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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Temple case still haunting

For nearly eight weeks in the late spring and summer of 1993, he was Juror No. 3 in the trial of a young man accused of the worse mass murder in Arizona history.

When deliberations ended on July 13, the eight-woman, four-man panel of which Richard Noel was a part found then 19-year-old Johnathan Andrew Doody guilty of the execution-style slaughter of nine people at a Buddhist temple west of Phoenix.

"We didn't talk to reporters afterwards," Noel told me. "We were so emotionally drained it was like everyone just wanted to go home and cry."

Noel was in his mid 40s then, an Air Force veteran. Now in his late 50s and semiretired, he said that he was shocked last week to learn that Doody's confession in the case had been thrown out by a federal court and that there may be a new trial.

Last week I wrote a blog for azcentral.com about the court's decision. Noel responded online to some of those who had posted comments about the case. That's how I reached him.

"People were commenting as if he (Doody) had gotten a raw deal," Noel said. "I guess he has the right to appeal. But it seemed to me that things were presented pretty fairly and easy to understand at the trial and things indicated that he was there. They can't prove that he shot anybody, but there was no doubt that he was there. Even without his confession, I still think there was enough evidence based on the testimony of Alex Garcia and other things."

The murders took place in August 1991. Alessandro "Alex" Garcia, a classmate with Doody at Agua Fria High School, pleaded guilty to nine counts of first-degree murder. He then agreed to testify against Doody in a deal that allowed him to avoid the death penalty. [Mark Godsey]

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