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Innocent Until Interrogated

By Gary L. Stuart

Publication Year: 2010

On a sweltering August morning, a woman walked into a Buddhist temple near Phoenix and discovered the most horrific crime in Arizona history. Nine Buddhist temple members--six of them monks committed to lives of non-violence--lay dead in a pool of blood, shot execution style. The massive manhunt that followed turned up no leads until a tip from a psychiatric patient led to the arrest of five suspects. Each initially denied their involvement in the crime, yet one by one, under intense interrogation, they confessed.

Soon after, all five men recanted, saying their confessions had been coerced. One was freed after providing an alibi, but the remaining suspects--dubbed "The Tucson Four" by the media--remained in custody even though no physical evidence linked them to the crime.

Seven weeks later, investigators discovered--almost by chance--physical evidence that implicated two entirely new suspects. The Tucson Four were finally freed on November 22 after two teenage boys confessed to the crime, yet troubling questions remained. Why were confessions forced out of innocent suspects? Why and how did legal authorities build a case without evidence? And, ultimately, how did so much go so wrong?

In this first book-length treatment of the Buddhist Temple Massacre, Gary L. Stuart explores the unspeakable crime, the inexplicable confessions, and the troubling behavior of police officials. Stuart's impeccable research for the book included a review of the complete legal records of the case, an examination of all the physical evidence, a survey of three years of print and broadcast news, and more than fifty personal interviews related to the case. Like In Cold Blood, and The Executioner's Song, Innocent Until Interrogated is a riveting read that provides not only a striking account of the crime and the investigation but also a disturbing look at the American justice system at its very worst.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

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Author’s Note

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pp. xi-xii

The temple murders and the related murder of Alice Marie Cameron are heavily documented. They spawned more than five hundred thousand digital records and six thousand pages of court transcripts, pleadings, motions, and opinions. Long before the trial began, file cabinets all over Phoenix accumulated the official reports from dozens of agencies, public ...

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1. A Circle of Death

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pp. 1-10

On Saturday, August 10, 1991, temperatures in Arizona’s Valley of the Sun were predicted to climb to 113 degrees Fahrenheit. By 10:00 a.m. the little thermometer at the Buddhist temple called Wat Promkunaram registered 94 degrees. Like everything else at the temple, the thermometer was a simple indicator of impermanence and change. Plain and unadorned, ...

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2. The Sheriff’s Task Force

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pp. 11-19

Tom Agnos, a highly respected police officer and a former commander with the Phoenix Police Department, was elected sheriff of Maricopa County in November 1988. Most of his predecessors as sheriff had been good men in cowboy boots who enforced the law from a small-town perspective. Agnos ran for the office as its first professional law enforcement officer, promising to bring in modern techniques and upgraded standards. ...

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3. The Man with Many Names

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pp. 20-39

... The caller said he had heard a guy talking about the murders at the Buddhist temple in Phoenix. He added that the guy had “a Bronco or a Blazer, something like that, and I remember watching on the news a while back they said that someone did drive off in a Bronco or a Blazer.” ...

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4. A Waiting Line for Confessions

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pp. 57-112

Once Mike McGraw began to spill out names and locations, the search was on for everyone he implicated. The Arizona Motor Vehicle Department’s database yielded addresses and driver’s license photos. Task force members and Tucson Police Department SWAT teams went to South Tucson to pick up the suspects. While McGraw was still talking, his neighbors ...

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5. Recantations and Indictments

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pp. 113-124

At lunchtime on Friday, September 13, Agnos, White, and the rest of the task force brass had reason to feel like celebrating. Four confessions on record: an impressive outcome for three hectic days. True, Victor Zarate had not confessed, but he was tucked away in a jail cell with time to reconsider his denials. The other suspects were still at headquarters, but ...

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6. The Forgotten Murder Weapon

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pp. 125-168

Leo Bruce’s rifle was not the only .22-caliber Marlin semiautomatic collected by the task force. One of the others was lead 510, the rifle Detective Sinsabaugh had confiscated from Rolando Caratachea on September 10. Overshadowed by lead 511, Mike McGraw’s elaborate narrative, that weapon sat in an office at headquarters for weeks, both out of sight— behind a door—and out of mind. ...

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7. Political Wrangling

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pp. 169-179

By the end of October, with Doody and Garcia in juvenile detention, public and political pressure to drop the case against the Tucson Four was mounting. It seemed clear that the Tucson defendants had no connection to the case, despite their confessions. That is, it seemed clear to everyone but the MCSO command staff. ...

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8. A Murderer Ten Times Over

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pp. 180-216

After the arrest of Doody and Garcia and the release of the Tucson Four, the temple murder case progressed with fewer headlines and less public drama. Doody and Garcia faced charges in juvenile court and remained incarcerated in the juvenile detention center. ...

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9. Johnathan Doody on Trial

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pp. 217-254

Nine people died at Wat Promkunaram. Eight suspects were arrested for the murders: five from South Tucson and three from Phoenix’s west side. Six of them confessed. With the charges against the Tucson suspects dismissed, two defendants remained. But only one, Johnathan Doody, was put on trial and faced a possible death sentence. ...

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10. Mitigation, Aggravation, and Sentencing

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pp. 255-270

The verdict was in, but Judge Martin could not yet sentence Johnathan Doody. Next came the mitigation and aggravation stage of the case, when prosecution and defense presented evaluations of the defendants that might influence the sentencing decision. Legal maneuvering at this stage took several months. ...

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11. Suing Maricopa County

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pp. 271-284

Soon after their ordeal at the hands of the MCSO and its task force, three of the original Tucson suspects were reunited in a joint effort— suing Maricopa County. The false-arrest lawsuits were both predictable and inevitable. Predictable because the county attorney did his job, dismissing all charges against the Tucson defendants. Inevitable because ...

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pp. 285-294

By August 1994, Maricopa County officials could hope that both the temple and Cameron murder cases were finally behind them. Johnathan Doody, Alex Garcia, and Michelle Hoover were in prison. Leo Bruce, Mark Nunez, Dante Parker, Victor Zarate, and George Peterson had their settlement money. Mike McGraw was out of Arizona and engaged ...

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pp. 295-300

The Maricopa County Sheriff ’s Office is a subdivision charged with providing law enforcement in Arizona’s most populous county. While the MCSO’s employees, constituents, and stakeholders regard it as an entity unto itself, the men and women who patrol the county roads, maintain order, and do their best to investigate crimes are only human. Most of ...


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pp. 301-312


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pp. 313-330


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pp. 331-340

E-ISBN-13: 9780816504497
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816529247

Publication Year: 2010