Print Defense makes last statements in James Ray manslaughter case
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 00:00

The fate of self-help author and motivational speaker James Arthur Ray could go to the jury this week after the prosecution and defense made their closing arguments last week.

Ray stands accused of being responsible for the deaths of three people following an October 2009 event at the Angel Valley Retreat Center near Sedona.

Defense attorney Luis Li argued the jury cannot rule out chemicals as the cause of three deaths at a 2009 event held by James Arthur Ray.Lizbeth Neuman, 49, of Minnesota, Kirby Brown, 38, of New York, and James Shore, 40, of Wisconsin, died during the $10,000-a-head Spiritual Warrior weekend event after exposure to conditions inside what has been referred to as a sweat lodge, a large tentlike structure that was heated to extreme temperatures. Brown and Shore were pronounced dead the day of the event. Neuman died a few days later after she was taken off life support.

Ray’s defense team has been arguing that the deaths were a tragic accident, but that Ray should not be held criminally responsible.

Defense attorney Luis Li argued before the jury they couldn’t rule out testimony from medical experts who said that chemicals could have been responsible for the three deaths, doing the defense’s job of establishing reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors.

In her closing statements, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk continued to hammer home the prosecution’s argument that Ray had created an atmosphere at the weeklong event that made people question their own common sense and instincts.

The two sides also argued over jury instructions in motions filed last week.

One point of contention was the use of the words “knowing” and “intentional” and what those words mean exactly when the jury is asked to deliberate over Ray’s guilt or innocence.

The defense felt that instructing the jury on the meaning of these words could lead to confusion and violate Ray’s constitutional right to due process.

The defense argued that the case against Ray has been painted as a crime of “recklessness” and that trying to bring the idea of intentionally causing deaths into the jury’s mind-set could create an unfair disservice to Ray.

“They implicate distinct factual implications,” the defense objection reads. “Together, with the element of causation, they constitute the distinct and greater crime of murder.”

The case is expected to resume this week at the Yavapai County Superior Courthouse in Camp Verde.