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James Ray Trial Updates

March 7, 2011

There is excellent detailed coverage of the James Ray trial in Celestial Reflections blog (daily updates) and Salty Droid. I haven’t attempted to duplicate that here, but have been indicating a few of the salient points to come up on particular days and link to more detailed material. At the bottom of the page there are links to original witness testimony given to investigators.

June 6 Defense’s motion for acquittal denied. This post is getting too long, so it is continued here.

May 28 The trial has restarted, but CNN has stopped streaming it. CNN of course helped promote James Ray (through an appearance on Larry King) and gave his lawyer Brad Brian the chance to appear on Larry King as well, and defend his client. (That resulted in a gag order from the court.) The coverage CNN did provide was atrocious, with their camera man continually failing to return for the start of sessions and forgetting to turn on the audio. They also repeated missed crucial moments because they preferred to show streaming video of weather satellite pictures or Buckingham Palace in the dark.

To pass the time until I can get some details of what has been going on, here is a Death Ray musical interlude put together by Salty Droid. Check out his You Tube channel for more.


May 14 Two week recess in the trial to allow Mr Li to wash and iron his boxer shorts, Mr Kelly a bit more time to sleep off the hangovers without needing to turn up to court in dark glasses,  and Ms Do time to work out her feelings about James Arthur Death Ray (who recently tweeted that he was “friggin in love w/ the bruenett [sic] Asian” ). Trial starts again on May 26.

… 

May 12 More details of James Ray’s actions after the sweat lodge were aired in the trial. This was already in the publicly available records but it had somehow escaped my attention until Sergeant Barbaro testified.

Sgt. Barbaro asked Ray who was in charge of the sweat lodge.

Ray answered “Ted”, meaning Ted Mercer, the fire keeper.

Just as with Colleen Conaway’s death, Ray (and some staff members and volunteers) immediately went into cover up mode. Here is part of Barbaro’s original testimony to the investigation. The wording is of course a little different to what he actually said in court yesterday, but I don’t have a court transcript, this will do as account of what happened:



I started speaking to some of the subjects that were coherent and found out that they had been in a sweat lodge and become ill. As I was speaking with the subjects some of the “dream team” insisted that I did not speak with the participants but wanted me to speak with Jason [actually Josh Fredrickson] James Ray’s assistant. [In fact one of the dream team was interfering so much that Barbaro threatened the person with arrest.]…When I asked [Josh] who was in charge of the event, he said James Ray. When I asked him where James was, he told me up at the main building eating dinner. I thought this was strange because EMS was airlifting and transporting subjects at this time.

Those who are aware of the way James Ray and some of his staff covered up their involvement in Colleen Conaway’s death two months earlier will not find this strange at all. With two people dead and several others critical, James “Death” Ray’s only thoughts were how to look innocent.

….While waiting for the investigators I spoke with James Ray. James told me he was conducting a seminar and was in the sweat lodge. I asked him who was conducting the sweat lodge and he told me Ted…At 2022 hours, Lt. Parkinson told me that James had spoken with his attorney and his attorney had advised him not to give a statement.

Ray had obviously thought he might be able to exploit some confusion about the nature of a sweat lodge to make it look like Ted Mercer was “in charge” of it. Shortly afterwards, a deeply shaken Ted Mercer innocently speculated that maybe the wood they had burned could have had something to do with the conditions in the lodge. It didn’t, but he was trying to help investigators and emergency workers find out what happened.

Ray was absolutely prepared to throw Mercer under the bus. In Ray’s sick fantasies, it would be the innocent Ted Mercer (who acted swiftly to help victims) who would be sitting in the dock, not James Ray, the impeccable Spiritual Samurai, who helps people improve their lives and doesn’t run “weenie ass” sweat lodges like the native Americans.

The jury will not hear that a couple of hours afterward refusing to talk to investigators, Ray sent out an email to his mailing list declaring the event “a success”, despite some people “having taken ill”.

The day also included the rather revealing scene of the entire defense team standing well back behind the seated James Ray, desperately arguing for the importance of getting the trial finished on schedule, as they have “other commitments”. That’s the way it goes, I’m afraid, James. A million bucks will buy a bunch of lawyers who’ll lie and distort and try and throw innocent people under the bus for you, but it won’t buy you loyalty.

Thanks to Connie Joy (author of Tragedy in Sedona) for sending the link to the interview via twitter. 

May 11 An important, maybe crucial day in the trial yesterday. The defense’s absurd claims about toxins as a cause of death were completely blown out of the water by expert testimony. Dr Matthew Dickson explained to the jury why he could rule out various poisons as a cause of death, and saw no reason to alter that opinion in the face of Truc Do’s distortions of his testimony and the testimony of other doctors.

Lavaughn has a more complete take on the proceddings. (I missed a lot because of work. CNN also didn’t bother providing a stream for large portions of the day.) From LaVaughn’s post:

…He also explained that reaction to residential products containing organophosphates is generally mild because the concentrations in home pesticides is extremely low. In other words, he gutted the organophosphate argument.

Dickson explained a bit about the spectrum of heat related illness and he placed the demarcation between heat exhaustion and heatstroke at a “change in mental status.” In other words, that “altered state” that James Ray was pushing sweat lodge participants towards

He also excluded rat poison because there was no evidence of bleeding to death. The only bleeding was in Liz Neuman associated with that DIC which was a final stage. Had it been rat poison, 45 minutes of CPR would have caused death from internal bleeding. And Liz Neuman was hooked up to mechanical CPR for quite some time.

Dickson had been provided with the pesticides in question from Angel Valley Ranch, the Just One Bite, JD Eaten, an d-Con rat poisons, all of which would have caused that bleeding death. He also looked into the toxicity of Amdro ant poison, even though it wasn’t used until 2010. None of them contained organophosphates.

Read the entire post here!

May 8 The defense team’s (apparent) local friend and journalist, Mark Duncan has published an extremely stupid article lamenting the cost of the trial. $200,000 of public money has been spent so far in conducting the trial. He doesn’t feel it necessary to mention the fact that the defendant has spent $1 million or more on his own defense team, nor does he mention that these vast resources have been quite blatantly aimed at derailing the trial. Six or seven frivolous motions for mistrial, many dozens of motions to preclude evidence, weeks and weeks wasted on the most far fetched speculations about how various non-existent toxins might have caused some of the symptoms, had they been present.

Nor does Mr Duncan bother to calculate the cost of the dozens of emergency responders, four helicopters a dozen ambulances, hazmat teams, 60 investigators etc, it took to attend to the disaster area that Mr Ray initially caused.

Mr Duncan seems to accept that the rich should be able to buy justice, and that James Ray should have been allowed to continue unchecked to cause further deaths.

Back to the trial: The defense continued their absurd claims of phantom toxins. Truc Do continued to try and seduce Dr Mosley (who conducted the autopsy on Liz Neuman) into agreeing with the defense’s accomplice Dr Paul, that some of the symptoms on some of the victims may be consistent with organo-phosphate poisoning. The fact there has been absolutely no indication of any amounts of any such toxins – let alone the vast quantities needed for a lethal dose – does not exclude the defense from continuing to waste everyones time and money on this completely irrelevant issue.

Do it seems, despite the tight dress and wiggling in front of the ubiquitous flipchart, failed to win over the softly spoken and deceptively sharp doctor. Worst of all for the defense, it seems clear that he took Dr Paul’s speculations seriously, and after careful consideration decided that there was insufficient evidence to agree. Heatstroke, and possibly carbon dioxide poisoning are the most likely causes of death

Of course, all the defense needs to do is plant seeds of doubt in the jurors’ minds that toxins may have been a factor, and that the state failed to adequately investigate. Then, if they manage that, they still need to deal with the fact that their client ignored the pleas for help and continued running the event.

As noted below, the defense has given up trying to defend their client, and have no ethical options left. So they are attempting to bury the state under masses of paperwork, harass the judge into making errors, exhaust the financial and personal resources of the state, derail the legal process through tactical maneuvering, waste time and exhaust the jury with endless questioning about ants and bugs, and jump on any slip up the state makes.

Mr Ray may well walk free from this trial, especially if it fails to reach a verdict. But his guilt is not even questioned by his own defense team. James Ray will not be testifying either. He has nothing to say in defense of himself.

May 5 No updates here for a week or two, because details of each day (court is in session Tues – Fri) are at LaVaughn’s blog and Salty Droid.

The latest bizarre and dirty tactic from the defense has been to post, as an addenda to a motion, names, addresses, phone and email adresses of hundreds of participants of Ray’s spiritual warrior retreat since 2003. Of course, this has the advantage for Ray’s PR to show how many people attended his course without having been killed by him. Participants, of course, all signed a waiver giving JRI the right to use all their personal information, images, footage, audio recording and identity in any way they see fit.

The state prosecutors have consistently shown infinitely more concern for the well being of Ray’s clients that Ray ever has, and moved swiftly to have the court seal the documents.

This isn’t the first time they have done something like this. They displayed witness Melinda Martin’s social security number to the court and to everyone watching the live coverage on TV and internet. They also “inadvertently” published details of the autopsies last year which had already been sealed.

As always, check LaVaughn’s excellent and highly detailed coverage each day, and the expert (and at times hilarious) tweets of Chicago lawyer and part time robot, Salty Droid.

Ok, I’ll add a few thoughts here about the intervening time since the last update….

The defense continues to do their best at pulling the wheels off the legal system. As I’ve said elsewhere, James Ray exploited people’s basic trust in order to separate them from their cash, from their better judgment, and in four cases, from their lives. Now his defense team is exploiting the state’s commitment to giving him a fair trial to help him escape justice.

The defense team considers Ray guilty. After the deaths, and even up until the time Ray was arrested and charged, they were claiming he would have stopped the sweat lodge if he had have heard pleas for help, and that he had no way of knowing the dangers because previous lodges were without incident.

That line of reasoning (known as a “defense”) would have vindicated Ray, were it not for one small problem: reality.

Dozens witnesses some inside the lodge, some outside, have testified (either on the witness stand or in police police interviews) to hearing pleas for help and Ray’s response to leave the person in distress. According to the defense’s initial arguments, a reasonable person would have stopped the ceremony when he heard a man screaming that he was having a heart attack and didn’t want to die. (Ray told him to pipe down and told him “It’s a good day to die”. He didn’t check on his health.)

According to the defense’s initial arguments, he would have stopped the lodge when he heard statements like “James, I’m worried about Liz. She’s not moving.” Instead he said “Leave her. She’s done this before, she knows what she’s doing. She’s where she needs to be.”

He would have stopped the lodge when he heard “Kirby’s not breathing”. Instead he said, “The round has started. We’ll deal with her later.”

Ray watched about a dozen people in various stages of unconsciousness and incapacity, being dragged out directly past him and dumped on the gravel outside. He chose to keep going. He had lied to people about his qualifications, lied to people that the symptoms of heatstroke (loss of consciousness, vomiting, etc) were safe and to be expected — indeed they were the goal of the exercise. He lied to people that they would be taken care of if they passed out.

He deliberately exhausted and disoriented them through the activities of the previous days, and convinced them to trust his judgment over their own. Of course, that’s what they had agreed to pay him vast amounts of money for.

Now his defense team is arguing that they should not have believed him, nor should they have expected him to fulfill his responsibility to provide the services they had paid for. Instead, participants, employees and volunteers — several of whom saved lived lives (and therefore saved Ray from several more manslaughter charges) — are being attacked, belittled, insulted, lied to and otherwise publicly humiliated by Ray’s million dollar lawyers. (Lawyers paid for with participants’ money and employees’ back-pay.)

Emergency medical responders have been badgered and bulldozed and their statements distorted. The jury, committed to giving Ray a fair hearing and following every minute detail have also been lied to and subjected to the most frivolous and mind numbing attempts to bore them into confusion.

No, it wasn’t Ray’s recklessness that cooked those people to death. It coulda been ant poison. Rat poison. Organo-phosphates. Treated wood. As commenter “Injun Samurai” astutely and at great length pointed out on Salty Droid’s blog:

Commercially available organophosphate granules are only 10% organophosphates by volume. The rest is sweeteners, fillers, and preservatives to entice the little critters and keep the molecule stable. To reach the necessary exposure levels using a commercial product like that, you’d need ten times the volume of the granules to hold enough organophosphates to be life-threatening…..

….But mind you, 80mg/kg is the safe thresehold, in clinical trials it we’ve found safe levels at up to 4 times that. 80mg/kg, the levels we’re talking about are not actually threatening for most people. You have when a rat eats them, it would be the equivalent to a human eating an two box of cereal containing nothing but these granules. That’s orally, transdermally the levels needed for fatality are much much higher. It’s just not theoretically possible in this setting to have reached the levels necessary. You’d have organophosphate residue on everything everywhere, we’re not talking about hard to find trace levels, we are talking about levels so high as to leave a foul smelling thick yellowish coating on everything and everyone…

Exposure equivalent to bathing in a vat of it for three hours. But that would be in it’s purest form. In the granule form, it could be thick on the ground, everywhere, and still not be adequate to produce toxic levels. The tarps could have been coated with it, and it still couldn’t have produced toxic levels…

(Scroll down a bit. “Injun Samurai” has several comments on that thread, all well worth reading.)

April 21 Last week we heard Debbie Mercer testify that James simply shrugged when told that someone needs to call 911. Yesterday, we heard her testify that after she came back from calling 911, she saw James Ray talking on a cell phone. He did not place a 911 call, because there would have been a record of it. Defense attorney Tom Kelly did not question the statement on redirect.

The whole story is well covered on LaVaughn’s blog.

I didn’t think I could be anymore horrified by Ray’s post-sweat lodge behavior, after hearing Debbie Mercer’s testimony the week before last. Mercer had explained that after telling Ray that three people weren’t breathing and they needed to find a cell phone to call 911, he shrugged his shoulders.

Well. I was wrong. It gets worse. Today Mercer testified that when she returned from calling 911 at her house she saw Ray talking on a cell phone. There is, of course, no record of Ray calling 911. The only calls came from Mercer and Amayra Hamilton. So who was Ray talking to and what prevented him from using that cell phone to call 911?

LaVaughn also raises an important issue about Ray’s state of mind at this event. Mercer testified that Ray was making many more statements about death and dying in the 2009 sweat lodge than in previous years.

So there was a lot more emphasis on death in 2009 than in prior years. Strange considering that this event was right after the Harmonic Wealth seminar in which Colleen Conaway died. 

April 14 Two articles on Kirby Brown. One from CNN, a touching portrait of an extraordinary person. Anyone wondering what motivated the Ray’s victims to stay inside the lodge will get more of an idea what happened from this article. Also worth noting is the way Ray’s scam works, slowly pulling people off center, using their own motivations and wishes to do so. Just like James Shore, she was having second thoughts about the attending the event, but she’d already paid, and knew she would not get a refund.

The second article is from Kirby’s cousin, Tom McFeeley. He reports how despite all that he has heard throughout the last year and a half, and throughout this trial, that occasional pieces of testimony still shock him.

But I began having difficulty keeping it together a few days ago when someone (I honestly can’t remember who) testified that when paramedics took Kirby away, that Mr. Ray and his people claimed they had “no information” on Kirby. That they didn’t know who she was.

If you’ve ever met my cousin, or even read about her since this tragedy, you’ll know that she made an immediate impression on everyone. The girl with the quirky name had a dynamite smile, and an even better heart. If you met her for only 2 minutes, you would never forget Kirby Brown.

Anyone who has gained an insight into what it was that made so many people stay inside Ray’s death tent, will find themselves trying to make sense of the next question, which Tom McFeeley also raises. He has no answer, though.

Debbie Mercer testified to three other details: That before the 8th and final round, that someone called out that two people were down in the back of the tent (which I knew happened). And that after the ceremony, with so much confusion in what one witness described as “a war zone,” that James Ray took a seat on a chair in the shade and simply observed. After about 15 minutes of this chaos, Mercer said, she stuck her head in the lodge “because something told her to” – and she saw three people passed out inside, including Kirby Brown.

Those three pieces of testimony hit me so hard. James Ray knew Kirby Brown needed help. From the moment he knew, for the next 30 minutes, he did nothing to make sure she received any help (or anyone else; the people he now calls “his friends.”)

What kind of person does that?

April 13 “Mistrial No. 2”

As suggested below, the defense’s second mistrial motion is completely and utterly without merit. Firstly, while it is true that the state neglected to pass on one particular email among the 8000+ pages of documents it passed on the the defense, it was plausibly simply an oversight without malicious intent. The email from Rick Haddow was of a preliminary nature and was expected to be followed up by a report. As it happened, the state decided the evidence Mr Haddow might bring to the trial was already covered, so they removed him from the witness list. But technically speaking, it would have been procedurally correct to hand on the (by then irrelevant) email.

The defense’s claim that the evidence in Mr Haddow’s email was “exculpatory” is of course every bit as ridiculous as every other statement the defense have ever made in this (or, I would venture in any other) trial. Here is the link to the state’s reply, and I will simply quote a small portion where it is explained that in the supposedly “exculpatory” email in question,

….Rick Haddow summarizes why the defendant is guilty of manslaughter….

I don’t think much more than that needs to be said. Judge Darrow will throw that out and quite possibly jump up and down on it a few times, when the trial resumes in a few hours.

Update: The judge found that there had been a Brady violation (i.e. that the state should not have withheld the information), evoking this jubilant response from James Ray on twitter:

Death Ray’s hopes of evading justice on a technicality (rather than by arguing his innocence) were only short lived. Judge Darrow decided to throw out the motion for mistrial. The trial resumes on Thursday.

April 12 The defense has filed a motion for mistrial (their second). Here is the Salty Droid’s take on the matter. The court is in recess while the state prepares a response and a decision is reached. The first motion last week claimed misconduct by the prosecution. It was overruled. This motion accused the state of withholding exculpatory evidence” from the defense. The defense has a tendency to present matters in a way that is only tangentially connected to reality, but the state has made the odd minor procedural screw up. Either, Mr Ray is innocent and the state, for reasons unknown, decided it wanted to spend a few years prosecuting an innocent public figure from out of state…..Or….

…..Or this is the emergency plan pulled by the defense in after even more shocking and utterly damning evidence against their client has been paraded before the jury. They have had some nasty surprises over the last days (see entries below)…..

…..Or, and this is probably the most likely explanation, the defense is trying to add a bit of gravitas to their attempts to blame the resort owners (who built the sweat lodge). The report with the supposedly “exculpatory evidence” which the state supposedly “suppressed” partly concerns the fact that the pit for the hot rocks was a bit off center, making it hotter at the back of the lodge, where people died.

The Hamiltons, who own the Angel Valley Retreat, will be in the witness stand in the coming days. The defense earlier accused them of unintentionally poisoning the victims with rat poison, ant poison and weed killer. Now the Hamiltons killed the victims by making the heat pit a bit off center – despite spending hours brow beating numerous doctors and medics with the notion that heat was not the decisive factor.

Trying to pull the wheels off the legal system is the only option for the defense at this point. Despite all their efforts at suppressing as much evidence as possible, enough damning evidence has reached the jury’s ears for the defense to fear the likely outcome.

April 8 Plenty of drama over the last two days and more shocking accounts of Ray’s indifference to human suffering. And increasingly desperate maneuvers from the defense.

Ted and Debra Mercer, lodge fire tender and door keeper respectively, have both been in the stand. This coming Tuesday Tom Kelly will cross examine Debra Mercer. Their testimony is covered in detail here (Ted Mercer) and here (Debra Mercer) so I won’t repeat it all.

Some details are worth noting briefly, though. During his cross of Ted Mercer, Luis Li (defense counsel) introduced into evidence photos taken by Debra Mercer 30 minutes after Ray’s 2008 sweat lodge. This was no doubt damage control, as he attempted to portray images of people collapsed in the mud as if they were on a fun event like the Camp Pendelton mud race. (Yes, really.) (See images and Salty Droid’s tweets of the day here.) “If people want to lay about in the mud, there’s nothing wrong with that, correct?”

Sometimes the defense has been quite skilled at manipulating information to their favor. Truc Do’s cross of Dr Cutshall was a master class in manipulative propaganda, where she got managed to get it into the record that it was only 51% probability that the victims died of heatstroke. This set the stage for further distortion of coroner Dr Lyon’s testimony. If Ray walks free, that will be one of the main reasons.

Luis Li’s attempts, however, were swiftly and easily countered Sheila Polk on redirect. Where Li had characterized photos as showing people smiling and giving the thumbs up, Polk simply focused a bit closer on the bodies curled up in the back ground, skin cooked red and scraped from dragged over the gravel, faces showing signs of distress or unconsciousness.

Worse still for the defense, both the Mercers recalled one participant emerging from the sweat lodge and then trying to open up the lodge to rescue his girlfriend. He was screaming that James Ray would kill her if he didn’t get her out. Ray assistants and Ted Mercer managed to physically hold him back. Eventually he calmed down and later could recall nothing of the incident.

The person in question is on the prosecution’s witness list, and his girlfriend at that time was Michele Goulet, a JRI employee, who would one year later help James Ray to cover up the death of Colleen Conaway.

Still was worse to come for Ray. Debra Mercer recalled in detail how Ray ignored calls for help inside the lodge, corroborating ealier testimony, and then described how Ray emerged from the lodge and sat down on a chair in the shade. After Mercer found the bodies of Kirby Brown and James Shore at the back of the lodge, she called to James that someone had to call 911.

Ray’s response was simply to shrug.

April 6 Another article from Tom McFeeley, explaining significant moment in the trial today. One of the reasons the state raised the charges to manslaughter (initially they were conducting a homicide investigation) was Ray’s obviousness recklessness in previous sweat lodges and his conduct regarding the death of Colleen Conaway. Prior “bad” acts, can only be admitted into court proceedings if they are directly relevant to the case at hand. Before the trial, the defense gained a significant victory when Judge Darrow ruled excluding evidence from prior sweat lodges on the grounds that no life threatening situations arose, so they are not comparable, legally speaking, to the 2009 sweat lodge.

In fact the only “successes” the defense has had in this trial have involved getting facts excluded. They attempted to get all of Ray’s actions up to immediately before the sweat lodge excluded, they tried to get the audio of the entire 5 day event excluded, they tried to get expert witnesses on manipulative persuasion techniques and risk assessment for corporate events… As the state pointed out the defense wants to give the jury the impression that the sweat lodge occurred in a vacuum.

Judge Darrow, always careful and thoughtful , has resisted letting in this testimony.

Until today.

This simmering issue has now resulting in a full, heated boil. It’s a banner day for the prosecution. The defense is now fighting with all of its guns, immediately filing a motion for a mistrial. (It was denied, but they indicated they will file a special action to a higher court objecting to the Judge’s opinion.)

How does this ruling affect the trial? It pretty much completely changes it.

The state has now laid the foundation for introducing evidence from previous sweat lodges run by Ray. The more of these facts that get heard by the jury, the harder it will be for the defense to prevent them from building a complete enough picture for themselves of what Ray has been doing to people over the the years.

LaVaughn goes into more detail in her – as always – excellent daily update on the trial.

Despite the consistency with the prior ruling and despite the fact that Judge Darrow had already specified that his decision on testimony regarding prior illness was pending foundational medical testimony, the defense appeared to be gobsmacked. Luis Li responded with a very public meltdown.

The testimony that the defense had hoped to exclude began to be presented to the jury: Witness Ted Mercer began describing what he had witness in Ray’s sweat lodges in previous years: people vomiting, cramping, and suffering various symptoms of heat stroke.  Damningly he also listed how many rocks Ray had ordered to be heated for his lodges: in 2007 and 2008 it was 80 (where other sweat lodge leaders using the same lodge at Angel Valley in the same period were using 20-25). For the deadly 2009 lodge he ordered 100. Mercer noticed in 2009 that he’d made the hottest fire he’d ever done, and told Ray. Ray said “Good” and got him to announce it to the participants.

See also Salty Droid’s archived tweets of the day in court, including pics and a video of Luis Li’s inept voir dire questioning of Ted Mercer.

Expect histrionics and nastiness from the defense from here on in, and numerous mistrial motions. The defense is laying the foundation for an appeal, should the jury eventually find Ray guilty. As summed up briefly in this news article:

Defense attorneys have fought hard to keep out evidence from prior ceremonies. Judge Warren Darrow of Yavapai County Superior Court agreed before the start of the trial last month to bar such testimony as prejudicial and not relevant to the 2009 deaths, because the earlier incidents had not been life-threatening. But County Attorney Sheila Polk argued successfully that defense efforts to blame the deaths on toxins or some other cause should allow her to raise heat-stroke-related issues at earlier sweat lodges. On Wednesday, Darrow agreed, under tight restrictions.

April 1 Here’s a beautifully written article from victim Kirby Brown’s cousin, Tom McFeeley.

When I think about my cousin Kirby Brown, I often think of imperfect people. She cared about everyone, but she paid special attention to those who might have had a checkered background, who might have been left behind by society, or otherwise was an afterthought.

As always, LaVaughn has the most thorough coverage of the trial anywhere. So far, each day of the trial has been covered to a degree of detail which is not to be found anywhere else.  Her latest daily update details the latest disturbing revelations about Ray’s dangerous state of mind during his fake sweat lodge.

Witness Fawn Foster recalled members of ray’s “Dream Team” (volunteers) trying to push a woman back into the lodge. An employee of the resort (nothing to do with JRI) told them to stop. James Ray did not stop them.

As well as confirming plenty of other details from other witnesses (including Ray telling people “Leave her, the next round is starting” when warned that people were in distress), Ms Foster also remembered Ray saying “I am the Alpha and Omega, I am God” during the lodge. Not what the defense wanted to have thrown into the pot at this point. (The statement of course confiorms that Ray considered himself – however symbolically – to have power over the life and death of people.)

Ms Foster was already on record describing Ray as standing around doing nothing. Nothing, that is, except for when he saw the first ambulances coming down the hill. He addressed the dozens of collapsed participants ordered those who could walk to go back to their cabins.

On top of that, Ms Foster seems to have thrown a spanner in the works of the defense’s pathetic attempt to blame the deaths on poisoning.

(NB. This strategy may indeed work to get ray off these charges. All the defense needs to do of course is convince the jury that enough doubt exists about the cause of death. They would still have to explain why Ray ignored so many warning signs, but it is their best shot at getting this dangerous crook unleashed on society again.)

March 27 ….A few random thoughts about the trial so far….

At the time of Ray’s arrest, his attorneys made an interesting statement; one which they have not repeated in the trial:

Had he heard any pleas for help inside the pitch-black sweat lodge, he would have stopped the ceremony immediately, Ray’s attorneys said.

It has become clear from testimony so far that people sitting close to Ray heard numerous pleas for help, and were assured by Ray, “Leave her, she knows what she’s doing” or “We’ll deal with her later”. So now the defense has taken to blaming participants themselves for not saving more lives than they already did.

Witness after witness has testified they noticed warning signs on themselves and in others, and chose to ignore them because they had been assured by Ray that that these were exactly the symptoms they should expect, and should “overcome” or ignore. Stephen Ray (no relation to “Death” Ray), suffered until he blacked out. He woke up days later in hospital (after having been dragged out by participants), lucky to be alive.

Witness after witness has testified that they were no longer in their right mind by the time they began recognizing problems. Of course, everyone attending the event was doing it in order to overcome their personal limitations, and had been led to believe (despite the waiver) that they were safe, and trusting Ray’s judgment ahead of their own would help them overcome the things which were holding them back in their lives.

They were already exhausted, sleep deprived, their normal defenses broken down, dehydrated and, in the sweat lodge, being literally cooked to death. Ray was not in any “altered state”. He had a secret supply of water which being splashed on him by his staff, and of course had the best seat next to the door – the only supply of fresh air. How could he have not recognized the warning signs?

Lou Caci, who badly burned his arm when he fell into the pit of hot rocks, summed up his agony over the death of a person who Ray had assured him would be alright (“She knows what she’s doing”).

“Should I have done something? Yes. Am I responsible? No.”

Salty Droid sums it up:

People were dying in that sweat lodge. Lou Caci :: with his cooked brain :: lacerated hand :: and burned arm … could tell that people were dying. James Arthur Ray sat by the door {fully hydrated} breathing freely and having cool water splashed upon himself. James Ray knew people were dying … and he closed the flap.

Another favorite line from the defense is that no one was prevented from leaving the sweat lodge.

Witness Laurie Gennari gave an agonizing account of her attempt to leave the lodge, when Ray blocked her exit. Blogger LaVaughan describes it so:

After the seventh round, during the break, Gennari had had all she could take and started crawling out, scraping her hands and knees on the gravel. Went out appropriately clockwise. Asked why she would go the long way when she so needed to leave, she explains that it would not, by then, have occurred to do anything but follow the rules. When she got within about four feet from the door, Ray bellowed at her, “No. You’re too late. The door’s closing. We’re starting again. Find yourself a spot.” She dove for the ground and decided to wait it out. The flap was still open and she saw it close.

March 7 James Ray has continued posting his preprogrammed tweets. Consider how families of the victims must feel when they see a message like this coming from Ray:

Your personal history is nothing more than the trail left behind. It has no inherent ability to drive your life any more than a wake can…

And there are plenty more where that came from. Ray has been constantly using his twitter account to continue grooming victims. He is frequently “retweeted” by people who are either unaware that he caused four deaths with a breath-taking indifference. A growing number of his former students have been publicly opposing him through their twitter accounts ever since the deaths in Arizona.

Ray has been a big user of twitter, tweeting virtually non-stop. There was a brief hiatus immediately after the deadly sweat lodge, when (unsuccessfully) tried to conceal a tweet saying “what needs to die in you…” and an unprecedented break in August 2009 where four days’ worth of tweets were deleted.  That was immediately after Colleen Conaway died.

GENERAL TRIAL COVERAGE & BACKGROUND MATERIAL

1. Salty Droid’s coverage of the James Ray trial.

“Salty Droid” is the stage persona of a Chicago lawyer who has had enough of watching people getting scammed or (as in James Ray’s case) scammed and killed. His blog is one of the best on the internet, and certainly has the best coverage and analysis by far of the trial of James Arthur Ray. His coverage includes audio clips of Ray played in court, and other video clips, as well as analysis of testimony and legal arguments. Also follow Droid’s twitter coverage of the trial, @RayShouldPay. (Tweets from each day of the trial are archived here.)

2. Detailed daily coverage of the trial and related issues on Celestial Reflections.

It quotes important dialogue from the trial extensively and dose a fine job of putting it all into context and pointing out related issues. The author seems to be a professional healer and clairvoyant (among other things) and it is always good to see members of the “spiritual” community speaking out so clearly on this matter.

Here on this blog there are plenty of articles covering many aspects of Ray’s activities, including coverage of James Ray’s first victim, Colleen Conaway, three months before the deadly sweat lodge event. Ray and his staff managed to cover up their involvement in Colleen’s death, by fabricating evidence and lying to police. Furthermore….

...It is now totally clear that Ray and his staff lied to police, lied to participants, and lied to other staff members about Colleen’s Conaway’s death. This comment on Salty Droid’s blog reveal the shocking degree to which Ray and his staff are prepared to ignore the suffering of others. These monsters have left a family dealing with the “suicide” of a loved one. It was no suicide. More of the truth is coming out.

  • Live coverage of the trial is here when in court is in session (click on “launch live player”).
  • There is plenty of up to the minute coverage of the trial as it unfolds, on Twitter: #JamesRay
  • See also the original witness statements from the prosecution’s initial investigation: ONETWOTHREE
  • More witness transcripts here.
  • Legal documents partly outlining the case for the prosecution: ONETWO
  • See also the James Ray Trial – Background page on this site.

7 comments

  1. thank you for the updates abt the James Ray trial.

    I understand that the prosecutors and the defense have their jobs to do but it seems to me that both are not only confusing the issues of people suffering and dying but the facts that those attending heard people suffering and James Ray did as well and yet he was more concerned abt finishing each round rather than the health and welfare of the attendees.

    One of the main points is not who survived physically at his previous control focused events but the facts that at this one sweat lodge event James Ray went past the line of decency with all this not and the one’s in the past were not over and above with high heat and telling attendee’s that “those asking for help and passing out, getting burned etc. would be “alright and would not die”.

    Someone must tell the truth about his responsibility after saying such a statement because rebirthing does not cause death but James Ray did by focusing more on schedule of events than the lives of attendees.


  2. Good points, Annamarie. Hope you continue speaking out about this. In the event of a mistrial or 3 not guilty verdicts, Ray’s supporters will be crowing that he’s been vindicated by the court, and Ray himself would emerge feeling drunk on his own power and even more psychopathic and dangerous than before.

    The court system is really not suited to a case like this, and it’s much easier to derail a case on technical grounds, purely because it is so unusual.

    Also, the fact that participants and some volunteers & staff saved 3 or 4 lives also rescued Ray from that many more manslaughter charges and a greatly reduced chance of getting off.

    The defense is doing everything in its power to exclude testimony and provide the most frivolous distractions with its ant poison fantasies, and the prosecution, I feel, is left with little option but to take the time to debunk it for the nonsense it is.

    As you point out, it’s confusing and may well be enough to plant a seed of doubt in or the other juror.

    Whatever happens, the state has amassed a large amount of evidence against Ray, which even if it doesn’t get into court, it’s now part of the public record.


  3. As James Ray knows – you get what you give out
    He will get what is coming to him


  4. If you mean he’ll get a jail term, I’m not so sure. There are still a few hurdles to cross. I’m not sure the judge is so impressed with the grounds for the manslaughter charges, and his summing up will probably weigh strongly with the jury in this unusual case.

    Also, while I appreciate the sentiment behind your comment, I have to say I disagree with the implications of it. Ray’s four victims don’t seem to me to have gotten what they gave out. Seems more like they were lied to, tricked, ignored and left to die by someone they trusted.


  5. […] See earlier updates here. […]


  6. So if it was a Native American then the book would have been thrown at him by now. He would have been convicted and sentenced!!! What a joke!!!!


  7. Indeed. A Native American would have been taken into custody straight away, tried and probably convicted of manslaughter x3 and locked up for twenty or thirty years. And would have deserved it if he or she had been as reckless, ruthless and stupid as Ray – just as Ray fully deserved such convictions and such a sentence.

    At least in this case the prosecutors did – in my opinion – an excellent job of pursuing a difficult case with great tenacity and insight. They clearly proved the case for manslaughter, but sadly the jury, ignorant of his previous record of causing death and danger, cut him some slack.

    Thanks for commenting, BTW.



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