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U.S. Supreme Court Vacates Decision Overturning Conviction in Buddhist Temple Murders

(Phoenix, Ariz. -- Oct. 12, 2010) Attorney General Terry Goddard announced that the U.S. Supreme Court this morning granted his petition for certiorari and vacated a federal appellate court ruling that overturned the conviction of Jonathan Doody, one of two youths found guilty in the 1991 Buddhist temple murders.

In August 1991, nine people were found dead at Wat Promkunaram, a Thai Buddhist temple west of Phoenix, making the crime the state's biggest mass murder. The victims had been arranged in a circle and were shot in the head.

The nation's highest court today ordered the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reconsider its decision that Doody's statements about his role in the crimes had been coerced. The appellate court ruled in 2008 that detectives from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office had forced a confession from Doody, who was then 17 and a junior in high school, and sent the case back to Maricopa County Superior Court for a new trial.

In its order today, the U.S. Supreme Court did not specifically direct the Ninth Circuit to uphold the state court's ruling that Doody's statements were admissible. But it did direct the appellate court to reconsider its decision overturning Doody's conviction in light of the high court's ruling this year in Florida v. Powell. In that case, the Supreme Court held that a confession should be allowed into evidence as long as a suspect's Miranda rights have been reasonably conveyed.

"This was a particularly heinous and brutal crime, and I am pleased that the Supreme Court has forced the Ninth Circuit to reconsider," Goddard said.

For more information, contact Steve Wilson at (602) 542-8351.