Posts Tagged ‘James Ray’
Today the Judge heard oral argument on the Defense’s Motion for Mistrial. I should say that the Judge heard mostly the Defense as it argued for over an hour and the State argued for approximately 10 minutes. Is this telling? Maybe, maybe not.
The Defense filed its Motion last week and the State had until last night to file its Response, which it did. After reviewing both the pleadings and listening to the oral argument live on CNN.com/live; it was clear that the parties were simply arguing what was already in the pleadings. In other words, the oral argument did not add anything to what had already been filed. However, it did give the parties the chance to answer any questions, had the Judge had any, which he did not. Plus, it allows the parties to “make a record” in the event either wants to appeal.
(Basically the Defense has argued that the State had an email/report in its possession from an environmental expert that it failed to disclose to the Defense even after repeated requests to do so. The Defense argued this email/report clearly showed exculpatory evidence in that it explained the deaths could have been caused by the construction of the sweat lodge and the resulting air quality – all of which was out of the control of James Ray. The State argued that it did inadvertently fail to disclose the email but that the information contained therein was not exculpatory and in fact implicated James Ray further.)
I think the Judge already had his mind made up about whether there was a Brady violation when he entered the courtroom this morning, especially in light of the fact he didn’t ask any questions and there was nothing new presented during oral argument. At the end of argument he simply stated he did find there was a Brady violation and the only thing left to determine was the remedy. He then stated he would issue his ruling this afternoon. So, you can only imagine that the parties are waiting on pins and needles.
This Judge seems to really take his time making decisions and I mean that in a good way. After being in the courtroom all of last week I have seen that he patiently listens to both sides and asks very good questions. It is clear to me that he takes his job seriously and really thinks before he answers and gives a ruling. If only all judges were as thorough. Now, I will say that he has made a ruling or two that is confusing to me and the Defense, most notably in regards to prior acts, but, that doesn’t change my overall opinion of him.
With this particular Motion there are several options the Judge has (from harshest to lenient):
1. Deny the Motion for Mistrial and allow the trial to continue (undoubtedly this would cause an appeal unless James
Ray is acquitted);
2. Deny the Motion for Mistrial, find there was a Brady violation and allow Defense to recall witnesses, add to their opening argument, issue an instruction to the jury and/or postpone trial to allow Defense more time to investigate;
3. Grant the Motion and declare a mistrial without any type of prejudice thus allowing the State to bring the case again;
4. Grant the Motion and declare a mistrial with prejudice in finding it was an intentional non-disclosure by the State which would mean the charges could not be brought again.
Considering the Judge found there was a Brady violation, which means the State failed to properly and timely disclose exculpatory information, the first option is gone. There must be a punishment and a remedy. Understand that the punishment/remedy is within the Judge’s discretion. He will consider the timing, the length of the non disclosure, the repeated requests by the Defense for the information, the value of the information, the fact that trial has been going on for over 8 weeks, the relevant case law and the rules. All eyes are on him now as we anxiously await his decision…
Two weeks down and, well, countless weeks to go. The James Ray Sweat Lodge manslaughter trial wrapped up its second week on Friday with not many surprises or revelations.
Let’s back up a minute and go from the beginning. James Ray, a former motivational speaker/spriritual leader conducted a Spiritual Warrior retreat/program in October 2009. The program ended with a sweat lodge ceremony. No, this wasn’t a sweat lodge ceremony conducted in the presence of a traditional Native American leader, this was a ceremony led by James Ray.
Around 50 people attended the program, some paying approximately $9,600.00 to attend and participate. The program included lectures, challenges (such as cutting all your hair off), games (such as the “Samurai Game”) a vision quest, a fast and a rebirthing in a sweat lodge ceremony. During the last part of the program, the sweat lodge ceremony, 3 people died and numerous others suffered injuries. Subsequently James Ray was charged with 3 counts of manslaughter.
So, what does this mean? It means that he is facing over 30 years in prison if convicted. It means the prosecution has to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, to 12 strangers, that he was aware of a substantial risk of death and that he consciously disregarded that risk. That is a very tall order. Especially in light of the fact they were not tied down, not kidnapped and not held at gunpoint.
In my opinion, and based on what I have watched on Tru TV, here is some of what the prosecution wants to say through its witnesses in order to prove its case. (Granted, there is a lot more the prosecution wants to say, but this is a start):
• Ray was aware that someone could get seriously injured or die in the sweat lodge;
• Ray didn’t tell the participants that they could get seriously injured or die in the seat lodge;
• Ray was so persuasive and controlling that he basically took “free will” away from the participants thus keeping them from being able to leave the sweat lodge;
• Ray psychologically pressured participants to remain in the lodge even when they weren’t feeling well, contributing to their deaths.
In light of this you may be wondering if any of this has come out yet, or if the prosecution witnesses are fulfilling the wishes of the state. Short answer, kind of. So far the witnesses have been helpful to the prosecution in that they have started painting the picture of what the program was about, what actually happened during the program, what the sweat lodge looked and felt like, how James Ray acted before, during and after the sweat lodge ceremony, and the chaos that ensued after the sweat lodge ceremony.
However, those same witnesses have helped the defense in that they have been competent and credible witnesses, showing they have a mind of their own. They testified they read the waivers and signed them, that James Ray encouraged them to hydrate prior to the ceremony and after the fast and that this was not a cult.
How will it take shape this week? Stay tuned…
Do you remember James Ray? If not, two words will help you remember…”sweat lodge.” Yes, he was the one that held a ceremony at a sweat lodge in Northern Arizona in October 2009 that resulted in 3 deaths. Not only is James Ray facing civil lawsuits, he has also been charged with 3 counts of Manslaughter for these deaths that occurred during his “motivational” and “inspirational” retreat that culminated in numerous rounds in a sweat lodge.
Even though you haven’t heard of the case for around a year, it is about to be back in the media as the trial is starting soon. Today was the first day of jury selection in what is expected to be a 2 month trial. Jury selection is very important to both sides as the jury is the one that makes the ultimate decision as to innocence or guilt.
Jury selection in a case like this is taken very seriously and often includes a questionnaire prior to the start of the selection inside the courtroom. Considering all the media attention this case received at its inception, the questionnaire can help determine if the individual juror has a bias or prejudices. This will then be followed up with “in the courtroom” questions by both the judge and the attorneys. The judge will be trying to weed out those jurors that cannot be fair and impartial and the attorneys will be trying to get rid of those potential jurors who they believe would hurt their case.
I have participated in numerous jury trials and personally I think it is a crap shoot. Honestly, how many people will actually tell the truth and show who they really are and what they really believe in a courtroom with lots of other people staring at them? No one wants to be seen as prejudiced or narrow minded. So, as an attorney, you just do the best you can do and, well, GUESS and keep your fingers crossed.
In order to be convicted, all 12 jurors must believe James Ray is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of recklessly causing the death of another. If the prosecution succeeds, he will be facing prison time. The range for one count goes from 3 – 12.5 years, when you have different victims, as we do here, this range can be stacked. So, in other words, he could be looking at over 36 years in prison. But remember, it only takes one person to believe he is innocent. Due to the length of the trial, it is likely 16 jurors will be chosen to sit on the jury. Just prior to deliberations the alternates will be selected (randomly) and will be dismissed. They will only be brought into the deliberations if one or more of the 12 cannot fulfill their duties on the jury.
There will be many interesting details that will come to light once the trial starts. So, stay tuned…