of first-degree murder. Prosecutors have already indicated they plan to put Doody on trial again.
During the retrial, Doody’s attorney urged jurors to discount Garcia’s testimony, saying he was a “sophisticated and savvy” teenager at the time who lied to minimize his involvement.
Prosecutors told the panel that the evidence showed both Doody and Garcia were responsible for the killings.
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.
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.