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Phoenix-area Buddhist temple slayings trial draws to close

PHOENIX -- Closing arguments are set for Monday in the trial of a man charged in the 1991 killings of nine people at a suburban Phoenix Buddhist temple.

Prosecutors rested their case last week. Defense attorneys then rested without calling any witnesses, contending the state did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Johnathan A. Doody was 17 when he was accused of participating in the slayings of six monks and three others, at the Wat Promkunaram temple.

He was found guilty in 1993 and sentenced to 281 years in prison. But an appeals court threw out his conviction in 2011 after ruling that investigators improperly obtained his confession.

Deliberations during his second trial were halted several times, including once when a juror was removed from the case after complaining it had become too emotional. The judge eventually declared a mistrial in October after the panel failed to reach a verdict.

Doody's third trial began Dec. 4. He has maintained his innocence.

Allesandro "Alex" Garcia pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced to life in prison in exchange for his testimony and a promise that prosecutors wouldn't seek the death penalty.

During the retrials, Garcia described for jurors how the crime was Doody's idea, aimed at stealing about $2,600 cash and valuables from the monks.

Garcia said he tried to persuade Doody not to kill the victims after the robbery, but Doody was determined to leave behind no witnesses.

Police eventually found the stolen items at Garcia's house, where Doody was staying at the time.

Doody's brother and mother were members of the temple, but neither were there the night of the shootings.

Defense attorneys said Garcia is lying and implicated Doody to avoid a death sentence, pointing out to jurors how he initially implicated four other men from Tucson who were later found to have had nothing to do with the crime.

Prosecutors said both men are equally culpable.

In his confession, Doody said he went to the temple with Garcia but claimed he was outside when the shootings occurred. The appeals court's decision meant prosecutors couldn't use Doody's confession at his retrials. They instead relied largely on Garcia's testimony.

Doody was spared the death penalty in his first trial.

Prosecutors couldn't seek the death penalty in Doody's retrials because of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibits authorities from pursuing that punishment against defendants who were younger than 18 years old when the crime occurred.

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