By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
The clerk looked again.
"Sorry," he said. "It's definitely not here."
He agreed to call Judge Martin's office.
A few minutes later, the clerk came back.
"The Garcia file is up there," he said. "They say the judge is not going to let anybody see it."
The file is a public record. If Judge Martin were not afflicted by a case of galloping robitis, he would have been able to understand that fact.
"Robitis" is an affliction which attacks many judges in our court system from time to time. The outward signs are easy to detect, because they are always accompanied by decisions which place them above the law they are appointed to uphold.
@body:Despite Judge Martin's attempt at obstruction, here is what the sealed part of Garcia's file contains.
When Garcia was offered the plea by the County Attorney's Office, they warned him he must tell them of all crimes in which he was implicated or the plea agreement would be abrogated.
If that happened, Garcia would face the death penalty rather than life imprisonment.
With this in mind, Garcia admitted that on October 18, 1991, he and a girlfriend had killed Cameron at a camping site near Horseshoe Dam. This was two months after the temple murders.
Garcia told the investigators it was the girl who pulled the trigger and not him. Once again Garcia says he was in a situation where he didn't fire the fatal shots.
But the state has made the uncomfortable decision to go with the testimony of a defendant who now admits he is a serial killer.
As attorney Peter Balkan, who defends Johnathan Doody, says: "How much credibility can anyone give the testimony of an admitted mass murderer and serial killer?"
@body:Those who derive their information about the temple murders only from Richard Romley's televised press conferences may view Romley as a savior of justice.
However, an examination of the court documents shows Romley in a harsher light. A reading of the documents reveals Romley as a slippery incompetent. He is desperately attempting to cast the blame of his own botched operation on former Maricopa County Sheriff Tom Agnos.
Romley moved last week to extricate himself from political damage as he has in the aftermath of AzScam. Not only has he turned into a crank letter writer to the Republic's editorial page, but he has developed the strategy of opening his own expensive media room for TV press conferences any time he feels his name is endangered.
For a sleazy politician like Romley, a press conference becomes a license to lie. All he needs to do is express concern for justice and then jump off the stage before his own shortcomings are exposed. For Romley the method works. For this reason, the average television viewer may even be convinced this most incompetent of all county attorneys is even being sincere.
But the blame in the temple murders investigation does not belong solely to Agnos and the way his investigators worked to gain confessions. The blame should be placed directly in the lap of Romley and the lawyers from his County Attorney's Office assigned to the case.
Assistant county attorneys K.C. Scull and Paul Ahler have behaved throughout this episode like a pair of arrogant louts. They were only too anxious to accept the confessions handed to them without question. It was their responsibility to make certain the cases protected the rights of the innocent. They, not Agnos' deputies, were in charge of taking the cases to court. But they rushed to file first-degree-murder charges against the four suspects from Tucson without any corroborating evidence.
So it was Romley's office which was ultimately at fault, not Sheriff Agnos'. The only difference is that Romley rushed to the television cameras first. So he may have succeeded in making the average voter think he's the Great White Knight.
Now Romley tells us he will review all the confessions obtained by the sheriff's office in murder cases. This is a smoke screen. It has been his job all along to review these cases in the most careful manner possible, so that the rights of the accused are protected.
If Romley were reacting honestly, he would admit that county attorneys rarely question confessions or look behind them to find corroborating evidence. To them they represent easy cases and fine additions to their records. You should not be surprised to learn that prosecutors keep score as to the number of cases they win.
And what about all the sitting judges who let the charges go through without enough examination?
Romley's charges against the sheriff's department will not stand a close examination. The sheriff's office simply does not have that much power. It is Romley's County Attorney's Office that has all the power.
One final question: Since it was Romley's staffers that mishandled these cases, why should they be the ones to review them? Wouldn't everyone feel more secure if the review was handled by an outside agency? I come away with a single, arresting memory.
For a second in that courtroom the other day, I saw Alex Garcia's eyes. There was a hint of cruelty and indifference in the quick, furtive gaze he cast around the packed courtroom.