Alessandro Garcia is a killer. There’s no doubt about it.
By his own ongoing admission, Garcia was part of the infamous Buddhist Temple Massacre that occurred on August 10, 1991. I have no idea what actually happened or who else was involved, but it’s undisputed that Garcia and one or more others killed six Buddhist monks, two young initiates, and an elderly nun. Apparently, they shot all of the victims in the back of the head at close range more than once. The innocent victims were made to kneel on the floor of the temple before being shot dead, one by one. Some had died while praying. All but the first likely witnessed the others being shot. It was part of a robbery, and Garcia and the other robbers got away with twenty six hundred dollars and some cameras.
Garcia’s killing spree didn’t end there. A few months later, Garcia and his girlfriend murdered Alice Cameron. He continues to admit to that as well. They shot her twice in the back at a north Phoenix campground during a robbery that supposedly involved only a dollar and some change. They apparently weren’t sympathetic when she pleaded for her life. An hour later, when they were sure she was dead, they grabbed some more money off of her. The grand total was allegedly somewhere around twenty dollars. As if ten murders wasn’t enough, Garcia was also involved in a separate series of burglaries, and he conspired to commit another murder and armed robbery.
So why is Garcia the state’s star witness in a pending murder trial right now?
Garcia isn’t just a killer, he’s a consummate snitch too. To avoid the death penalty, he ratted out his girlfriend for the Alice Cameron murder. He said she was the shooter, and she did 15 years in prison for it. More importantly, he also ratted out his friend and roommate, Jonathan Doody, in the temple massacre. Garcia claimed it was Doody who conceived the plan to rob the temple. According to Garcia, it was Doody who persuaded him to be a part of the plan, Doody who insisted they leave no witnesses, and Doody who shot each of the victims in the head with a rifle. Garcia claimed that he just panicked and fired his shotgun in the direction of the victims. Garcia also said he tried to dissuade Doody. How bad must Garcia’s luck be for him to end up dating or befriending one bad apple another, becoming involved in no fewer than three different murder plots and who knows how many other violent crime conspiracies with no fewer than three different bad influences?
A strange article about Garcia written over twenty years ago includes the following gem:
Judge Martin asked K.C. Scull, the lead prosecutor, if he was certain Garcia was the defendant the county wanted to make its deal with.
Garcia was the one who murdered Alice Cameron for a buck fifty. Garcia was the one who was involved in a series of unrelated burglaries and a conspiracy to rob or murder some other person or persons. Yet somehow, Garcia was the one who got a deal. Doody faced the death penalty. Luckily, he got life. Now, two decades later, Doody is in the middle of a new trial. It’s his third, and after they pick a jury, you can bet the state is going to call Garcia again as its star witness. How anyone, especially a supposed minister of justice like a prosecutor in a homicide case, could believe a damn word Garcia says is beyond me.
So why would the state make a deal with a devil like Garcia in order to get Doody?
Like Garcia, Doody confessed to the temple massacre. So did Leo Bruce, Mark Nunez, Dante Parker, and Michael McGraw, though, and they had nothing to do with it. According to McGraw, a drug addict and mental institution patient known as “Crazy Mike” around his neighborhood, as many as 30 investigators questioned and threatened him for more than 44 hours, denying his requests for a lawyer, rest, and food and humiliating him by forcing him to urinate into soda cans. Interrogations of the others lasted up to twenty-one hours. They were all eventually exonerated, and civil lawsuits and big settlements ensued. Plus, officers also got a brain-damaged Vietnam veteran named George Peterson to confess to the murder of the Alice Cameron after a 16-hour interrogation. He was innocent too, but that didn’t prevent him from spending fourteen months in jail for the crime. Oops!
Unlike Garcia, but very much like the five others who falsely confessed to crimes involving Garcia, Doody eventually recanted. Officers had picked up Doody at a high school football game around 9:25 p.m. and put him through what an appellate court called an “extraordinarily lengthy interrogation of a sleep-deprived and unresponsive juvenile under relentless questioning for nearly thirteen hours by a tag team of detectives, without the presence of an attorney, and without the protections of proper Miranda warnings.” That court wasn’t in Arizona, though. Our appellate court said that Doody knowingly and intelligently waived his rights despite the fact the Miranda warning filled twelve pages of transcript and completely obfuscated the core precepts of Miranda, that the confession was just peachy, and that “the jury was ‘the ultimate arbiter of voluntariness, and [was] free, in effect, [to] disagree with the judge, and reject the confession.'” It was the Ninth Circuit that threw out the confession, first just a panel and then the court en banc.
Getting back to the heart of my answer, Doody might be innocent, but Garcia never had a chance. Garcia had not only committed another murder and started work on a third, but as the Arizona Court of Appeals noted, investigators had searched his home and discovered several items taken from the temple as well as a shotgun later determined to be the gun that fired the shotgun shells recovered at the crime scene. Finding himself in a bad situation, Garcia stuck with his confession and started singing like a bird, pointing the finger directly at his pal Doody. Garcia, an undisputed real bad guy, became putty in the state’s hands. Doody, who may not have done it and would no longer go along with the state’s preferred story, became a thorn in its side.
I don’t think anyone can doubt that Doody is a fighter. He wouldn’t go down easy, and the state has little use for defendants who don’t give in. He ended up fighting for 18 years, 6 months, and 15 days before his confession was finally thrown out. He fought in his first new trial with no confession and which ended in jurors voting eleven to one for guilt, and now he’s picking a jury for his second. The state picks it bedfellows based on who best helps push its agenda, even when it’s a killer like Garcia. Doody won’t admit again. He won’t give the state a break by rolling over and dying in a cage. He insists on fighting the state, so down he must go. The system abhors fighters like Doody so much that it would rather team up a cooperating killer than just give up.
So how on earth could that last jury be eleven to one against Doody with no confession?
Well, you know all about Garcia killing Alice Cameron. You know all about Garcia committing a series of burglaries and conspiring to commit another murder and armed robbery. No jury ever will. Here’s what the Arizona Court of Appeals, which was also just fine with Doody’s coerced confession, said about Alice Cameron’s murder:
Graphic details of the Cameron murder would have added nothing of relevance to establish Garcia’s motive or bias, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by limiting Doody’s cross-examination as to the details of the Cameron murder.
And here’s what it said about the other offenses:
As with the Cameron murder, the details of the [other burglary and conspiracy to commit robbery and murder] offenses would have added nothing relevant to Garcia’s motive or bias. We therefore affirm the court’s ruling.
The Court of Appeals thought it was acceptable that Doody also wasn’t allowed to introduce evidence of Garcia’s crimes to impeach Garcia’s character for truthfulness, and it also saw no problem with permitting the state to withhold immunity from a third party who might have helped Doody’s defense while granting immunity to several prosecution witnesses. Finally, the court was fine with the trial court not admitting the statement of someone who heard a third party who was likely involved in the murders say that Garcia, not Doody, shot the victims. They said it was inadmissible hearsay, which is at least understandable in a technical sense, but what is much less understandable is the court’s claim that the trial court’s alleged error not reopening the case to accept testimony from that person about the third party’s statements implicating Garcia as the shooter “did not contribute to or affect the verdict.”
So what now?
Well, I imagine that Doody is finally going to be convicted. I may have serious doubts about what involvement he actually had, but what in the entire Arizona history of his case suggests he’s got a chance? I don’t trust anything that comes from Garcia, but juries seem to like him. He’s a bad guy, but he’s the state’s bad guy. He’s a serial killer who saved his life by implicating others in his crimes, and a prosecutor is going to put him on the stand, watch him swear to tell the truth, and have him tell the jury how Doody hatched the plan, Doody enrolled him, Doody insisted they leave no witnesses, Doody shot each of the victims in the head with a rifle, and poor little Garcia just panicked and fired his shotgun in the direction of the victims. Poor little Garcia who had his girlfriend shoot Alice Cameron in the back. Poor little Garcia the burglar. Poor little Garcia the murder and robbery conspirator. Big bad Doody made him do it.
For twenty years the State of Arizona been trying to lock up Doody and throw away the key, and my bet is that the state’s faithful old friend Garcia is finally going to get the job done. It’ll be classic Arizona-style justice served cold. The state just has to cross its fingers and hope that meddling circuit court in liberal San Francisco doesn’t bind up our justice machine again.
Filed under: Arizona Cases · Tags: alessandro garcia, alex garcia, alice cameron, confession, court of appeals, doody, false confession, garcia, hearsay, hoover, jonathan doody, murder, new times, ninth circuit, rate, retrial, snitch, tucson four