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April 12, 2011

Mistrial sought in sweat lodge evidence battle

Posted: 03:51 PM ET

Atlanta, GA – There wasn‘t any testimony today in the manslaughter trial of motivational speaker and self-help guru James Ray.  Judge Warren Darrow ordered a recess "until further notice." On Monday, Ray’s attorneys filed a motion accusing the State of Arizona of suppressing material evidence that would be helpful to his defense. The defense is asking for a mistrial and the hearing on that motion is set for 11:30a.m.ET on Wednesday.

The State recently turned over a report from an environmental expert it had consulted about the indoor air quality and environmental conditions in the sweat lodge that may have caused or contributed to Liz Neuman's death. The State decided not to call the expert, Richard Haddow, as a witness at the trial.

Haddow’s  findings were in a report that was emailed to the lead detective, Ross Diskin, almost a year ago, on April 29, 2010.  Haddow concluded that the faulty design of the sweat lodge caused or contributed to Neuman's death.

Among Haddow's specific findings was the conclusion that the rock pit was "offset of center" making the northwest section of the sweat lodge the hottest and narrowest. The northwest section is where Neuman sat during the ceremony. He also concluded that there were hazardous concentrations of carbon dioxide in narrow sections of the sweat lodge and that the sweat lodge was a "nearly air tight" structure. Haddow said that the other two victims, James Shore and Kirby Brown, experienced environmental conditions that were similar to what Neuman experienced.

Ray's attorneys first learned about Haddow when he was listed as a potential witness in late October 2010. Even if an expert is not called as a witness, Arizona's discovery law requires that the State provide the expert's report. There is also an ongoing obligation by prosecutors to turn over all material that is could exonerate a defendant.

Since November 2010, the defense attorneys have asked the State for Haddow's report four times. They received it last week.

The critical issues in the trial are Ray's knowledge, if any, that he was subjecting participants to a risk of death and whether he actually caused the deaths by overheating the sweat lodge. Haddow's conclusions suggest another cause of death. Ray, who did not design or build the sweat lodge, cannot be held legally responsible for faulty design flaws.

The recent revelations in Haddow's report could have had a profound effect on the defense's strategy in preparing a defense and in examining the State's witnesses at trial. They argue that receiving it eleven months after it was written and several weeks into the trial leaves the judge no choice but to grant a mistrial.

Watch In Session on Wednesday for the live courtroom hearing to determine whether or not the case should be stopped.

-Beth Karas, In Session Correspondent

Filed under: James Arthur Ray • Sweat Lodge • Trial Updates • Trials

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Mamabear   April 12th, 2011 4:48 pm ET

Looks like this falls on the state for not providing the defense with all the credible evidence...tsk tsk!

Diane Sower   April 12th, 2011 4:57 pm ET

I don't care what these findings are. People who pay this kind of money to be in the presence of a self proclaimed "guru" are basically asking for trouble. It's ludicrous to spend that kind of money just to allow yourself to get hoodwinked into a miserable experience. People really should use their brains more.

Rev Mkell,   April 12th, 2011 5:25 pm ET

Is justice even allowed near the courts anymore! If all that counts is notches on the prosecution gun handle where did justice end up?

teresa, ohio   April 12th, 2011 8:55 pm ET

ahhh, so when it appears to be a done deal on the guilty verdict, lets pull in the mistrial stuff.

that report wouldnt have fazed me if I were on the jury. rays camp, rays sweat tarp monstrosity, rays reassurance that all was well and they would come out better people have gone to the brink of death.... yep, guilty on all counts.

I will be soooooooooooooooo ticked off if this ends up mistrial.

theanalyst   April 12th, 2011 10:22 pm ET

Another example of prosecutorial misconduct. Let’s see what happens on this one. I’m guessing what usually happens -- NOTHING.

Chris in TX   April 12th, 2011 11:24 pm ET

Will people ever learn that there is no place of enlightenment or redemption? You can't take a class on it. Sad that these people paid a lot of money to die but to make the tax payer suffer for the choices of man. It's ridiculous.

William Phillips   April 13th, 2011 12:26 am ET

This Man, caused me to disrespect him Immediately when he said I am God. this is the most unreal statement that can be Made. And I fell a lot of respect for him. He can not be trusted for any thing.

Faith   April 13th, 2011 5:23 am ET

I guess James Ray can use whatever tactic he likes but in his heart of hearts he would be bleeding for those people who lost their lives. He should be, because he caused it.

cregis   April 13th, 2011 7:14 am ET

Wasn't Ray in the sweat lodge himself? If so, doesn't that prove he didn't
know about the death possibility, unless he was attempting suicide. I don't like Ray but these people were not incompetents, they had businesses, made a lot of money and were responsible for their own well-being. There may be some civil liability, but not criminal. The prosecution is only going for its 15 minutes.

Marge in Charleston, SC   April 13th, 2011 9:42 am ET

Of course there should be a mistrial granted. It doesn't matter whether the accused appears to be guilty or the evidence clearly points to guilt, this is our Judicial system. He or she MUST have the benefit of a fair unbiased trial of his or her peers, on a level playing field. Then, when found guilty, there is no doubt. The Prosecution dropped a recovery from this error. It's elemental in the study of law..disclosure MUST occur. To withhold discovery items is tantamount to theft of honor.

susanem   April 13th, 2011 10:26 am ET

Many have said what a great defense team Ray has. I don't think there should be a mistrial based on the complaint. The defense attorneys should have/could have investigated the location issue themselves. They certainly didn't have to depend on the prosecution for the information.

Poppajoe   April 13th, 2011 10:56 am ET

Not only should the judge grant the mistrial, but the prosecuters office should be looked into for taking this to a criminal trial, at best this is a case for civill court not criminal. From all that has been presented so far, if I were on the jury I would NOT CONVICT....not crinally

Bob in Manhattan   April 13th, 2011 11:24 am ET

It is immaterial whether the sweat lodge was filled with carbon dioxide, monoxide or rat poison. The key is that people were brainwashed by a charismatic leader to stay in the lodge even though they may have felt that they were dying. He is guilty, period.

annie v   April 13th, 2011 11:35 am ET

question? If this expert information was so important to the defence why did they not hire their own witness?

Tabbmomof2   April 13th, 2011 11:48 am ET

Did Det. Diskin withhold the email (report) from the prosecutor or did Ms. Polk know about it the whole time? It's so upsetting to think of this much time, energy, and money going to waste for a mistake like this.

I still believe James Ray is guilty. The participants were "conditioned" that whole week to do what he said so he was able to guilt them into staying in the sweat lodge longer than they should. Why would he want the hottest/longest sweat lodge experience anyway? Of course HE was fine, he was by the door! If you ask me, he was "playing with people" and got way too big for his britches!

B Gray   April 13th, 2011 11:58 am ET

Just as to my background, I have been a police officer for 18 years and spent 7 years active duty in the US Army. I am familiar with gruelling conditions, however I make no claim to have experienced what these poor people went through in that sweat lodge. My question is this....Who comissioned the building of the sweat lodge? Was it not the defendant? If so, he is ultimately responsible. Did he make any attempt to comission any professionals in the building of this sweat lodge? Let me present this analogy....Lets say a person owns a tanning salon. This person decides to ask the person that works at the counter and cleans the tanning beds, to make them a tanning bed. Is it any surprise that a person may be seriously injured or killed in this makeshift tanning bed? Not at all, therefore, it's obvious that if the defendant comissioned the building of this lodge, he, not the "volunteers", is ultimately responsible for the deaths of these people. The defendant is the one that is taking the 10k per person to attend this place. He is the one to be held responsible for making sure that everything is safe (unless he hires someone specifically trained and certified with performing a task). He is purporting himself to be an expert in getting these people what they wanted, otherwise, they would not have paid him so much money. The responsibility lies with him. If a police officer tells you to do something and you do it, something goes awry, who is going to get sued? Obviously the police dept. and possibly the individual officer. Stop passing the buck!

Pam Colby   April 13th, 2011 12:48 pm ET

Okay, okay, let's get on with the trial. In Session and contributing persons are always saying how bright the jury is and how nothing gets by them so let's just give an instruction that the State made a poor judgment call and dropped a witness and his report that the defense feels is beneficial to their case and has harmed the manner in which they would have defended their client.

So, have the State pay for that witness to come testify, let the jury hear what he had to say (his opinion) and let the chips fall where they may.

To expect the judge to declare a mistrial and not allow the State to get a second crack at James Ray would seem a little bit much as far as justice is concerned. He should just get a free pass? I don't think so. The defense had the opportunity to obtain a witness, or the witness in question, but did not do so. I think they waited until just the right time, seeing how the trial was going, and then jumped on this opportunity to request a mistrial.

This "blocking" of evidence where the State/Defense feels it will benefit them is just foolishness and makes it appear that the system really doesn't work and needs to be "monitored and adjusted" by both sides.

Be for real   April 13th, 2011 1:00 pm ET

Trust no man who says he is God, people need to be a tad bit brighter than what they are and start using their head no man can redeem you!!! that's between you and God!!!

Connie   April 13th, 2011 1:36 pm ET

Is mistriall the only option the judge would have? It just appears after watching this trial for the past month, the defense has been trying anything to delcare a mistrail, it's obvious to me that James Rey is responsible, when he accepted their money, as ridiculous as it was, doesn't he then assume responsibility for their well being? In my opinion he is no different than any con man to scheme to make mucho dollars!!!!!!

Shay   April 13th, 2011 1:39 pm ET

As much as I think James Ray is 100% responsible for these tragic deaths, and as much as I want to see him held accountable for them, I also think it's reprehensible that the prosecution withheld evidence. I can't imagine what remedy the judge could offer to compensate for the damage to the Defense other than to declare a mistrial. I'm eager to see how handles it.

joanna133133   April 13th, 2011 1:39 pm ET

This is very disheartening! The State is and should be held to a High Standard, forthcoming, and credible. This State Prosecution I believe violated all of these standards! Seems this Prosecutional Misconduct was intentional, in withholding this one piece of 'evidence'.
In my opinion, these prosecutors should be FIRED!
Listening to this case, I am of the opinion thus far that James Ray is Guilty! To what level of guilt, I'm not quite sure because the trial is not over. Well, it probably is over now because of a MisTrial.
I really hope that through our legal system there is a way for the all victims in this case to have their JUSTICE! (now, the defendant's right of DOUBLE-JEOPARDY will come into effect; THANKS to the PROSECUTION!)

Joseph More   April 13th, 2011 1:44 pm ET

I thought that if a lawyer even a prosecutor tells a witness to lie then that is "SUBORNING PURGERY". If the prosecutor told the witness to not talk to the defense council and reveal the change in findings that was available to the prosecution then the prosecution would have Suborned a Witness.

Melinda   April 13th, 2011 1:45 pm ET

I think the prosecution has been displaying "NANCY GRACE" ethics the whole trial. I may agree that Mr. Ray is in this for money, but he deserves a fair trial. Let the jury decide his fate. Admit it, if Nancy Grace thinks you are guilty, she doesn't even want to hear what anyone else has to say. Just cut them off !

Linda Wilder   April 13th, 2011 1:50 pm ET

If, as James Ray contends, he wasn't responsible for the construction of the sweat lodge then why does he have participants sign a waiver absolving JRI of any liability? If he had no reason to believe that there was any danger from being in the sweat lodge, why does the waiver specify the sweat lodge? Or, if the waiver specifies the sweat lodge as a reason to require the waiver, wouldn't that indicate he is aware of a risk? If so, then he should have had medical services available.

Elizabeth Tisdale   April 13th, 2011 1:51 pm ET

none of those people would have been inside that sweat lodge if it weren't for James Ray. If there was a problem with the construction, he should have checked it out first. He is responsible, he has blood on his hands

Juggler   April 13th, 2011 1:54 pm ET

The defense is finally going to]get what they have been begging for,since the trial has started. A Mistrial. Although the prosecutors should have disclosed the e-mail, there's no way Ray should be allowed to walk. He has to be held accountable to the victims. A re-trial should be scheduled as soon as possiible.

nancy prewitt   April 13th, 2011 2:05 pm ET

I was wrongfully charged & convicted for murder in Indiana 5yrs. after my husband committed suicide.I had just remarried 2 months before my arrest. My case was overturned on a Brady Violation. It was remanded & the Prosecutor chose to retrial. After sitting in the county jail for another ~ 3yrs. I took a plea of voluntary manslaughter (I had been incarcerated for 37 days shy of 6 yrs) on the 1st day of retrial before jury selection. I had told the truth for 6 yrs. & stayed incarcerated; I lied (plead guilty) & got to go home on home electronic monitoring. The Indiana Constitution does not allow for bond on a murder charge. The lead State Police Investigator lied under oath & the Prosecutor sat by silently. Nothing happened to the State Police Investigator or the Prosecutor, no perjury or misconduct charges! I pray this Judge rules mistrial & dismisses the indictment for Mr. Ray. Hopefully, if Prosecutors are held responsible for such low life tactics there can be justice. There is no justice if both sides don't have to play by the same rules.

Niso   April 13th, 2011 2:34 pm ET

I grew up participating in cermony ie..sweatlodge, talking circles, Warriors rites, and other sacred (Native American) cermonies. I have the honor of facilitating sweats for the past 14yrs. after much spiritual guidance, practice and understanding of the true meaning of my responsibility to lead a sweat. I am Native American (Cree) and have come to understand the suffering that my people have endured at the hands of the Western (movement) ways. We are the only race of people that have no religious protection. Anyone regradless of who they are can take our cermonies and use them any way they feel like it. For one we do not charge to participate in any cermonies and your first and foremost responsibilty is to take care of the people who are there. "Sweat" is not a game or a competition to see who can take it or last the longest. You also never push the limits of those that don't truely understand why we (Natives) sweat.
Another aspect of Sweat Lodge cermonies is being involved in the construction of the lodge making sure everyone involved is in a good way and negative energy is not present,
It saddens me that anyone can come along and abuse our ways and take life of the unknowing. In 14yrs of leading sweat (30 yrs. prior of sweating) I have never been beyond 4 rounds (aside from the Warriors Rites of Passage). The "Old Ones" said "you honor the ancestors by following "True Intention" of the orignal creation that protected and offered comfort to the indigenous from the torture and suffering that was endured since first European set foot on our land. To go beyond this opens yourself to be unprotected by the spirits". Most will not undertsand these words, but most of us don't understand the "Wasichu" western thought and idealism

cliff   April 13th, 2011 2:50 pm ET

This should have never gone to trial in the first place, if people are that stupid to pay all that money to a man and then crawl into a sweat lodge, they deserve what they got, come on people use the brains God gave you.

Jennifer (Cedar Elk Woman) Lehmann Running Bear   April 13th, 2011 2:55 pm ET

This is another case of a guilty person – responsible for three deaths – getting set free because a technicality. I believe strongly in due process. However, this case needs to continue or be retried. Mr. Ray had knowledge of the structure, the placement of the fire pit, the crowding (more people at $10,000 a head), the impermeable materials – plastic and rubber (!) over the "Sweat Lodge". If the construction of the "Sweat Lodge" or "Kiva" was faulty, then also try the non-Indian owners of "Angel Valley" who are Plastic Medicine Men and Women, like James Ray – stealing our Indian Culture, distorting it beyond recognition, and using it to enrich themselves, at the expense of spiritually impoverished white people, and at the expense of Indians, whose Sacred Ceremonies are desecrated, distorted, and defiled.

dano   April 13th, 2011 3:02 pm ET

There will be a mistrial I do believe. Ray will walk and there will not be a re-trail I think.

Really to bad, he does need to be held responsible to some degree. Should have been tried in Civil Court.

Vincent Hodge   April 13th, 2011 3:05 pm ET

If there is a mistrial declared and the case is dismissed with prejudice, does James Ray then have a civil case against the state for prosecutorial misconduct or malicious prosecution?

P. Davis   April 13th, 2011 3:12 pm ET

My background is in criminal law and have been on both the prosecution and defense side over my career.

I am deeply ashamed and disheartened that the Prosecutor in this case has been this sloppy in discovery. Whether intentional or unintentional, the pure sloppiness of the handling of information and evidence is abominable. I was once, early on, scolded by a judge because a witness was not available at the date scheduled. That was, relative to this, very minor. Judges don't take anything in their court room "lightly" and the attorney at the root of the issue gets a real lambasting behind the scenes.

With that said, there is now a greater issue that has not been discussed on the air regarding this prosecution teams behavior:

How many other cases where the defendant was found guilty was due to the sandbagging of discovery material and just not caught by an overworked public defender or a private attorney who is overloaded and short-staffed?

I do know, I would not want to be in the shoes of these prosecutors OR in the shoes of the Lead Detective either!

Is this is an incident that is reportable to the Bar Association in Arizona?

Michael   April 13th, 2011 3:27 pm ET

This trial is over now, with the State withholding evidence. Exculpatory evidence. Even if the Judge doesn't rule this a mistrial, it surely would be included as evidence, and it will bring DOUBT. The State of Arizona, has yet again, screwed up a court case. I would not have filed charges against this guy any way. I would examine why HUMANS need to pay $10K to get some type of spiritual awareness. THAT is what needs to be examined. The guy was not responsible for their death. Its really a shame that the STATE has yet AGAIN. over charged a case.

desertrat377   April 13th, 2011 4:22 pm ET

I'm leaning toward an acquittal on this one. This is clearly a civil matter. Whether James Ray is a pompous, self-absorbed, egotistical narcissist or not, he didn't break the law. Sitting on his behind, by the door while others asked for help isn't illegal. Charging people $10k to be brainwashed isn't illegal. They signed the waiver, they paid the money. They are adults who are free to make poor decisions. They did. Such amazing, beautiful people were taken from the world way too soon. That's horrible. But sometimes it happens. We want to blame someone, but we can't! Mistrial or not, he shouldn't be in prison. He should be shamed and ridiculed and exposed as the scammer that he is.

George M   April 13th, 2011 4:39 pm ET

I was the victim of a Brady violation in 1999. Spent all my money in appeal with 9th district. Lost my children, home, many friends and ruined my life. So tell me why again that prosecutors aren't liable for dirty tricks?

Gary   April 13th, 2011 4:46 pm ET

I do feel that James Ray is responsible for any participant in one of his so called events just like any US company, church, Six Flaggs, ball park etc. ensuring the safety for everyone. But, did he intentionally cause the deaths? No, I don't believe that. Should he be sued and punished, YES, but put behind bars for 10 years? I'm not so sure of that. He definitely is responsible but how far do you take him if convicted?
Also over the year's, prosecution's in so many cases have been found out to have held evidence convicting so many innocent people. I believe that if the judge in the James Ray case rules a mistrial, the prosecutor should be disbarred or whom had the authority to make that decision. I am sick of prosecutors that are wanting to go up the ladder so bad to become judges, senators and so forth and will do anything to get there. The laws should be tougher on anyone in Government that intentionally breaks those laws and it's happening everyday.

Lorna   April 13th, 2011 5:29 pm ET

II can't believe the prosecution was so stupid as to withhold the carbon dioxide information from the defense. Now there's a good possibility that this snake oil salesman will walk and go back to bilking gullible people and putting them in harm's way.
Even if carbon dioxide was the cause of these three deaths, I feel that he should still be convicted of manslaughter because he created the environment by overheating and overcrowding the sweat lodge. He also intimidated his "clients" and ignored the distress calls which could have saved the victims. He is a very dangerous and arrogant man who has caused injury to many people even prior to this incident and now he'll be free to go out and injure many more. And, sadly, there'll be plenty of sheep lining up to give him their money and risk injury or death for the sake of his description of "enlightenment."

rftallent   April 13th, 2011 5:44 pm ET

In response to B Gray. Angel Valley provided the sweat lodge structure for use by James Ray International, just as they did for other groups who held retreats on their property. But, unlike previous sweat lodges, some pieces of "treated" lumber were used that the defense suggests might possibly have emitted some type of hazardous toxins.

Wen   April 13th, 2011 5:58 pm ET

How sad for everyone concerned. What a wast of taxepayers money. What a shame to see the prosecutors act in such a manner of dissregarded of the law.

Kathy Sustersic   April 13th, 2011 6:48 pm ET

I don't think this should be a mistrial. Evidence that the sweatlodge was constructed wrong? Doesn't change my mind. James Ray assured those people that he knew what he was doing. If he didn't
check the work and make sure it was what it was supposed to be, he
should have. He killed those people. It's not civil. It's reckless manslaughter.

Jack Dering   April 13th, 2011 9:04 pm ET

James Ray may be a greedy con artist, but that doesn't make him a killer. Victims' relatives could have filed civil suits, and some of them have done so. The evidence of Mr. Ray's criminal culpability was so flimsy that apparently the prosecution felt compelled to call countless witnesses to testify to the same facts or opinions. How many times does the jury have to hear about the man whose arm fell in the fire pit?

These charges should never have been filed, and now that the prosecution team has been exposed for their "dirty tricks," it's time to call an end to this trial and any further prosecution.

Paula   April 13th, 2011 9:11 pm ET

These grown, intelligent people went voluntarily and bought into James Ray teachings. They were free to believe whatever they wanted to. They were free to get up and leave. They chose to follow his teachings and attend the events. They signed waivers releasing him from harm and yes even death. Whatever you think of JRI, and trust me I think he's deplorable, he's still NOT GUILTY for the victims making their own decisions. Americans have the freedom of choice! Period. The state should of never brought this to a criminal court. I can see some Civil relief but not criminal. I do feel bad for the families who lost their loved ones. It's a heartbreaking shame. It's mind boggling and very hard to accept but it wasn't criminal

Paula   April 13th, 2011 9:28 pm ET

@Pam you saying, " I think they waited until just the right time, seeing how the trial was going, and then jumped on this opportunity to request a mistrial." This is not true. The Prosecution just at THEIR right time last week, presented thousands of pages of discovery with the email stuck in them. Sure they were hoping no one would see it and play it off as being overlooked by the defense. That shows conscensenous of guilt! Throw Ms Polk in jail! Interesting how she made the Deputy D.A. explain their spin to the Judge

Karen from Charleston   April 13th, 2011 10:13 pm ET

I pray that James Ray's trial is not declared a mistrial. Because, justice would not be served. If I was part of the prosecution team, I would bring Haddow in to testify. Since his report is only his opinion, and everyone does not know exactly where everyone was seated, he really can't prove anything. Since Ray has been conducting these money making fake sessions for quite sometime, he would and should know if everything was not exactly correct. I questioned the fact that plastic and tarps were being used in the first place, and I am certainly not versed in heat science, but I know that unlike fabric, the vinyl and tarps would not allow for the exchange of air. And, if Ray was not aware of this situation, why did he sit by the only place where people could exit. He set there to intimidate the poor souls that were captive of his own ego. So he is guilty. But, I pray a mistrial is not the way this case ends. Ray should be charged with criminal murder one instead of manslaughter.

renee   April 13th, 2011 11:32 pm ET

Wow! makes you wonder who else the prosecution may have witheld imporatant information on, and more than likely on people who cant afford a dream team like Ray.

db from Missouri   April 14th, 2011 12:27 am ET

Fine the Prosecutor and let the Defense bring the guy in to give testimony.

Zack   April 14th, 2011 3:41 am ET

The judge issued his decision today and ordered NO MISTRIAL!
The case with the jurors present will resume today!

nik101   April 14th, 2011 4:12 am ET

The judge has ordered that the trial will continue. He must believe the prosecution must not have a very good case to continue the trial after obvious with holding a report from the defense. What I want to know- how many people are subjected to prosecutors hiding information? Corrupt system we have. Although I think Ray is guilty, he deserves a fair trial.

sweatedB4   April 14th, 2011 8:50 am ET

I went to a sweatlodge for the first time in the mid '90s. I was in the third group (each group was hours apart) because it could only hold 10-15 people at a time. When I asked why they didnt build a bigger lodge, I was told that to build it any bigger was dangerous because a bigger lodge would have inconsistant heating and some areas could have super heated pockets that the leader may not know about and could not keep participants safe.

The nature of the hand built sweatlodge makes it unsafe for large groups of people. The builder of the James Ray lodge made this fact known (according to earlier reports from CNN), but he was asked to build it to hold many people anyway.

Ultimately, the responsibility for the safety of the participants inside the lodge falls on the leader inside the sweatlodge who is supposed to monitor safety while leading the participants in their spiritual experience. The leader is to be an expert in the use of the sweatlodge. The leader, James Ray, inside the lodge catastrophically failed in this regard and in my opinion is fully culpable for the death and injuries of everyone involved.

So regardless of who built the thing, it was too big and inherently dangerous, and James Ray had the responsibility to know this fact. If he claims he didnt know, he shouldnt have been running a sweatlodge in the first place because he was operating a dangerous activity recklessly and is culpable for the results. If he did know, but didnt care, his recklessness is without question.

Flowerlver   April 14th, 2011 9:27 am ET

I agree on the judges decision on continueing the trial. I think the defense had information about carbon dixocide possiblities throughout the trial from the state and could have done their own investigation at that time to prove a point.
Ray is responsible. He could have pulled the people out who were passed out, instead of leaving them in the sweat lodge. I think people were unaware of the consequences and Ray should have better prepared in explaining that death, might mean DEATH and its not just the game. Some type of medical assistance should have been available to them.

Patricia Stone   April 14th, 2011 10:22 am ET

I think with all the money James Ray charged for the Sweatlodge that he should have had a proper one constructed /built that could have been taken down and used over and over and the 3 persons would be alive to tell of the experience that was to have been so great!! I think he is to blame for not haviing the proper structure for all these people Shame on him!!

roger mcintyre   April 14th, 2011 10:37 am ET

I have been watching this trial from the start of it. I have notice that the defense has put a reasonable doubt to the facts. This outstanding defense team has been leading the judge around the courtroom like a dog on a leash. If I was on the defenses team I would run the actual fact the prosecution did with hold this document, and they tried to de-rail the true facts on the due process of Mr. Ray. I was shocked there wasn't a mistrial. The judge has more than likely came to the conclusion there is no case here. And that was from the on set of the indictment.

Laurie Courtney   April 14th, 2011 11:45 am ET

I am far from a legal scholar... but frankly, if I had been a jury member, and this whole idea of carbon dioxide had been presented and constantly referred to from the beginning of the trial, I would still be of the mindset I am today. No matter what was the ultimate cause of death for Kirby, James, and Liz...the negligence of James Ray contributed to it. He needs to bear the responsibility of creating an environment that made leaving that tent difficult. He needs to answer for not heeding the statements of the few who were brave enough to speak up in the lodge, telling him that people were in trouble. Whether from carbon dioxide, monoxide, hyperthermia, or was James Ray who ignored the warnings and closed the flap. I cannot help but compare the pictures of the participants waiting in line at the sweat lodge to those standing in line for the "kool-aid" in Jonestown. No, James Ray is no Jim Jones, but his 'cult of personality' was powerful. Every time his followers paid enormous amounts of money to hear the "Secrets" that they believed only James could deliver...everytime they acquiesced to dehumanizing treatment (head shaving, told to "die" and lying still for hours etc.)...they took a sip of the "James Ray Kool-aid" without knowing it. God bless them.

angelvic   April 14th, 2011 11:55 am ET

I do not understand, why those people did not go to a sauna for 30 bucks per hour instead of 10 grand and got in danger!!!!!!

anita   April 14th, 2011 12:38 pm ET

The judge seems to be more interested in listening to the arguments the defense is presenting, he is patient, looks at the defense attorneys and lets them speak, whereas, when the prosecution is speaking, especially Ms. Polk, he looks elsewhere and not at her directly, seems fidgety and impatient to hear her out. I wonder, and have wondered this since the beginning of the trial, if the judge has some misogyny issues. Just now he cut off the prosecution when speaking; I've never seen him to that to the defense. Anybody else have similar observations?

Matthew   April 14th, 2011 1:02 pm ET

I feel the judge is running scared in this case and is unwilling to make the tough decisions. Reasons of course unkown. But it has been stated all along that this trial should be decided by the jury, even with the judge wary of some findings. In this case why do we need judges? Brady law violations, and all the other questionable material fact leads me to believe a mistrial should have been granted. I guess we need to leave the jury in charge to ultimately decided the outcome, at least that will be safe and beneficial to the carreers of those in charge of the legal system. Its never been a crime to take advantage of peoples willingness to do things that are harmful to themselves.I.e. cigarette, liquor sales, wieght loss, Dr advise and the list goes on and on. This is a civil suit period and not a crimnal case.

jim bowen   April 14th, 2011 2:47 pm ET

I would think the defense would be very happy that a mis-trial was not given. this new evidence,in my opinion, will almost guarantee an acquital. if it doesn't it is grounds for a reversal on appeal. if mr. ray got off on a technicality, there would be a cloud over his head. no one would trust him enough to attend any "sweat lodge" he arranged. if acquited, can you imagine the sales pitch he could use.."i endured this trial by using my methods you can too. so attend my courses". and if found guilty (which i doubt) a constitiutional rights violation is a sure bet for reversal.

Keith Bocock   April 14th, 2011 5:34 pm ET

I'm glad the judge didn't declare a mistrail.
There are criminal charges that the state should proceed with.
I don't think that the sweatlodge is the only issue though.
What about the events prior to the sweatlodge: the Samurai
games etc.
Also, why was the death of Colleen(I forget her last name)
in San Diego never investigated?


Pam Colby   April 14th, 2011 5:42 pm ET

Well, I was one of a few that thought the judge would try to remedy this mistrial issue so now let's look at what we have.

Yes, a violation of Consttutional Rights is a big deal - to all you lawyers out there. However, to the jury it's just a little bump in the road.

My guess now is that when all is said and done, the jury will look back at this "bump" and say, "No big deal. We heard it, evaluated the weight of the evidence, and put together a verdict." The shape of the sweat lodge, the depth of the fire pit, all that may be pertinent to establishing if a "building permit" should be put into place but that's not the issue here. The issue is, in my opinion, whether James Ray basically sent "his followers" into a hot den of hell totally unprepared for the type of heat situation "he wanted to experience and was prepared to face." They did follow, they did obey, they did feel obligated to "play full on," and subsequently three died.

I'm not yet certain what I think the verdict will be. I am just pleased at this point that no mistrial was declared and that this group of jurors will be allowed to complete their tour of duty. Had they been dismissed after all these many weeks, they would surely be disappointed in the system if their opportunity to convene was taken away from them - and they would have been correct to be unhappy.

If all the lawyers, judges, law enforcement, etc., keep telling us how the system works, then let it run the course and then we can differ on the outcome, but can be proud that the jury got a chance - or let's go to professional jurors, which would be my preferred choice.

Good job Judge Darrow!!

Heidi Gagnier   April 14th, 2011 8:41 pm ET

I think if the Judge grants a will be one of the biggest mistake he could make. No matter what, Ray got into the minds, like a cult, of these people and as a result loved ones were lost. Where is the justice for them and their families? Anyone can hold a sweat house and have people die and NO ONE is responsible?? In my opinion...he's guilty...and my prayers and sympathy is with the ones that are suffering the most.....the families and the injured. What a shame....

Jo   April 14th, 2011 9:24 pm ET

Well I smell an appeal,,,,the jury is tainted, don't tell me they aren't aware of the Prosecution withholding an important email like Haddow's..There is too much media blabbing about it...and this Judge is obviously biased he needs to step down ina Brady Violation is a Brady Violation... Too bad more money wasted on James Ray..He needs to go on his own spiritual journey and not come back.

Shannon   April 14th, 2011 10:34 pm ET

I was shocked to learn that the judge did not grant the mistrial in this case. Frankly, it is more than unnerving to know that these sort of violations occur. How many go unnoticed? How many possibly innocent people are in prison or guilty people free due to this corruption of the legal system? I don't claim to know what the specific laws are due to the violation, but I would think that there should be some harsh admonishment for these lawyers, possibly losing their right to practice law. I also wonder due to their lack of regard concerning this matter and the fact that they have two violations in this trial how many times they have done this and gotten away with it. Also, I again want to point out that although Mr. Ray is a less than decent person, it does not mean his is guilty of these charges. Personally, I think he's an idiot but not a killer.

kitty austin   April 15th, 2011 3:08 am ET

I believe james ray should be responsible for the people who believed in him, yet those people put aside their good judgement, and common sense to give in to the ultimate manipulator! Shame on you, James Ray11

kawesoton light   April 15th, 2011 8:59 am ET

I have been watching this trial from the beginning...I believe that a mistrial should have been declared, even though i feel james ray should be held accountable for his actions.I have been in literally thousands of sweat lodge ceremonies. They have been mild ones to extreame heat. In all my years i have never seen or had a single person have to go to the hospital. As native people we appreciate all life and we never take things for granted. Every day the sun rises we give thanks because it is a true miracle.Why didnt he (james ray) build this lodge himself? That way he would know it was built correctly.Were there offerings made to the willows that were used? The rocks that were gathered? We see so often people playing with things they actually know nothing about and exploiting them for the allmighty dollar. I myself believe people like james ray need to find out where THEY come from and use their OWN teachings. tragic things happen when people take things for condolences to the families that lost loved ones because of someone not taking the time to make sure everything was done in a proper way. I really dont know very many non native people. Where we live all our ceremonies are only open to native american peoples.We have a hard enough time helping our own people.I hear all the time of these new agers looking for something to believe in. The SECRET is within yourself and finding out where you truely come from, who your people are. dont play or try to be something your not.

Louis Pumel   April 15th, 2011 12:54 pm ET

I think it's hilarious that people are on here saying, "The prosecution did nothing wrong, the defense should have done the research for themselves." The judicial system isn't a game! This isn't Monopoly, it's a court hearing to decide the outcome of a MAN'S LIFE! So yes, if the prosecution finds evidence that could exonerate the defendant, it's their obligation to turn that evidence over. Why? Because if they don't, they are trying to convict an innocent man, and that's not justice.

Jason   April 16th, 2011 3:30 am ET

Louis Pumel, How can you say the prosecution did nothing wrong? It is against the law for them to withhold evidence from the defense that pertains to the case. So your saying it is ok to break the law to try and convict a person. How is that getting a fair and unbiased trial? As a matter of fact the prosecution should be charged with withholding evidence or evidence tampering,they obviously withheld this evidence intentionally since it seems it would help the defense case. And this judge that didn't grant a mistrial obviously thinks it is ok to break the law and not allow this man to get a fair and unbiased trial.whether he is guilty or not.By not granting a mistrial now it will just get grant by a higher court in the future costing everyone alot more money.

dan   April 19th, 2011 12:18 pm ET

i think that these people paid to become a spiritful warrior to become a warrior many cultures put themselves in harms way. But i would cosider james ray himself an expert on the ways to become a real warrior

Bev   April 19th, 2011 3:07 pm ET

Ray was fairly giddy over the fact that this was going to be the hottest sweat lodge ever. He consciously subjected these people to a sweat lodge too big to be safe and at higher temperatures than any before. He tried to shame people into remaining in conditions where people were passing out and getting sick. Pesticides, carbon dioxide or monoxide or any other so-called toxin are irrelevant: Once it became obvious that people were passing out and getting sick - for whatever reason - he should have ended the ceremony immediately.

Reckless disregard is putting it mildly. He is either an ego-maniacal psychopath or profoundly, horrifyingly ignorant. Neither is excusable.

GeorgieAnn Campbell   April 20th, 2011 9:49 am ET

Do You Think That It would be Possible to get Judge Perry To Get on This case just to Get It Over With???....This Trial Sucks Big Time...It has Bored me to no end.

Willena   April 20th, 2011 11:09 am ET

I am sick and tired of hearing that Mr. Ray said they could leave the lodge if they wanted....however....if you notice he said "when the doors are open". And there were so many he is in command...for him to check out he people that were not responding instead of just saying...they are ok. He thinks he is god...won't even capitalize that for him....and he even played god in his other activites telling people to die. He got all the money....he is just an egotistical, money hungry person.

Nanjan   April 20th, 2011 12:31 pm ET

I am SHOCKED at Ms. Polk and her demeaner as a prosecutor. She is so far out in left field I can't help but wonder where she received her law degree, a CRACKER JACK BOX?

PLEASE, the agruments today regarding the admissibility of prior sweat lodges is ridiclious for the following reason.

1. The sweat lodges were not build the same, you can not build a lodge the exact same in any circumstance.

How can the state assert they were the same? These were different people, different health issues, NO TWO PEOPLE ARE THE SAME, NO TWO SWEAT LODGES WERE THE SAME.

Come on now, lets be real.

Ms. Polk is getting away with murder!

Nancy Malley   April 21st, 2011 9:22 am ET

I can't understand why the defense is focusing on the cause of death, the construction of the lodge, etc. It doesn't matter whether the victims died of heatstroke, chemical poisoning, carbon dioxide. The point is that James Ray engaged in mind control and encouraged people to ignore the distress signals their bodies were giving them and to remain in the lodge even if they felt like they were dying. That is what caused their deaths.
And I don't understand why the defense feels that the recording of James Ray telling people that "if you just can't overcome and transcend this, then when the gates are opened you can leave" is a point for them. In my mind, it is another indication of the mind control Ray used. The implication is that if you CAN'T overcome this, you are weak and there is something wrong with you. Also, it proves that Ray did not say that you can leave whenever you need to, but only "when the gates are open."

Carrie   April 22nd, 2011 12:17 pm ET

These were ADULTS that went into this sweat lodge not children being forced to by their parents and if they were dumb enough to stay in there then its their own fault they died not his. As adults they had a choice of leaving and did not. There is no "well he wouldn't let anyone leave"... if I want to leave somewhere I will find a way to leave! If I told someone "hey give me thousands of dollars and I will take you to a cliff and you jump off and your soul will be saved"... would you do it or would you have enough sense to turn around and leave?

vaughn   April 26th, 2011 10:23 pm ET

This is a perfect example of how people go to prison because of a prosecutor that`s just interested in winning a case instead of proving guilt. It seems like Ms. Polk is running this courtroom instead of the judge. I doubt that judge Perry wouldn`t put up with Ms. Polks scams. That Mrs. Mercer has to be the worst witness the prosecutor has put on the stand. She doesn`t understand anything they ask of her. You can tell she`s lying and wants to see Ray convicted. I don`t think the jury will have any problem seeing through her at all. I just think that those people were adults and were told that the lodge would be extreme. If you can`t take the heat, then stay away from the fire.

Dr. Richard J Robin   April 27th, 2011 3:00 pm ET

Trying to tie the deaths of those poor people to ant or rat poison is absurd and personally the defense lawyer who inserts *poison* into every sentence he utters comes off looking like a moron... in my opinion.

Mr Ray was responsible for ALL the people who gave him money in good faith. No matter how the lodge was constructed, it was his responsibility to inspect it , the fire, the water and the rocks before allowing people inside to participate in his program. No matter whether a person is a genius or a moron, Mr. Ray was responsible for their wellfare.

As a scientist theres no doubt in my mind that nobody died of poisoning and they need to move along . I'm still waiting to see actual evidence to form a final opinion – I hope it gets better than rat poison.

nita   April 29th, 2011 12:55 am ET

Oh! How I wish the judge had let in testimony of those beauty–oops, I mean spa treatments Ray had scheduled. What was the purpose of all that pampering, James? Why would you need an herbal detox, limphatic drain, deep massage, and a gentleman's facial? I think he knew he needed to detox his body after sitting in that smoke-filled, toxic environment inside the lodge. How sad for those who were dragged across the dirt like fallen trees, upon falling ill, did not get any pampering as they were removed from the lodge. The mire act of having in place medical backup for the participants would have portrayed Ray's character in a very different light. After all these weeks of watching this trial.....and I do not think I can take it another day, I still hold the opinion of Ray as I held the first day this case was introduced. This person is "all wrapped up" in himself and others do not matter...that is very evident.

John   April 29th, 2011 9:56 am ET

Did anyone notice? Mr. Hamilton testified that unusable blankets were replaced with new ones as needed. Mrs. Hamilton testified that they were replaced with USED ones. Where did they come from? What were they used for? I keep a couple in my garage to protect from overspray or to catch small chemical spills. I would never make a tent out of them and subject them to high levels of heat and humidity and then breathe the vapors.

smallbuzfam   May 6th, 2011 1:49 pm ET

The defense does NOT want a mistrial. God forbid they give the prosecution a second go at delivering a good case instead of an overtried case where they didn't start early with Dr. David Kent, a witness from a prior sweat lodge who told dream team members in 2008 about the dangers of the intense heat. No, the defense want's to appeal this case and if they do, they'll win. I think the judge should call a mistrial and cut the defense off at the knees. Retry the case in a straight-forward, coherent fashion, with a different judge. Where's Arizona's "Belvin Perry" ?

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