James Ray Trial Part 3

Here is Part 3 of a collection of my “as it happened” reports of the James Ray manslaughter trial. I’ve gathered them from numerous blog posts I wrote as the trial unfolded, and collected them here, unrevised, for easier reference. Parts 1, 2 and 3 are all accessible at the side bar on the right, as is the “Trial Background” information page.

The details of Ray’s behavior emerges gradually throughout the trial. Equally as revealing is the ruthless and cynical tactics of his defense attorneys, who openly attempt to pull the wheels off the legal process. No serious defense of Ray’s actions was ever mounted.

The Defense’s Case, Closing Arguments & Sentencing

June 7 2011

After the prosecution closed its case last week, the defense filed a motion for acquittal. The state filed a reply, and Judge Darrow ruled against the motion. That means the trial continues. The defense’s motion and the state’s response are a good summing up of the way the trial has gone to date. The defense takes up 200 pages of convoluted legal technicalities and absurd notions about mysterious poisoning. The state’s reply is packed with factual evidence corroborated by multiple witnesses and devastatingly straight forward expert testimony from Dr Dickson about the obvious cause of death.

Salty Droid has edited and uploaded a video of the acquittal hearing


It it includes the state’s recounting of its completely and utterly damning case against James Ray; a mercifully shortened version of Mr Li’s awful and pathetic defense statement; and Judge Darrow’s reasoning behind his decision to reject the defense’s motion for acquittal. In a way, this short video sums up the entire case – the state arguing factually and reasonably, the defense waving its arms around and babbling rhetorically.

LaVaughn has the full text of Darrow’s decision, (as well as the most thorough account of the entire trial, day by day).

June 12 …..And now with the defense on only its second witness, they have suddenly stopped.

One week earlier they needed more than 200 pages to explain all the reasons why the state has failed to present an adequate case, now they have nothing more to bring in defense of their client.

Their first witness was Dawn Sy who was bumped from the state’s witness list due to time constraints. The defense basically called her to suggest that the state had dropped her for dishonest reasons, and possibly because also because Do had prepared some questions for cross examination anyway, and they needed pad their defense out a bit. 

The second was the forensic doctor Ian Paul, who the defense have been referring to throughout the trial. He is the defense’s hero, who supposedly looked at the evidence and decided that the medical examiners had erred in assuming that the people who Ray cooked to death died of heat stroke. In order to prevent an injustice, he claims, he approached the defense and offered his services. The fact that he is attempting to kick start his career as a “forensic consultant has nothing to do with it. (H/T Jeanne.)

Dr Paul’s testimony sounded scripted, and during the cross examination he frequently shot involuntary glances at the defense table. LaVaughn makes some humorous observations about the use of visual props — the enormous chart that Paul provided for the jury was so big that he seemed to be hiding behind it while giving testimony.

Dr Paul (Screenshot by LaVaughn)

Many of the symptoms that the victims presented with are, DrPaul claims, more indicative of organo-phosphate poisoning than heat stroke. Unfortunately for the defense, huge problems with this argument have already emerged during the trial. It is apparent that the property owners didn’t use any organo-phosphates at that time, and there is absolutely no evidence to indicate their presence in the sweat lodge. Further, immensely vast quantities would be required in order to be fatal.

Further still, the symptoms people were displaying after Ray’s death lodge are not more indicative of poisoning. And, if it needed to be made any clearer, if those who required treatment had indeed been suffering the effects of organo-phosphate poisoning, the procedures for heat stroke the emergency responders followed, would have instantly killed them all. (Due to failure to empty the lungs of excessive salivation.)

The most probable reason for the abrupt end to the defense is, apart from there being no actual defense for Ray’s actions and inactions, is to try and preempt the state from recalling witnesses and dredging up all those uncomfortable facts again. The state is apparently going to recall a few witnesses, including Dr Dickson who did such a demolition job on the defense.

It has been clear for ages that Ray will not testify. (Pre-trial, during jury selection, the defense wanted the court to make it clear to the jury that a defendant has the constitutional right not testify.) A man who became a millionaire through his ability to make people believe what he is saying, now has nothing to say in his own defense. Nor should he need to of course, legally speaking. The point I am making is about the gulf between the promises and persona of the “motivational speaker”, and the actual truth of his product and his character.

Even more telling in this regard is the defense’s supposed shock at the judge’s finding that Ray had a legal responsibility to his clients. Ray took $10,000 from each participant with the promise he could help them transform every aspect of their lives. Now in court his defense is stunned that he was expected to do anything in order to prevent their deaths.

Looking at Death Ray’s actions before during and after the lodge, he never felt himself even legally compelled to care for anyone, and the fully deserved charges must have come as a monumental shock.

It should be noted at this point that at least three or four more people would have died had participants not acted to save them. Ray could easily be sitting there facing six or seven manslaughter charges. Instead a large part of his defense has been to attack an employee (Melinda Martin) who did what she could to save lives, and stooped even further, attacking participants themselves for not doing enough to save other participants. Had James Shore survived, he would have been attacked for only saving one life and failing to save the other.

Closing statements are expected to start on Tuesday, depending on the state recalling witnesses.

The video in the entry below for June 7 contains statements (in the absence of the jury) relating to the defense’s failed acquittal motion. It gives a preview of some of the content which will likely be presented by state prosecutor Sheila Polk in her closing statement for the prosecution, and a brief glimpse of the antics of defense lawyer Luis Li. If it seems to be edited to make Li look like he was babbling incoherently, I would argue that the removal of context actually flatters his performance.

June 14 Here is an extract from a document from the prosecutors. It sums up exactly why the defense has been wasting everybody’s time with all its blithering about mystery toxins.

…In addition, Dr Paul testified whatever toxin might have been in the sweat lodge would not have been airborne, but would have had direct contact with the skin or the faces of the participants as his explanation as to why all of the participants had not suffered distress. This testimony eliminates any claim that treated wood or something on the rocks might have been a source of a toxin, since the wood was never in the sweat lodge and the only participant to come into contact with the rocks was Lou Caci who suffered burns, not toxic poisoning. This leaves the dirt and the coverings as possible sources for the unidentified toxins, Mr Mercer testified he saw rat poison poison stored with the coverings; however, Dr Dickson testified that rat poisons would not cause the symptoms experienced by the victims. Essentially the dirt remains as a possible source. Dawn Gordon testified she remained close to the ground to escape the heat and that she was right next to Kirby Brown and James Shore and was fine…. (p.7)

June 17 State prosecutor Sheila Polk made the closing statement earlier in the week. Salty Droid has edited a video of the main points of Ms Polk’s statement. 

Defense Attorney Luis Li then babbled for hours and hours and hours over two days. Part of the strategy was clearly to bore the jury into not paying attention, in the hope that they would not realize how much he is distorting and misrepresenting the evidence, and to give the impression that James Ray was actually defended.

The strongest aspect of Li’s argument was the “free will” gambit, that Ray didn’t physically prevent anyone from leaving, therefore the victims were all responsible for their own fate. Further, that Ray had no reason to expect that anyone would die, and didn’t know there was any problem until it was too late.

Those arguments should really have formed the entire basis of the defense, and I suspect that in effect that is really the line they have been banking on. All this toxins lunacy was really done to put pressure on the state and bury them under an avalanche of paperwork (and then wait for them to make an error); and to eat up so much time that it would direct attention away from the facts of what happened.

Ms Polk will get time of a rebuttal on Tuesday, and then the jury will withdraw, to decide on 3 counts of reckless manslaughter, with the possibility of convicting Ray on lesser charges of negligent homicide.

See of course, LaVaughn’s in depth analyses, much more detailed and insightful than anything in the news media.

June 21 Salty Droid has edited a video of defense attorney Luis Li’s closing statement. For a sympathetic view of Li’s argument, see this post from CNN’s In Session. They saw it as “one of the most impassioned closing arguments you are ever likely to hear”. It lasted more than 7 hours, and parts of it were indeed impassioned, especially the bits about his father, his mountain climbing experiences, the birth of his first son (which was the best day of his life)….The only thing Li did not mention was why the hell his client acted the way he did. The central strategy from the defense during the entire process has been to attempt to hide as many details of Ray’s behavior before, during and after his deadly fake sweat lodge. The strongest parts of Li’s argument are that Ray did not think people would die, and that participants were “free to leave at any time”.

For a more balanced account of Li’s closing statement than In Session’s breathless fawning one, see the video below, and read LaVaughn’s three posts on it (one, two, three). Much of the media coverage of this trial has been skewed in favor of Ray, and/or limited to reporting when someone in the courtroom cries. LaVaughn has covered it way better than any professional news source, in far greater detail, and despite having a clearly stated set of judgments as to Ray’s guilt, her analyses have been far more astute than any of the journalists present at the trial. Salty Droid’s coverage is of a somewhat different nature, being more focused on his up to the moment tweets and video highlights. The video below gives a fair impression of the degree of lunacy that the defense has been pushed by the absence of any plausible explanations for Ray’s behavior, other than that he is culpable and guilty as charged.

State prosecutor Sheila Polk will make a rebuttal before the the jury retires. (Her closing statement was last week, see below.)


James Arthur Ray, motivational torturer and “philosopher” from the film The Secret has been found guilty of three counts of negligent homicide.

Ray has so avoided being investigated by police in San Diego in relation to the death of his first victim, Colleen Conaway who died in one of his seminars barely two months before he negligently caused three further deaths at a further seminar. Colleen’s death was inadequately investigated by police after Ray and some members of staff lied to police about the circumstances of Colleen’s death, after they had abandoned her body in a shopping plaza in San Diego.

James Ray and some members of his staff told carefully co-ordinated lies to the San Diego police and to participants (who only learned one of the death through the media). They also lied to some concerned staff members about it, instructing them to inform any inquirers that “We’ve found Colleen, she’s fine and decided not to return to the group”. That was after discussing the situation with his attorneys.

The cover up has been covered extensively on this site (see previous link), and a more complete description of events can be found here in a comment posted by a member of Colleen’s family.

 The San Diego police did not investigate the death and Ray went on to cause three more deaths, for which he has just been convicted. The jury never got to hear about Colleen Conaway as the defense was successful in having mention of it excluded. A document from the Arizona prosecutors:

[The] Defendant also tries to disclaim any responsibility for the suicide of Colleen Conaway. However the significance [for the current trial] of the suicide is not in the tragedy itself; instead it is in the reaction of the JRI staff to the event. Participants report that they were never informed that one of the seminar participants had died and the seminar continued through the end without mention of this tragedy, including Defendant making sales pitches for future events.

Hearing for sentencing Tuesday June 29. [UPDATE Scroll down for coverage of sentencing]

Salty Droid has posted his reaction to the verdict. One brief passage gives glimpse of the horror of the events, and the contemptible and brazen attitude of Ray and his attorneys in their attempts at escaping justice:

…The same is true for one of the defense’s primary arguments :: that a core temperature reading above 104 is required for a heat stroke diagnosis. Kirby and James were already dead because of Death Ray’s stalling :: and because of prior year shout downs for people with the audacity to call 911.

Liz was just laying out there :: in the mud and the desert night … half a corpse.
Her “friend” and “mentor” of 10 years just a few months away from arguing that he was innocent of killing her because her half dead body had already cooled while he was having a sandwich.

June 23 Here is a statement from Kirby Brown’s family. 

The family of Kirby Brown would like to thank the members of this jury who have set aside their lives for 5 months as they carefully considered the evidence presented to them. We appreciate their dedication and careful discernment of the facts presented and regret that so much information which may have led them to a different conclusion was withheld from them.

Her family has also established a non-profit organization to promote safety standards in the self help industry, SEEK. There’s certainly plenty that could be done to improve the the standards of the self help industry. It’s a business completely and utterly devoid of advertising standards. (A few quick rules: never pay for more than one event/ session in advance, do read the small print, assume everything described in the waiver WILL happen and decide whether or not it’s worth it, assume any biographical details a teacher shares are a complete fabrication, and walk away from ANYONE who uses the word “quantum physics” who doesn’t have a proper degree in it. That would probably close down the entire industry over night.)

Anyone not following those rules can expect to lose their money and be an odds on chance for ruining their life. I have always found that easy to predict of the ideas so neatly packaged up in The Secret. What I never predicted and have been repeatedly shocked by is the extent of Ray’s ruthlessness and utter indifference to human suffering. I am deeply shocked at horrors he inflicted on his unsuspecting customers, and utterly stunned at his “business as usual” approach since the death of his first victim. No one except James Ray and probably some of his staff, could have known that.

June 28 The sentencing hearing has started. The prosecution is argues that Ray should get the maximum sentence (3x 3.75 years) because of aggravating factors: that the victims’ families suffer emotional harm; that Ray occupied a position of trust; and that Ray was in a position to benefit financially by placing them in danger. 

The defense is arguing for the minimum sentence, probation, because James Ray has a clean record (thanks to the San Diego Police Dept not investigating the death of his first victim and not charging him at least with misleading police, obstruction of justice, fabrication of evidence, destruction of evidence, and possibly negligent homicide).

Members of the three families of Ray’s October 9 victims (but not the family of his July 09 victim, see above) testified as to the impact on their families. There is no way tell your kids their dad is dead.

What gets excluded from the trial, also doesn’t get into the media. At the time One family turned off their mother’s life support system, James Ray was still trying to conduct business as usual, running a public seminar in his money-making venture the “World Wealth Society”.

The hearing will probably finish on July 30. Then there will be a wait of a month or more before the sentence is given.

July 1 The jury has reached a verdict on the aggravating factors they were to consider. They found Ray guilty on only one of the aggravating factors — causing emotional harm to the victims’ families. They needed to find him guilty of at least two of these in order to increase the possible maximum sentence from 9 to nearly 12 years. The families of the victims are disappointed with this result, and Ray is still out on bail, still in business, and asking those still faithful to him to write letters of support for his mitigation plea.

It is insane that Colleen Conaway’s death was not mentioned in this trial, and his cover up of it has been excluded from being included in consideration of his sentence, yet Ray is asking his “followers” (i.e. people with a financial interest in supporting him) to write letters to get him either set free on probation or his sentence reduced.

The legal system is not equipped to deal with religious crime, which is why so many criminals are attracted to it.

Judge Darrow has stuck to the letter of the law in case, but I feel not the spirit of it. The state, aware of all the facts, presented a solid case that met all the criteria for manslaughter. The jury, unaware of a great deal of facts about Ray’s behavior, seems to have cut him a little slack and gone for the lesser charge.

Ray’s sentencing is now scheduled for September 26.

James Ray, “philosopher”, motivational torturer, “practical guru” and negligently homicidal manslaughterer, will be sentenced at the end of September (probably) for the three counts of negligent homicide he was convicted of. Judge Darrow denied the defense’s motion for a retrial, without further comment. The mitigation hearing will begin on September 19 and the defense will call 19 witnesses to explain why when James is really not such a bad fellow after all, despite the fatherless children and lives destroyed through his idiotic and sadistic negligence.

I will post updates below, but for now here is a list of the witnesses who will be hoping to gain something from appearing for their demented colleague.

David McCall, Kathy Fleig, Robert Procter, Dr Matt Bynum, Amy Grothe, Genpo Roshi, Jeff Asshead – sorry, Adshead, Dr Tony Allessandra, Alex Smyth, Wayne Parker Donneta Parker, Ward Smith, Jason Tabeu, John Watkin John Ferriter, Tony Parinello, Jon Ray, Joyce Ray.

I will post more about some of these people.

UPDATE: New Link– Salty Droid takes a closer look at the witness list.


(Droid has also previously covered Tony Allessandra’s and Bob Procter’s support of James Arthur Death Ray.)

The defense is — as always — trying to have evidence against Ray excluded. A number of Ray’s former students and others who had some form of dealing with him have submitted letters to the prosecution describing their encounters with Ray and why they think he needs to be locked up for as long as possible. LaVaughn covers this in a blog post from July. 

As always, readers wanting to catch up on the background from the entire trial, as well as on the events as the unfold, can find detailed analysis at the “James Ray” category on LaVaughn’s blog. I will also note her recent articles:

James Ray New Trial Motion DENIED

James Ray Trial Jury Foreman Speaks covering the jury’s frustration at being kept in the dark about Colleen Conaway’s death at a Ray seminar barely two months earlier, and details of the serious and life threatening incidents at prior Death Ray sweat lodges. It turns out eight jury members were satisfied that the prosecution had proven the charges of manslaughter, but four wanted to cut Ray a bit of slack, owing to the fact that it is barely imaginable that anyone could be stupid enough to do what Ray did (and didn’t) do. None of them bought a word of the defense’s ridiculous “toxins” story.

Will James Arthur Ray Get Off on a Technicality? covering the defense’s motion for a retrial.

And an excellent review of Connie Joy’s book Tragedy in Sedona – My Life in James Arthur Ray’s Inner Circle

UPDATE 19 Sept: Hearing to start Wednesday 28 September. (Hat tip Stoic, commenting on the Rick Ross forum.)

UPDATE 7 October: After postponements, the hearing has now been set for: November (2011!) 8,9,10 – for the prosecution to present witnesses and written materials; and Nov 15,16,17 for the defense to try and pull the rest of their last minute tricks. Friday November 18 will be the sentencing.

Update 22 October: I didn’t see Dateline’s Deadly Retreat special but Salty Droid has some relevant comments about the show: among other weaknesses, it failed to mention Colleen Conaway’s death at an earlier Ray event. And of course it failed to cover the way the media, including NBC unquestioningly promoted Ray as an “expert” on how to lead your life. The article linked to above also contains some of the footage from the trial which Salty Droid put together during the trial, including prosecutor Sheila Polk’s damning and moving closing statement, and highlights from the long winded, largely irrelevant and often completely bizarre closing statement by defense attorney Luis Li.

There is of course no footage of Ray speaking at his trial, because he exercised his constitutional right remain silent. From looking at the evidence amassed against him and the cynical and open attempts by the defense to get him off on a technicality, there was in fact nothing to be said in his defense.

The sentencing hearing for James Ray, the “broke” wealth teacher who managed to kill four people at his “motivational” events, is finally underway.

Those following this case will recall that Ray managed to avoid a police investigation into the death of Colleen Conaway during a seminar, when he and his staff lied to police and fabricated evidence. He never bothered calling Colleen’s family, but swiftly called his lawyers instead. Two and a half months later Ray had to call his lawyers again during an event, after cooking several people to death in a bogus sweat lodge ceremony. He told police that the fire keeper was in charge of the lodge, a ruse which failed to shake investigators, but which set the tone for his subsequent defense.

Ray’s attorneys have attempted to pull every trick in the book to help Ray avoid justice, and while they managed to get enough evidence excluded from trial to save Ray from being convicted of manslaughter, he is still facing a maximum sentence of nine years for three counts of negligent homicide. He may also be let off with probation.

10 Nov 2011 Ray’s defense team, after attempting to get masses of factual evidence about Ray’s behavior and business practices excluded from the trial due to its “prejudicial” nature, are now claiming that Ray is of impeccable character and poses no threat to the public. A couple of dozen of his fellow scammers will be testifying as character witnesses next week. The defense is also attempting to play for sympathy. Ray’s mother has cancer, and they claim he must stay out of prison to care for her. The 56 year old “harmonic wealth” teacher has moved back in with his parents.

Ray, who can cry on cue, shed tears as his mother’s cancer was mentioned in court. Ray shed no tears as half a dozen of his students lay in the mud in severe medical distress or receiving CPR. Instead he left the scene to have a shower, where the police eventually found him, sitting in his undies, munching on a sandwich. Two of his students were already dead. Later that night, Ray would send his a message to his email list declaring his event a “success, despite some people having taken ill”.

The defense claims Ray has shown remorse (which he hasn’t), but also claims that doubt remains over his guilt. Doublethink was always essential for anyone wishing to understand Ray’s teachings.

Anyway, next week a bunch of psychopaths like Bob Procter (scammer from The Secret) will be trying to get Ray set loose on society again, no doubt crowing about how much he learned from this experience.

This week is given over to prosecution witnesses.

Ray, according to Bivins, was not the owner of Life Results, but did control its finances. So when Ray told her he had taken the money from Life Results to pay the mortgage on his Beverly Hills home rather than paying the salespeople their full commission, she saw the light of his true character.

….”He has lied about his credentials and he continues to lie about his credentials,” Bivins said. “He has not admitted the truth yet about who he is.”

The prosecution is also taking the opportunity to describe the way Ray had been escalating the amount of danger he placed his students in, without attending to safety. Here is an earlier account of Ray’s behavior in this regard.

There are often updates on twitter, under #JamesRay.

11 Nov 2011 Powerful testimony from the bereaved:

Collins said that Ray “ignored myriad opportunities to learn from his mistakes,” and that “incarceration appears to us to be perhaps the only instructor Mr. Ray is likely to heed.”

Mrs. Shore is James’ mother, and her quiet words carried the weight of untimely loss.

She spoke of how her son, seeing that Ray had no intention of helping those who were in distress in the sweat lodge, took matters into his own hands, removing one woman from the tent before returning to Kirby Brown’s side at the back of the lodge, where the two were found, lifeless, after the ceremony.

“My son Jimmy had a lot of dreams,” Mrs. Shore said, adding that she believed Ray to be arrogant and consumed with power and pride before asking Darrow to “please give the maximum penalty of nine years, which is clearly not enough.”

Puckett said she was most upset by the fact that her mother was identified as a Jane Doe in the Flagstaff hospital, and that neither Ray nor any of his staff made the effort to notify her and her family, or any of the other families, of what had happened.

“Nine years doesn’t nearly serve enough justice for the lives that were lost,” Puckett said.

Speaking directly to Ray, she said he should know “how disappointed and disgusted my mom would have been at the way you treated her.

“She called you a friend and you left her there to die.”

It was also noted that: “Ray stood as Collins and the others spoke, apparently moved by their words.” The important word to note there is “apparently”. From Ray’s actions it is clear that he is a deeply disturbed individual – psychopathy seems to be one of the prerequisites for success in his line of work. (In fact the psychopath checklist reads pretty much like the world view promoted by The Secret and the “law of attraction“.) I doubt Ray has suddenly grown a conscience. Defense documents state that he has “expressed remorse”, but the same document refuses to accept his guilt. Remorse for what, then?

Next week, a string of other professional psychopaths will be testifying in Ray’s favor, and the defensed will be setting out the reasons why they think Ray should be given probation. One of their arguments is that he has “no prior convictions”. That is true, but it has more to do with his and his staff’s ability to deceive police. Ray should have been tried for negligent manslaughter in relation to the death of Colleen Conaway, two and a half months before he caused three more deaths.

Had the San Diego police investigated Ray properly, further deaths may have been prevented. Time will tell whether or not Judge Darrow will give Ray the benefit of the doubt — like the San Diego police did, or whether he will follow the admirable lead of the state prosecutors rule in the interests of the public. (Sadly, the interests of justice can no longer be served since the jury — missing vital excluded evidence — gave ray the benefit of the doubt and failed to convict him of manslaughter.)

12 Nov 2011 Here are some details on James Ray’s “spotless record”, listing the law suits filed against him, among other things. Also see the author’s recent post reflecting on Ray’s tear jerking story of needing to care for his sick parents, in the light of her one and only meeting with Ray.

LaVaughn has also pieced together some details of the week’s proceedings from various sources.

14 Nov 2011 Over at “Psychopath Central”, Salty Droid also has some background details of Ray’s business wheeling and stealing.

“Twinkie Wrangler” takes a penetrating look at the defense’s strategies and motivations, especially noting the corporate ideology behind the concept of Ray as a “productive” member of society.

Did his “good moral character” drive him to aspire to be the first new Age billionaire?

If you call posing with the locals in Peru to try to prove you have some spiritual connection to them and having the World Wide Wealth Society pay you thousands of dollars do a few token projects while engaging in spiritual tourism good works. I certainly don’t. I call it exploitation.

The [defense] memorandum also claims that the aggravating factors are not “legitimate” and ignores the victim impact statements. The dream team seems to be as callous and insensitive to the survivors’ pain as James Ray is himself….The one thing that convinces me that this is all about the money is that the thing one that seems to irk the dream team the most is the state’s request for restitution. The state of Arizona is seeking restitution to victims $67.255.31 and $67,775.84 for costs of prosecution.

16 Nov 2011 Live updates from the courtroom from Camille Kimball on twitter, now using #jray as well as #JamesRay for discussion.

17 Nov 2011 Ray will be sentenced tomorrow (18th) between 9 and 11 am. This week has seen more tears shed and more weeping and wailing than over the entire nine months of the trial to date, it seems. In itself, that might not be so unexpected in a trial involving three or four deaths, children left fatherless, etc, but what is a bit unexpected is that it was the defense witnesses and the convicted killer himself who were turning on the waterworks. Ray, the man who caused four deaths for profit and fun, who ruthlessly tried to cover up his involvement in each case, who let four of his paying students be admitted to hospital (or the morgue) as Jane or John Doe, who sat in the shade while people were dead or dying, etc, etc, etc, — all without shedding a tear, suddenly starts blubbing when it seems he may face (a drastically watered down) prison sentence. Of course, if the jury had have known about Colleen Conaway’s death and other details from sweat lodges, Ray would have been found guilty of manslaughter and faced 39 years in jail. Instead, nine is the maximum sentence, and personally I doubt highly that he will receive anything like that. Probation is a possibility.

I haven’t been able to keep up with what’s been going on much this week, due to work commitments and coz it just makes me puke reading this bullshit. But here are a couple of articles on the witnesses this week.

And here is a court document which includes a letter to the judge from the sister of James Shore, the man who died trying to save the life of another Ray victim.

And here is a brief comment (posted on the Salty Droid blog) by the sister of Colleen Conaway. I’ll post part of it here. I guess that’s a fitting way to conclude the nine months of coverage of this trial.

Ray left her family trying to come to terms with a “suicide”, instead of what it really was – negligent homicide. PR problem avoided. By the time they’d begun to realize the depth of the evil that had been done to Colleen and to them, Ray was already on his way to causing three more deaths. I can’t begin to imagine how they must have felt when they heard of it. She writes:

…The first year after Colleen’s death I was going through a living H_LL trying to piece together what happened to her. I believe this would have been extremely difficult but because she was my sister I found myself on the verge of insanity most days. If it were not for some very dear people who I have come to treasure as dear friends, I do not know that I would have made it through this. With each new thread of evidence we uncovered I became more and more sick to my stomach. Up until this happened to Colleen I never wanted to believe there were people such as James Ray in the world. To think that he was the last person my sister encountered here on this earth…and he did everything in his power to cover up her death…leaves a whole in my heart that will never mend. My only hope and prayer is that by exposing him we will prevent another loss of life and another family from going through this…

Motivational torturer, James Arthur Ray, has been sentenced to two years in prison for three of the four lives he snuffed out. (Also, a wrongful death civil lawsuit is taking the place of charges which the San Diego Police Department didn’t bother laying in relation to the death of Colleen Conaway.)

Ray’s million dollar law team based their defense on attempting to cast doubt on the cause of death, and openly and cynically attempting to get Ray off on a technicality. After the judge ruled the state had technically committed “Brady violation” (failure to disclose evidence), which could have led to a mistrial, Ray tweeted:

Judge ruled it was Brady… That’s in our favor. Now he needs to decide what to do. Woohooo!! (13 April 2011)

At the sentencing, however he was suddenly blubbering apologies to the bereaved and claiming he

didn’t know anyone was dying or in serious distress

— A statement he chose not to make during the trial. He also didn’t say anything like that when the event occurred, preferring to tell police that the firekeeper was in charge of his fake sweat lodge. And although his defense attorneys also claimed before the trial that he didn’t know anyone was in distress, they also decided not to expose that claim to cross examination. Luis Li certainly made no mention of such an idea during his seven hour closing statement.

Ray’s tears, however sounded genuine, as did his statement that “If there was anything I could do to turn back the clock I would do it.” But that comes more than two and a half years too late, and only with a jail term staring him in the face. Check out Ray’s twitter account, if you think he feels any more remorse for these lives than he did for Colleen Conaway. All four of his victims were admitted to hospital or the morgue labeled Jane or John Doe because Ray valued PR damage control more highly than human life.

The legal justice system has been kind to James Ray.

The court excluded relevant evidence from previous life threatening sweat lodges and decided Ray was unaware of the danger of cooking people to death, as he was merely trying to cook them to within an inch of their lives. The court prevented the jury from hearing about Colleen’s death and Ray’s reaction to it. The court allowed the defense to waste endless months on their absurd theories about the deaths having resulted from unknown toxins, and forcing the state to cut important witnesses due to time constraints.

Despite these constraints, state prosecutor Sheila Polk presented a sound case for manslaughter. Such was her and her team’s dedication; and such was the overwhelming amount of evidence for Ray’s culpability. Nevertheless, a couple of the jury members wanted to cut Ray some slack and held out for the lesser the lesser charge of homicide, thereby reducing the maximum sentence from 39 to 9 years. Later they were shocked to learn that important information was withheld from them.

Judge Darrow then decided to cut Ray even more slack, ordering him to serve three two year terms “concurrently”. This is a very mild sentence indeed for a reckless, remorseless four time killer. The legal system’s bizarre notion that he can serve the sentences concurrently is also a quirk of the legal system that works in Ray’s favor. It sounds to me more like something out of New Age fake quantum physics than a part of reality.

Just as Ray exploited people’s basic trust, his million dollar defense attorneys exploited the legal system’s commitment to giving him a fair trial. But thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Sheila Polk and her colleagues, James Ray has been forced to serve at least some of the time he deserves.

UPDATE 19.11.2011 

This document (also linked to above) outlining the civil case against Ray and his staff relating to Colleen Conaway’s death is well worth reading. It details very clearly the way in which Colleen was scammed out of her money, psychologically broken down and humiliated to the point where she felt she had lost everything. This is the way the scam works: they steal your dreams and then sell them back to you, using fake expertise and fake magical “scientific” powers (the law of attraction etc) to make you believe they hold the key in their hands.

It is an unfortunate aspect of the hard wiring of human psychology that as soon as we perceive someone to be “spiritual”, we tend immediately to have higher trust and lower standards of skepticism. (Anyone can fall for it. It’s the quirk that all conmen use, and it works just as well with perceiving people as a friend or authority figure.) No one need be that shocked to learn that it turns the New Age industry into a hotbed of crooks and scammers.

What is truly shocking though is that it took only two months for James Ray and his team to utterly destroy Colleen’s life. Shocking beyond words is the way those named in the law suit – Megan Fredrickson, Michele Goulet, Greg Hartle, Aaron Bennett among others – worked swiftly to deceive the police, the other participants and even other staff members about the simple fact of Colleen’s death. Colleen gave Ray her money with the agreement that he help her plan a new life. It finished with Michele Goulet giving police the impression that Colleen didn’t want to live anymore.

James Ray and the above named people preferred to leave Colleen’s family dealing with a “suicide” rather than risk PR problems.

UPDATE 30.11.2011

LaVaughan has now written a typically thorough and astute run down of the sentencing procedings As always highly recommended. (See also the rest of her James Ray category for the most thorough coverage of the entire trial.) About Ray’s speech she writes:

Ray’s performance went on like that for some time with him appealing to both family members in the gallery and the judge. Although I could not see his face during most of it, the voice was enough. His meter never varied, he sniffled with metronomic precision, he never stumbled on a single word. He was in total control the entire time… I did catch a glimpse of his face as he turned to go back to his seat and I saw the dead eyes, steely determination, and barest hint of a smirk, that was so incongruous with the dramatic display he’d just given the court.

From a news article about criminal psychopaths:

“Psychopaths are so adept at “putting on a good show” and using crocodile tears that they can be convincing to psychologists as well as other professionals. They use non-verbal behaviour, a “gift of gab”, and persuasive emotional displays to put on an Oscar award winning performance and move through the correctional system and ultimately parole boards relatively quickly, despite their known diagnosis…

“Further, we need to acknowledge that psychopathy is largely unchangeable. It isn’t possible to miraculously create a ‘conscience’ in adults who have not had a conscience previously. It’s the cold, hard truth. Acting ability should not be a criterion for release.”


  1. Narcissistic personality disorder in full flight. The man gives me the creeps
    When I first found your site and the details of JAR (I hadn’t realised it was him who had led those people to their death) it was obvious to me that he is a Narcissist – all about him, god-complex, arrogant, me me me (watching him on stage is disgusting) lack of empathy etc etc etc. What a dangerous man.

  2. Thanks for your comment.

    I suspect he’s a full blown clinically certifiable psychopath. If I had have known about him before he started killing people, I would also have found him utterly creepy. Since then, I don’t know how many times I’ve had to drastically lower my opinion of him.

    It’s hard enough to know how to deal with people like that in normal society, but in the fields of religion and spirituality it’s even harder. The emotional detachment makes them appear spiritual and meditative, and the of course those areas are wide open for abuses of power thanks to the easily attainable credibility for anyone who puts on a convincing show.

    How the heck do you shut someone like this out, while still keeping the freedom to explore issues of spirituality etc? I don’t know, but this blog is in large part an attempt to contribute to that end.

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