April 12, 2011
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
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