PHOENIX (AP) — A prosecutor displayed a crime-scene photo of nine dead bodies on the floor of a Buddhist temple in western metro Phoenix as opening statements began Wednesday in a retrial of the 1991 murders that shocked the nation and stirred outrage.
The photo displayed to jurors at 39-year-old Johnathan A. Doody’s retrial shows the bodies of six monks, a nun and two helpers arranged in a circle after the August 1991 robbery at the Wat Promkunaram temple in the community of Waddell. Jurors also were shown photos of gunshot wounds to the back of each victim’s head.
The grisly photos were part of the backdrop that prosecutor Jason Kalish set in describing the killings that had originally stumped investigators and eventually led to the arrests of Doody and another man, who is serving a life sentence for the killings and who said he and Doody wanted to steal large amounts of gold and cash that they believed to be kept by the monks.
“There were no leads. There was nobody alive to tell what happened,” Kalish said.
Doody, who maintains that he’s innocent, sat expressionless as images of the victims were shown on an overhead projector.
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.
He is being retried after a federal appeals court ruled that his confession, taken when Doody was 17, wasn’t given voluntarily, partly because he wasn’t properly read his rights by the officers who were interrogating him.
Kalish, whose opening arguments were halted by technical problem with the computer that displayed the photos, hasn’t yet told jurors how Doody is tied to the murder, but pointed out that Doody’s brother had been a monk-in-training at the temple and that his mother also had attended the place of worship. The prosecutor will finish his opening statements after a lunch break and will be followed by a presentation from a defense attorney.
In the confession, Doody said he went to the temple during the robbery and was outside during the shooting. He denied killing anyone. He acknowledged borrowing the .22-caliber rifle that was used in the killing but said he returned it to its owner before the murders.
The appeals court’s decision means prosecutors can’t use Doody’s confession at trial. They are expected to rely on the confession of Alessandro Garcia, a high school classmate of Doody who was 16 at the time of the killings.
Garcia pleaded guilty to the nine murders and was sentenced to life in prison in exchange for his testimony against Doody and a promise that prosecutors wouldn’t seek the death penalty against him.
He told police that Doody was the mastermind behind the plan to rob the temple and that, once inside the temple, Doody was determined that no witnesses would be left behind.
Investigators said the robbers ransacked the temple’s living quarters and made away with about $2,500 in cash, cameras and other items.
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