James Ray Death Lodge Trial: Mistrial Considered by Judge
Attorneys for snake-oil salesman James Arthur Ray have requested a mistrial in the "self-help guru's" manslaughter trial because they say prosecutors failed for more than a year to turn over an e-mail that could help exonerate their client.
Ray pleaded not guilty to three counts of manslaughter stemming from the October 2009 deaths of three participants of a sweat lodge ceremony in Sedona.
Ray's attorneys filed the request for a mistrial earlier this week, claiming prosecutors failed to turn over an April 10, 2010, e-mail from environmental consultant Richard Haddow, which concluded that because of the shoddy way the sweat lodge was constructed, the victims were more at risk than other participants because they were seated in an area of the tent that was the most-poorly ventilated.
Defense attorneys maintain that because prosecutors only turned over the report last week, Ray is not receiving a fair trial because his attorneys weren't given ample time to prepare his defense. They claim the report adds to their argument that Ray couldn't possibly have known that the tent could potentially kill someone.
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However, according to court documents obtained by New Times, Ray discouraged participants from leaving the sweat lodge, even as some were throwing up and passing out.
One of the victims, 49-year-old Liz Neuman of Prior Lake, Minnesota, died of multiple-organ failure after the ceremony. The other two victims, 38-year-old Kirby Brown of Westtown, New York, and 40-year-old James Shore of Wisconsin, each fell victim to heat stroke after being in the sweat tent.
Ray maintains that the deaths were a tragic accident, but prosecutors feel that stuffing dozens of people into a hot, poorly ventilated sweat tent -- and then discouraging them from leaving -- is more than just an accident.
Judge Warren Darrow was asked by the defense to declare a mistrial in the case, and bar any chance at a retrial. However, as the Arizona Republic notes, it's more likely he'll go with a lesser remedy, like recessing the trial long enough to give Ray's lawyers time to find their own witnesses, or giving jurors special instructions.
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