|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Wednesday, 20 April 2011 00:00|
Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow denied a second defense motion for a mistrial last week in the manslaughter trial of James Arthur Ray.
Darrow also suspended the trial to give the defense an opportunity to conduct some research after finding the prosecution did not meet its obligations to provide the defense with evidence relevant to Ray’s case.
The trial resumd this week.
Ray, a 53-year-old self-help author and motivational speaker who runs California-based James Ray International, was charged with three counts of manslaughter after deaths that took place at a special sweat lodge ceremony at Angel Valley Retreat Center near Sedona. The October 2009 event was part of a nearly $10,000-a-head weeklong seminar session.
Lizbeth Neuman, 49, of Michigan, 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. Ray turned himself into the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office in February 2010.
On April 13, the court ruled that the prosecution had committed a Brady violation, named after the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, a case where the prosecution was found to have withheld evidence in a murder trial.
The court found that the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office had “failed to disclose evidence that is both favorable to the defense and material to either guilt or punishment.”
At issue is an emailed report dated April 29, 2010, from Richard Haddow, an environmental engineer and expert witness. It’s a report that the defense believes could lend credence to their argument the victims died from something besides the heat in the lodge, possibly carbon dioxide buildup due to the design of the sweat lodge, something Ray couldn’t have known about.
The state argued that the report’s omission was an oversight in a case where they’ve had to turn over thousands of pages of documents to Ray’s defense team.
The court ordered that the state turn over the report, along with any other documents relating to Haddow and the sweat lodge incident, including all communications between Haddow, the county attorney’s office and the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office.
In another motion filed earlier this month, prosecutors reiterated a request that the court compel the defense to release information concerning all civil lawsuits that have been filed against Ray in the wake of the sweat lodge event. The state’s first request came in March after the defense brought up a witness’s lawsuit during a cross-examination.
According to this most recent motion, the defense never responded to that initial request.
Testimony is expected to begin Wednesday at the Yavapai County Superior Court House in Camp Verde.
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