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Second retrial set for Arizona man accused in 1991 ‘temple murders'

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A man accused of killing nine people at a Thai Buddhist temple west of Phoenix over two decades ago will go on trial for the third time next month after a jury deadlocked on whether he was guilty of Arizona's deadliest mass murder.

An Arizona judge on Thursday ordered jury selection to begin anew on November 18 in the case of Johnathan Doody, who was accused of killing six monks and three others at the temple in 1991 in execution-style murders that drew international attention.

Thailand-born Doody, 39, was convicted in 1994 of killings that became known as the "temple murders." He was granted a new trial after a U.S. appeals court tossed out his conviction in May 2011, saying it was based on a coerced confession.

A judge last week declared a mistrial in the month-long retrial that revisited the shootings at the Wat Promkunaram temple in Waddell, Arizona, in which the victims' bodies were found with a shot to the back of the head, arranged face down in a circle.

Prosecutors alleged during the second trial that robbery was a motive, with Doody and accomplice Alessandro "Alex" Garcia, then 16-years-old, stealing the victims' cash and property.

As he did in the original trial, Garcia testified that Doody masterminded the robbery, ordered that no witnesses be left and fired each fatal shot. Defense attorneys disputed those claims and said there were no corroborating witnesses to place Doody there that day.

Garcia is serving 271 years in prison for the murders and an unrelated homicide.

Opening statements on the retrial are expected to start on December 4 before Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Kreamer. Doody is not eligible for the death penalty because he was a juvenile at the time of the slayings.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andrew Hay)

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