James Ray Death Lodge Trial Put on Hold

The manslaughter trial of snake-oil salesman James Arthur Ray has been postponed until next week, as the judge overseeing the case is allowing Ray's attorneys more time to conduct interviews about the construction of the sweat lodge that left three people dead and dozens injured.

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 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.

Judge Warren Darrow didn't declare a mistrial but has given Ray's attorneys until Wednesday to further prepare their defense.

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.

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, Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, New York, and  James Shore, 40, 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.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
James King
Contact: James King