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James Arthur Ray's sweat lodge trial delayed
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 21 July 2010 06:00

The manslaughter trial of a self-help author and motivational speaker has been delayed after the presiding judge has been asked to take on another case.

James Arthur Ray, 52, was arrested earlier this year after three people died in an October 2009 sweat lodge ceremony at the Angel Valley Retreat Center southwest of Sedona.

Lizbeth Neuman, 49, of Michigan, Kirby Brown, 38, of New York and James Shore, 40, of Wisconsin, died after exposure to conditions inside the sweat lodge, a large tent-like structure that was heated to sauna-like temperatures. The ceremony was part of a weekend event that cost attendees nearly $10,000 a head.

Ray pleaded not guilty to the charges of manslaughter; the trial was originally set to begin Aug. 31, with at least 50 days set aside for arguments.

Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow has presided over the case, but was recently assigned to the Prescott murder case against Stephen Democker, accused of beating his ex-wife to death.

The judge previously handling the case is experiencing health problems, leaving the very busy Darrow as the next choice to take over.James Arthur Ray, 52, was arrested earlier this year after three people died in an October 2009 sweat lodge ceremony at the Angel Valley Retreat Center southwest of Sedona.

Ray’s defense team continues to pursue a change of venue for the trial, arguing that the publicity here in the Verde Valley may taint a potential jury pool.

Ray defense attorney Thomas Kelly has argued that changing the location may provide more room for what he expects to be a heavily attended and publicized trial.

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk had earlier told the court the state has no objections to the idea of moving the trial, since neither Ray nor the victims have any ties to the area.

Still, the prosecution objected to the defense’s recent efforts to move the trial on the grounds that they filed too much paperwork, but the court recently waived length limitations on motions filed by the defense.

The court also ruled that the state could ignore length rules when it files responses as a result of the decision.

Darrow has indicated that the trial might not be able to begin until November if he remains assigned to the case.

In the meantime, Ray is free on bond to continue conducting business from his base of operations in California, and from there, throughout the country.

Darrow is expected to hear further motions in the case Tuesday, Aug. 10.


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