Ariz. temple murder trial hinges on killer's word

AP News
Posted: Sep 23, 2013 8:19 PM

PHOENIX (AP) — The case against a man being retried in the killing of nine people at a suburban Phoenix Buddhist temple hinges on the testimony of a man who pleaded guilty to the killings and is serving a 270-year prison sentence.

Prosecutor Jason Kalish told jurors in closing arguments of Johnathan A. Doody's murder and robbery trial Monday that the evidence shows only he and the accomplice who testified against him were responsible and the accomplice told the truth.

Doody planned "for weeks if not months ahead of time" to rob the temple monks and kill any potential witnesses, Kalish told jurors. That's proven not only by the testimony of accomplice Allesandro "Alex" Garcia but by other testimony.

"We know — we know — Alex Garcia was there," Kalish said. "The evidence shows there was only one other person there, Johnathan Doody."

Defense lawyer Maria Schaffer urged jurors who heard the case over more than two months not to buy what Garcia was selling.

"In this case, ladies and gentlemen, Alex Garcia is the devil," Schaffer told jurors. "And in this case the state of Arizona made a deal with the devil." She called Garcia a "sophisticated and savvy" teenager who worked police to minimize his involvement and avoid the death penalty and told investigators on a team of hundreds of detectives whatever they wanted to hear.

The now 39-year-old Doody is being retried after a federal appeals court threw out his confession, which investigators obtained after more than 12 hours of interrogation.

Jurors are set to begin deliberations Tuesday morning.

Just 17 at the time of the murders, Doody is accused of killing six monks, a nun and two helpers during a robbery. Each was shot with a .22-caliber rifle in the back of the head, and some were also hit by shotgun blasts. Their bodies were found arranged face-down in a circle.

Authorities say Doody and Garcia made off with cameras, stereo equipment, piggy banks and about $2,600 in cash. Doody wielded the rifle, and Kalish said Garcia testified "he wasn't really into it" and pointed the shotgun mainly at the ground when he fired.

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.

Garcia was just 15 at the time and pleaded guilty. He and Doody have been behind bars since their arrests two months after the killings.

In a statement to police in 1991, in 1993 when he was interviewed by Doody's defense lawyers and at the first trial, Garcia's story of the robbery was consistent, Kalish told jurors. That story remained consistent in his recent testimony, he said.

"There's only one explanation why the story doesn't change," Kalish said. "That the truth doesn't change."

Kalish also pointed to testimony from Doody's former girlfriend, who said he told her four Tucson men arrested in the case weren't involved and that he said he had money because of the temple crime. Other friends or acquaintances also back up Garcia's version of events, including the man who loaned the young men a 22.-caliber rifle used in the killings.

"What (Garcia) tells police, what you heard on the (interview) tape, what he said on the witness stand, fits everything," Kalish told the jury. "He wanted to avoid the death penalty, but the only way to do that was to be open and up front," Kalish said.

But Schaffer told jurors they should consider the source, and consider that the young man who lent the rifle used in the slaying may have been Garcia's real accomplice. That man is now dead.

"Garcia could have done these killings on his own. He had motive and he had the opportunity," Schaffer said. "Or the accomplice could be Rolando Carratachea."

Doody, an ROTC member in his senior year at a suburban Phoenix high school, was staying at Garcia's house when the murders happened. His family had left him behind to finish high school when they moved to Colorado, Schaffer said. Still, he worked and saved his money, despite prosecutors' contention that he committed the robbery to pay for a Ford Mustang.

Doody, whose brother had once studied at the temple, had visited it and worried his accent would lead a witness to identify him, Kalish said. He said Doody planned the robbery to get money.