|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Thursday, 09 June 2011 00:00|
The state rested its case Friday, June 3, in the manslaughter trial of James Arthur Ray after calling more than 30 witnesses since arguments began in March.
The defense is expected to begin its arguments this week, if a motion Ray’s attorneys filed to immediately find their client not guilty doesn’t pass. The motion is expected to be argued in court Tuesday, June 7, after press time.
Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow has also granted a prior witness for the prosecution in the trial immunity from any consequences of potentially incriminating himself on the stand.
Ray, 53, is a motivational speaker and self-help author facing three counts of manslaughter in Yavapai County Superior Court.
The charges stem from a fatal incident at an October 2009 weekend event, held at the Angel Valley Retreat Center outside of Sedona.
Lizbeth Neuman, 49, of Minnesota, Kirby Brown, 38, of New York and James Shore, 40, of Wisconsin, died after participating in a sweat lodge ceremony held in a large tent-like structure heated to high temperatures with water poured on hot rocks.
The ceremony came at the end of a week-long Spiritual Warrior event, a $10,000-a-head seminar hosted by Ray’s company, James Ray International.
Brown and Shore were pronounced dead the day of the event. Neuman never regained consciousness and died days later in the hospital.
Medical examiners determined the cause of death to be exposure to the extreme temperatures inside the lodge but Ray’s defense team has argued against those findings.
The defense argued the deaths were the result of an accident, not a crime, and there could have been other factors that led to the deaths that evening.
The witness in question with regard to immunity is Mark Rock, an Arizona resident from Illinois who attended the sweat lodge ceremony and an earlier one organized by Ray’s company the year before.
Rock gave testimony critical of Ray and the defense moved to have his testimony stricken from the record, arguing Rock’s own attorney had advised him not to testify. Rock made differing claims on the stand from the statements he gave to Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office detectives, but claimed the discrepancies were the result of the stress of the incident.
Still, Rock’s immunity doesn’t cover perjury. The defense argues Rock’s potential perjury on the stand was the entire reason his attorney advised him not to testify in the first place.
Any testimony Rock offered, especially if it could be considered perjury, would be harmful to Ray’s defense, his attorneys argue. The defense also pointed to a future appeal if Ray is convicted.
“Under these circumstances, the court must not force Mr. Ray to await possible appellate review to determine whether the state will violate Mr. Ray’s due process rights by eliciting false testimony,” the defense motion states.
The court could have prevented bringing up constitutional issues of due process in a later appeal, the defense argued, but the court went ahead and allowed Rock’s testimony, stating it is “indispensable to the interests of justice.”
The case is expected to resume this week.
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