With a jury now in place, opening arguments are expect-ed to begin this week in Camp Verde in the manslaughter trial of motivational speaker and self-help author James Arthur Ray.
The trial, which is expected to last for the next few months, will also be broadcast on live television.
Ray, 53, was charged with three counts of manslaughter after Lizbeth Neuman, 49, of Michigan, Kirby Brown, 38, of New York, and James Shore, 40, of Wisconsin, died after exposure to conditions inside a sweat lodge at Angel Valley Retreat Center in October 2009.
The center was the site of a $10,000-a-head retreat hosted by Ray’s organization, James Ray International.
Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow gave the go-ahead last week for the trial to be broadcast by “In Session,” the daytime court segment on TruTV, formerly Court TV.
Darrow granted permission over the objections of Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, who argued live broadcasts, if seen by witnesses expected to be called, could have an effect on their testimony.
Darrow issued a reminder to both the prosecution and the defense to inform potential witnesses to avoid media coverage of court proceedings.
David Bodney, an attorney for the television network, argued live coverage would advance “Arizona’s tradition of courtroom access.”
In a motion filed late last month, Bodney argued the network has covered several high-profile trials over the years without incident, including the trial of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Opening arguments are expected to begin Tuesday, March 1.
In the meantime, Ray’s defense team continues to seek to prevent audio recordings made during the retreat from being entered into evidence.
The recordings, according to a motion filed by the defense, include five days of personal sessions between Ray and event attendees, culminating in an orientation session just before the sweat lodge incident.
The defense argues everything prior to the sweat lodge orientation session is irrelevant to the criminal charges against Ray and some of the recordings contain sensitive personal information about participants at the event.
The state argues the recordings are “highly relevant” to illustrate both Ray’s mental state and the mental state of the people who were participating in the event leading up to the sweat lodge ceremony where three people died. The state also claims the participants were told to act like “samurai warriors” preparing for the “ultimate battle,” and they should devote themselves 100 percent or “exit dishonorably.”
The state’s response to the defense motion to prohibit the recordings from evidence paints a picture of an event where participants were told to prepare to experience “altered states” and follow the rules as laid down by Ray.
“Excluding the audio from this case would be like excluding the meeting of bank robbers where the plan to rob the bank was discussed,” Polk wrote in her response to the motion.
The defense is also hoping to limit other potential evidence and testimony citing a lack of relevance to the actual crimes with which Ray is being charged.
Darrow has set aside more than 60 days for the trial, excluding Mondays.