Friday, June 17, 2011

Closing Arguments in James Ray Deathlodge Manslaughter Trial

Prosecutor Sheila Polk delivers closing arguments in James Ray manslaughter trial

Thank you, Twinkie Wrangler for transcribing highlights from the closing arguments in the James Arthur Ray, newage shameon deathlodge trial: Closing Arguments in Arizona v. James Arthur Ray

The defense is delivering their closing as I type this. For the play-by-play, live coverage follow the James Ray Daily and the #JamesRay hashtag on Twitter.

For those wondering how to lead an eclectic, newage ritual that kills people, this is also a good intro. < / sarcasm >

Some quotes from the transcript:

Laurie Gennari ... heard a voice call out, “She’s not responding”.

And at another time, she heard someone call out, “She’s not breathing.” She heard Mr. Ray respond, “leave her there we’ll deal with it at the end of the round.”


In his pre-event briefing, Mr. Ray described all the signs and symptoms of heat related illness, but then told them to ignore them and that it was safe to do so.

Mr. Ray encouraged them to let others have their own experience and not to interfere.

Rather than teaching participants that altered mental status is hallmark of heat exhaustion, Mr. Ray encouraged them to push through and endure and that they would have a breakthrough.


You’ve heard the defendant’s own words describing how he was intentionally taking the lodge to extreme heat to achieve an altered mental state, telling and them to ignore signs of their bodies.

Sweat lodge ceremonies are not inherently dangerous events.

Endurance challenges where participants are told to ignore signs of heat illness are incredibly dangerous.

No one could imagine that James Ray would ignore calls for help and allow participants to pass out in that tent and just leave them there.

He knew.

He intended to introduce hellaciously hot heat and steam.

He told participants to ignore their body’s warning signs of distress and pushing through pain and suffering was a good thing.

He told them they were not supposed to speak during sweat lodge ceremony unless asked by him.

James Ray audio clip: “…By the time we get to the 27th round – just kidding I will promise you we’ll have at least 7 rounds it just depends on how I get inspired. You’ve got to surrender to it. We’ll be doing some prayers and chants and I may go into an altered state. …

"I’m the master of the lodge and when I tell you to do something that’s when you do it."

He told [participants] they could not leave the tent during a round. ... he said, “I am the grand master in this temple and I need you to think of it in this way. The person running the lodge is like a priest.”


What you must consider is did the defendant’s conduct pose a substantial and unjust risk of death and was the defendant aware of the risk. Did he substantially disregard the substantial risk of death?

To prove crime of manslaughter you would have to prove Mr. Ray was aware of the risk of death and ignored it.

I submit to you that Mr. Ray was aware of that risk.

His words before and during the heat challenge itself is proof to you that he was aware.

His conduct inside the sweat lodge as round after round after round more people got sick and his conduct about what he did and what he did not do shows you that what was happening is what he intended to happen. You’ve heard his intent was to create this extreme mental state.

But he intended to use that heat to take them up to that brink of death and think they were getting something for their $10,000.

That’s why he doesn’t stop as people are being dragged out. This is what he intended.


Witness after witness has testified about the growing chaos in this tent starting really about the end of round four.

Amy Grimes passed out on Kim Brinkley. She testified she yelled out for help and that Amy was dragged out.

Somebody drags out Amy right past the defendant.

Lou Caci ... delirious and unconscious, falling into that pit of heated rocks.

You have heard so much testimony about the growing chaos, moans, requests for help, dragged out limp and lifeless in front of the defendant.

All the information that he had about people being in distress as early as the fourth round and all the opportunity he had to stop this challenge. He didn’t.

Mr. Ray’s desire to make people think they were experiencing something unique took precedence over their safety.

Debbie Mercer testified that she assisted about 25 people.

Beverly Bunn testified that everything was chaos after the 4th round. Sydney Spenser was dragged out completely lifeless right past the defendant. The defendant shouted, “Everybody quiet down! I am in charge!”

When Scott Barratt tried to move Linda Andresano, the defendant yelled at him to stop. Scott Barratt testified that he stopped because he was afraid that the defendant would yell at him again.

Mr. Ray said, “Just leave her. We need to keep going.”

All these opportunities to stop that event.

These deaths were not inevitable.

Ask yourself , if the defendant had stopped the ceremony when he had these warnings would Kirby, James and Liz still be alive?

There's more. Much more...

It is abundantly clear that by the fourth round, Ray knew people were in medical distress, and needing medical attention. He ignored their distress, told others to ignore their distress, and kept calling for more rocks, more buckets of water to create more heat and steam. He continued this hell-lodge for four more rounds as people lost consciousness and three died. He watched them vomit and lose control of their bodily functions. He watched them unconscious and not breathing, and still he went on. He could have stopped it and he did not. Let's hope the jury gets it and locks this guy up.

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