New hope for Doody sup­port­ers

A US court rules the con­victed monk-killer’s con­fes­sion in­vol­un­tary. By Was­sayos Ngamkham, Saritdet Marukatat

Bangkok Post - - National -

The rul­ing by the Fed­eral Court of Ap­peals in the United States is not a big win. But it gives lawyers and peo­ple work­ing for Johnathan Doody a lit­tle light at the end of the tun­nel in their bid to se­cure his release. The court ruled on Nov 20 that Doody’s con­fes­sion to law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties was ‘‘in­vol­un­tary’’. But Doody’s lawyers ad­mit­ted they had a long way to go to win the case. ‘‘Un­for­tu­nately that rul­ing does not lead to his im­me­di­ate release,’’ said Vic­to­ria Eiger, from Doody’s le­gal team from law firm Der­showitz, Eiger & Adel­son PC. The State of Ari­zona and au­thor­i­ties in­dict­ing him will fight back by ask­ing the court to re­con­sider the rul­ing, she added. The case grabbed pub­lic at­ten­tion here and over­seas not only be­cause Doody was Thai, but be­cause of the cru­elty of the mur­ders at Wat Promku­naram in Phoenix. Doody was born Veer­apol Khad­kaew to Thai par­ents in Sung Noen district in Nakhon Ratchasima. Af­ter his fa­ther died, his mother Laead mar­ried Brian Doody, an Amer­i­can air force of­fi­cer, and moved to Ari­zona. Johnathan Doody was study­ing at high school when the mur­ders were com­mit­ted. Nine peo­ple — six Bud­dhist monks, a novice, a nun and a lay­man — were shot in the back of the head and laid in a cir­cle like the prayer wheel in­side the tem­ple hall on Aug 10, 1991. A nun was among the slaugh­tered, said Mano Lao­ha­vanich, who fol­lowed the case from the beginning when he was in the monk­hood based in Cal­i­for­nia, and then known as Met­tanando Bhikkhu. The tem­ple was sealed off for seven days while a po­lice task force in­ves­ti­gated the mur­ders. Au­thor­i­ties be­lieved that the mys­tery be­hind the killings was solved af­ter four men from Tuc­son — who be­came known as the ‘‘Tuc­son Four’’ — were ar­rested. Po­lice, how­ever, were still search­ing for the mur­der weapon. The men were re­leased af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tors found a .22 Mar­lin ri­fle which was later proven to be the gun used in the mur­ders. It be­longed to Rolando Carat­achea, a stu­dent who shared an apart­ment with Doody, 17, and Alessan­dro Gar­cia, 16. Mr Carat­achea told au­thor­i­ties he had loaned the gun to his room­mates. That led to the ar­rest of the three and marked the beginning of a 34-day trial in 1994 which re­sulted in Doody be­ing con­victed on nine counts of first de­gree mur­der. ‘‘The state’s the­ory was that Doody hatched a plan to rob the tem­ple, in­tended to mur­der the monks to con­ceal the rob­bery and en­listed Gar­cia to help him ex­e­cute the scheme,’’ ac­cord­ing to the re­port by his lawyers filed to the Fed­eral Court of Ap­peals. Ari­zona au­thor­i­ties were con­fi­dent that Doody’s con­vic­tion and Gar­cia’s guilty plea were suf­fi­cient to close the case, de­spite the de­fence ar­gu­ment that Doody did not know of the planned mur­ders or rob­bery, which, in fact, in­volved up to 10 men. Doody’s lawyers and mem­bers of the pub­lic in the US and Thai­land sus­pected the in­ves­ti­ga­tion had been closed in un­due haste and doubted the fair­ness of au­thor­i­ties work­ing on the case. ‘‘His con­vic­tion may re­sult from re­li­gious and eth­nic bias, while the real mur­der­ers are roam­ing free and may strike again,’’ the Thai House com­mit­tee on jus­tice and hu­man rights said on Feb 12, 1994, one day af­ter he was sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment. The com­mit­tee also lodged a com­plaint about their con­cerns to the United Na­tions. De­spite his life sen­tence, the rul­ing that Doody’s con­fes­sion was ‘‘in­vol­un­tary’’ gave his lawyers fresh hope. Af­ter los­ing two ap­peals in state courts, Doody’s only chance was the Fed­eral Court of Ap­peals. His lawyers ar­gued Doody was not prop­erly given a Mi­randa warn­ing, so the in­ter­ro­ga­tion was de­fec­tive. But their ace card was the as­ser­tion that the con­fes­sion was not vol­un­teered by Doody. ‘‘The key to our victory was, I think, the right­ness of our po­si­tion,’’ said Ms Eiger. ‘‘Johnathan Doody’s con­fes­sion was co­erced and the au­dio­tapes of the in­ter­ro­ga­tion them­selves showed that. If Ari­zona at­tempts to re­hear the case at the Fed­eral Court of Ap­peals, the state has a chance to go to the US Supreme Court. If its re­quest is re­jected by the Supreme Court, ‘‘the district court will en­ter an or­der di­rect­ing Ari­zona au­thor­i­ties to retry Doody within a set pe­riod of time or to release him,’’ she said. Doody is 34. He has spent 17 years at the state prison in Florence, Ari­zona.

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