CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Saturday, November 29, 2008

New trial ordered in 1991 Buddhist temple killings

A federal court of appeals on Thursday overturned the conviction of a West Valley man found guilty of killing nine people at a Buddhist temple west of Phoenix in 1991.

Jonathan Doody was one of two youths convicted of the infamous temple murders, and he has been serving nine life sentences in state prison since his conviction in 1994.

But, on Thursday, a panel of three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that detectives from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office forced a confession from Doody. The judges sent the case back to Maricopa County Superior Court for a new trial.

"They used every trick in the book," his attorney, Alan Dershowitz, said. "They denied him the right to have a parent there. They created all the circumstances for false confession and they got it - a false confession."

Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor who has represented such high-profile clients as O.J. Simpson, Mike Tyson, Patty Hearst, Michael Milken and Claus von Bulow, said that he will seek to have Doody, now 34, released from prison pending his retrial.

But Kent Cattani, who handles appeals for the Arizona Attorney General's Office, said that he will ask the appellate court to reconsider the case en banc, that is by a larger panel of appeals court judges. And if that fails, the office will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case, Cattani said.

But those courts can turn down the request, requiring the case to be retried.

"It's always difficult to retry a case 15 or so years down the road," said Assistant Attorney General Joseph Maziarz, who argued the case before the 9th Circuit.

In August 1991, nine people were found dead at Wat Promkunaram, a Thai Buddhist temple west of Luke Air Force Base. They had been arranged in a circle and shot in the head execution-style. [Mark Godsey]

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