Conviction for Temple Murders Stays Vacated

     (CN) – A full panel of the 9th Circuit on Wednesday reaffirmed its 2010 decision to vacate the 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.




     In 67-page decision, which prefaces a nine-page concurrence from Chief Judge Alex Kozinski and a 39-page dissent on behalf of three judges, the court notes that its original en banc panel in Seattle “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.”
     At 113 pages in total, Wednesday’s decision just tops the 106-page ruling from the 8-3 court in February 2010.
     Johnathan 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.
     A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit reversed the District Court’s denial of Doody’s habeas petition in 2008, and the full court ruled that Doody deserved a new trial because he was prejudiced by extensive interrogation and inadequate Miranda warnings.
     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 appealed Doody’s case to the high court, it vacated the 9th Circuit’s ruling for Doody in October 2010, remanding the case in light of Florida v. Powell.
     Writing for another eight-judge majority on Wednesday, Judge Johnnie Rawlinson said the panel stands 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,” Rawlinson wrote, just as he did last year.
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.

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