|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Wednesday, 15 June 2011 00:00|
The defense in the manslaughter trial of James Arthur Ray wrapped up its case last week after calling only two witnesses to the stand.
Ray, 53, is a self-help author and motivational speaker who runs California-based James Ray International. Ray was charged with three counts of manslaughter after deaths that took place at a sweat lodge ceremony at Angel Valley Retreat Center near Sedona. The October 2009 event was part of weeklong seminar session.
Lizbeth Neuman, 49, of Minnesota, Kirby Brown, 38, of New York and James Shore, 40, of Wisconsin, died after exposure to sauna-like conditions inside the sweat lodge, medical examiners ruled. Several others were injured.
The defense maintains other factors beyond Ray’s control, other than the heat, could have contributed to the deaths, including poisonous chemicals. The state argued over three months and with more than 30 witnesses Ray is criminally responsible for the deaths, and he created an atmosphere that led people to stay inside the sweat lodge against their instincts for self-preservation.
The defense called Dawn Sy, who works with the Arizona Department of Public Safety crime lab, who testified forensic investigators didn’t specifically look for organophosphates, chemicals typically found in pesticides the defense has offered as a possible cause of death.
Owners and employees of the retreat center testified for the state that no such chemicals were used on the property.
The defense also called Ian Paul, a pathologist who told the jury those type of chemicals, not heat stroke, were likely the cause of death in the sweat lodge incident.
The jury may start deliberations to determine Ray’s fate this week. If convicted, Ray could potentially face three decades in prison.
When exactly the jury gets down to business will depend on how long it takes for attorneys on both sides to finish arguing a few final legal matters before Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow and whether or not Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk calls more witnesses in rebuttal of the defense’s case.
The case was expected to resume Tuesday, June 14, at the Yavapai County Superior Courthouse in Camp Verde.
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