The foreman of the James Arthur Ray trial jury has spoken to the press. Val Ripley shares the sense of agita of so many who are awaiting Judge Darrow's decision on new trial. But that's not all he shares with the friends of family of people who lost their lives in 2009. He was among the eight jurors who wanted to see Ray convicted for reckless manslaughter rather than the lesser charge of negligent homicide.
Ripley said he was at a loss as to why the defense would want to risk another trial, feeling that the negligent homicide verdict was more than fair, even as it leaves Ray liable for as long as nine years in prison.
"We were very close to the manslaughter conviction," Ripley said. "Eight of us wanted manslaughter, and the other four felt that he wasn't aware of all that those people were going through."
Mark Duncan makes the point that because Ray was acquitted of manslaughter, it's unlikely he'll be retried on that charge in the event that this goes to a new trial. As with the conditions of the recent release of the West Memphis Three, it's a sobering reminder of what a pale reflection of justice our court system is.
As is so often the case with jurors once they are free from the restrictions on media, he is annoyed at how much information was kept from them.
"There were a lot of things the jury should have known that were kept from us," he said, specifically mentioning the incidents that occurred at prior sweat lodges and the death of a seminar participant in San Diego in July 2009, just three months before the ill-fated sweat lodge ceremony.
Ripley is, of course, referring to Colleen Conaway whose suicide during Ray's Creating Absolute Wealth seminar remains unexplained. There is no doubt that getting complete information on just how many people were sickened at prior sweat lodges and that there was a previous hospitalization would have likely changed the minds of the four jurors who wanted the lesser charge. That's why Ray's attorneys worked so hard to keep out his history of reckless disregard for the safety of people who paid him thousands of dollars. The truth was not the defense team's friend in this case.
Like the other juror who spoke out after the trial, he found the pesticide poisoning theory risible. He also found Sheila Polk's case to be "outstanding"... as did I. He also found Truc Do impressive. I did not. In fact, it is my solemn prayer that I never have to hear her say "correct" again. Like nails on a chalkboard that woman's voice. But control freaks always rub me the wrong way. So maybe it's just me.
Most interesting, Ripley actually went to Angel Valley, met with Michael Hamilton, and visited the memorial circle.
"That was very helpful," he said. "It helped me to put it all in perspective."