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State argues against request for new trial
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Thursday, 04 August 2011 15:00

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk is opposed to the idea of a new trial for James Arthur Ray, the self-help and motivational speaker who was convicted earlier this summer for three counts of negligent homicide. The conviction came after a lengthy trial where a jury found Ray, 53, responsible for a fatal October 2009 incident at the Angel Valley Retreat Center near Sedona that left three people dead after participating in a sweat lodge ceremony.

Lizbeth Neuman, 49, of Minnesota, Kirby Brown, 38, of New York and James Shore, 40, of Wisconsin, died after sitting in the sweat lodge, a large tentlike structure that was heated to sauna-like temperatures as part of a $10,000-a-head weekend Spiritual Warrior session presented by Ray and his organization James Ray International.

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk is opposed to the idea of a new trial for James Arthur Ray, the self-help and motivational speaker who was convicted earlier this summer for three counts of negligent homicide.Ray has not yet been sentenced; he faces a maximum of just over 11 years in prison.

Throughout the trial, Ray’s defense team asked for and were denied mistrials. After Ray’s conviction, his attorneys filed an extensive motion requesting a new trial, arguing extreme misconduct on the part of the prosecution and expressing concern if any criminal defendant could get a fair trial in Yavapai County.

Polk has since filed a reply to that motion arguing why she doesn’t feel a new trial is appropriate or necessary.

“The state has not engaged in any prosecutorial misconduct,” Polk’s motion reads. “Any error on the part of the state was unintentional and did not affect the jury’s verdict as there was ample evidence of defendant’s guilt.”

Polk argued that the defense team’s constant attacks on the integrity of the state throughout the proceedings were “difficult to silently endure as the state repeatedly made the conscious decision to refrain from responding in kind.”

Polk goes on to ask the court to look at the record objectively without subscribing to the “logical fallacy” of assuming “proof by repeated assertion.”

Citing case law, Polk’s response points out that extreme caution should be exercised when granting a new trial.

The defense motion for a new trial contained 10 separate allegations of misconduct from the prosecution ranging from improper behavior during jury selection to improper and untimely disclosure of information. Polk defends her office on each count in her response, going into great detail how she is confident the state acted in good faith throughout the trial while acknowledging that there were minor errors.

“It is undisputed that the trail in this matter was long and hotly contested,” Polk’s reply reads. “Given the length and nature of the trial, as well as the curative instructions given by this court, any errors by the state must be found harmless.”

The defense wasted no time filing a response to Polk’s response, calling her inadequate while keeping up the request for a new trial.

“[I]t is the state, not the defense, that must prove prosecutorial error is harmless beyond a reasonable doubt,” the defense argued. “And both the trial’s length and prosecutor’s mental state are irrelevant.”

The defense also argues that the law doesn’t require as extreme a set of circumstances to grant a new trial as argued by the prosecution.

The reply touched on the length of the trial as brought up in the prosecution’s argument against a new trial, blaming the state in part for presenting such a lengthy case.

A hearing to consider oral arguments in the matter of whether Ray should get a new trial has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16, in Yavapai County Superior Court. Ray’s sentencing is currently set for Monday, Sept. 26.


Mark Lineberger can be reached at 567-3341 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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