James Arthur Ray Manslaughter Trial Begins

James Arthur Ray Manslaughter Trial Begins

Mar 01



By Catherine Holland
March 1, 2011

Original Link

CAMP VERDE, ARIZONA – Opening statements in the manslaughter trial of the self-help guru who built a multimillion dollar empire began Tuesday.

James Arthur Ray is charged with three counts of manslaughter stemming from a sweat-lodge ceremony in 2009. More than a dozen other people had to be treated for various heat-related illnesses.

While prosecutors say Ray was reckless, defense attorneys say the deaths were accidental and unpredictable, contending that nobody was forced to take part in the ceremony.

The theme of the sweat-lodge ceremony was death and rebirth. Ray, now 53, reportedly told participants that they were not going to die although they might feel like they were.

“You must surrender to survive,” Ray reportedly said.

Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., and James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee, died the same day as the sweat-lodge ceremony. Liz Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake, Minn., died a few days later. Fifteen more people became ill, some of them seriously.

The sweat-lodge ceremony was the culmination of the five-day Spiritual Warrior retreat at the Angel Valley Resort in Sedona. It was the sixth retreat of its kind, and participants paid nearly $10,000 to attend.

While prosecutors said participants were pressured to stay inside the sweat lodge, defense attorneys said several people did come and go of their own free will.

There’s also the question of the waiver participants signed before the sweat-lodge ceremony. Those waivers could indicate that not only did Ray and his team know about the potential dangers of the ceremony, but the participants were made aware of them as well.

While the defense team has questioned whether Ray will be able to get a fair trial and did request a change of venue, the judge has impaneled a jury, indicating his belief that a fair trial is possible.

“Once they pick the jury and impanel them, the decision has been made that [Ray] will receive a fair trial,” attorney Monica Lindstrom explained.

In addition to investigators, doctors and other experts, people who actually took part in the sweat-lodge ceremony are expected to take the stand for both the prosecution and the defense. Witnesses who helped build the sweat lodge and were right outside during the ceremony will also testify.

“Unfortunately, it’s going to be very interesting,” Lindstrom said.

The trial, which is drawing worldwide media attention, is expected to last several weeks, perhaps as long as four months. It will be carried live on truTV’s In Session, formerly known as Court TV News.

If convicted on all three counts of manslaughter, Ray could face more than 30 years in prison.



Pulse on James Arthur Ray Sweat Lodge Incident


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