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Defense: Drop aggravating factors against James Ray
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Thursday, 07 July 2011 14:00

Before the jury listened to the prosecution argue its case for why James Arthur Ray’s prison sentence should be lengthened by aggravating circumstances, the state dropped a few of its initial claims, while the defense tried to have the court throw out consideration of most factors.

James_Arthur_Ray_trial_10_-_RayRay, 53, motivational speaker and author, was convicted last month of three counts of negligent homicide in the deaths of Lizbeth Neuman, 49, of Minnesota, Kirby Brown, 38, of New York and James Shore, 40, of Wisconsin. The three died and several others were injured following participating in a October 2009 sweat lodge event at a retreat center near Sedona. The event was part of a weeklong seminar organized by Ray’s company.

The state originally said it would be seeking to find five aggravating factors against Ray, but ended up pursuing just three: that Ray caused the deaths for financial gain, that Ray caused the families of the victims severe emotional distress and that he held a unique position of trust over the victims. The prosecution dropped allegations that Ray had an accomplice and that the crime was committed in an “especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner.”

Ray’s defense attorneys filed a motion to drop every aggravated factor from consideration by the jury except for the emotional distress.

The other factors were “inappropriate and unlawful,” the motion read, threaten to introduce error into the sentencing process and constitute an “egregious example of the prosecution’s attempt to stretch the criminal law.”

The defense laid out an extensive argument for dropping the consideration of whether the crime was heinous or cruel, which the state dropped anyway. The motion also argued that Ray didn’t specifically seek to cause death for his own financial benefit, and that the argument about trust hasn’t been applied in Arizona outside of sex abuse cases.

The state filed its own motion in attempt to block the defense from filing its motion, arguing that it would be “untimely” and the defense should have taken action after the state initially listed potential aggravating factors in February 2010.


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