James Arthur Ray Manslaughter Trial Begins
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SELF-HELP GURU'S MANSLAUGHTER TRIAL BEGINS
By Catherine Holland
March 1, 2011
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.
³You must surrender to survive,² 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
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
There¹s 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.
³Once they pick the jury and impanel them, the decision has been made that
[Ray] will receive a fair trial,² 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.
³Unfortunately, it¹s going to be very interesting,² 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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Published by David Sunfellow
Phone: (928) 257-3200
Fax: (815) 642-0117
P.O. Box 2242
Sedona, AZ 86339