Justices Decline to Hear Temple Murders Case
(CN) - Justice Samuel Alito was the lone member of the Supreme Court on Tuesday to say he wanted to rehear arguments behind the vacated conviction of a man who confessed as a teen to participating in the 1991 murders of nine people, including six Buddhist monks, at an Arizona temple.
If the other justices had felt similarly, the justices would be considering Jonathan Doody's fate for the second time.
Doody was a 17-year-old high-school student when he confessed to participating in the 1991 murders at the Wat Promkunaram Buddhist Temple near Phoenix. The victims, including six Buddhist monks, two nuns and a novice, were found lying face-down in a circle, each shot in the head.
Doody was arrested and later convicted for all nine murders. He was sentenced to 281 years in prison. Another minor, Alessandro Garcia, testified against Doody and was also convicted as an accomplice after pleading guilty. Garcia was sentenced to 271 years.
Originally, a federal judge denied Doody's habeas petition, but a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit reversed in 2008. Later, the full court ruled that Doody deserved a new trial because he was prejudiced by extensive interrogation and inadequate Miranda warnings.
That 2010 panel "held that nearly thirteen hours of relentless overnight questioning of a sleep-deprived teenager by a tag team of officers overbore the will of that teen, rendering his confession involuntary."
Two days before that en banc decision, the Supreme Court drew a line in the sand over Miranda violations. In Florida v. Powell, a split court reinstated the weapons conviction of a man who had previously found success in challenging how Tampa officers read him his Miranda rights. When the Arizona attorney general petitioned the high court to rehear Doody's case, the justices vacated the 9th Circuit's ruling for Doody in October 2010 and remanded the case in light of Florida v. Powell.
In May 2011, an eight-judge majority stood by its earlier finding.
"We can readily discern from the audiotapes an extraordinarily lengthy interrogation of a sleep-deprived and unresponsive juvenile under relentless questioning for nearly thirteen hours by a tag team of detectives, without the presence of an attorney, and without the protections of proper Miranda warnings," Judge Johnnie Rawlinson wrote.
In their new dissenting opinion, Judges Richard Tallman, Pamela Rymer and Andrew Kleinfeld note that, although Doody's interrogation lasted nearly 13 hours, Doody admitted to borrowing the murder weapon after about two and a half hours, and had begun to confess by six hours.
Doody and Garcia came under investigation after the owner of the murder weapon, a Marlin .22 caliber rifle, told detectives that the teens had borrowed the gun shortly before the murders.