Mar 25, 2011

James Arthur Ray Sweat Lodge Trial: Day 19

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

I made a mental note yesterday to pay close attention to Tom Kelly's demeanor when questioning male witnesses. After his nasty, condescending, questioning of Beverley Bunn and Melinda Martin, I got a whiff of sexism. That question was answered when I had the opportunity to watch him question Scott Barratt. What a difference in tone. Of course I'm also finding it a little disturbing how prone both Li and Kelly are to developing obvious man crushes on every alpha male who testifies.

Tom Kelly got off on the wrong foot this morning by trying to get off on the right foot with the Scott Barratt. He tried to make a little joke about having seen him on TV. Sheila Polk immediately objected. Judge Darrow lost his seemingly endless patience and told him to just ask a question. Kelly whined about how he was just being friendly. Barratt one-upped him by making a joke about how he hoped it wasn't when he was in the shower. Then he scrunched up his twinkly, Steve Martin-like eyes and grinned.

Kelly simply rephrased his television story as a question... sort of.

Kelly: You had mentioned yesterday that when you were a boy you were a cowboy?

Barratt: Yes.

Kelly: And the TV this morning identified you as a cowboy. Did you know that?

Barratt: Um. You're trying to trick me into thinkin' I was watchin' TV. No. I didn't do that, no.

Kelly: So my point is despite all those other accomplishments that you've, uh, described yesterday, the media has identified the cowboy as the most important attribute. Are you aware of that?

After another sustained objection, Kelly finally got down to his point which was that Barratt is rugged and manly and has done many dangerous things. Yes, Barratt is a hard charger. He's competitive. And when people are being competitive they might push themselves too hard and not listen to their body's signals. In other words, it's Barratt's competitive spirit that caused him to stay in the sweat lodge when he could have just left; not the "encouragement" from James Ray. Ray had done his job by giving fair warning. He reminded him of Elsa who was scared off the whole thing, reasoning that "Mr. Ray, in his pre-sweat lodge presentation, gave a very good description of what was going to happen."

So, that takes care of the second pillar of the defense's argument: adults making choices. And then it's on to pillar one: waivers.

Scott Barratt signed the waivers. Shocker. Moving on.

Barratt is in a very good shape, noted Kelly. And Kirby Brown was quite fit, too. But, he points out, not everyone there was so fit. He points to a picture of Linda Andresano. Barratt doesn't know her by name -- he doesn't know anybody's name -- but he recognized her as the woman he dragged out of the sweat lodge. Kelly pointed out that she's a "rather heavy set lady." Quips Barratt, "You said that."

Kelly's point? It would be easy to tell the difference between Linda Andresano and Kirby Brown. Barratt wouldn't get confused and think he had dragged Kirby Brown out of the sweat lodge. Yes. Tom Kelly really spent ten minutes identifying the size difference of these two women. He really went there.

At some point in that exchange Kelly went off on another hair tangent. He's just not going to let this go. No one is going to say those heads are shaved. Not even the studly Scott Barratt. People went to Spiritual Warrior and got their hair cut. Shaving, I guess, sounds cultish. Cutting, well, everyone does that. Somehow he doesn't grasp that if a bunch of people at a self improvement seminar get their hair nipped off with electric clippers, it really doesn't matter what you call it.

But Kelly points at head after head that shows a half an inch or more of hair and insists that it's a haircut, not a shave. Personally, I think women, in particular, would consider getting their hair trimmed down to a half or three quarters of an inch rather dramatic and refer to it as shaved or buzzed. To women a hair "cut" is when you go to the salon and a hair stylist makes it pretty.

Well, I decided, I needed to resolve this once and for all. As stated, I went through cosmetology school and I know a bit about cutting hair. I did not, however, go to barber school, which is where you're trained in clipper cuts. But one of my closest high school friends, with whom I also went through cosmetology school, decided to further her education and go to barber school. She worked for many years in a unisex salon, before furthering her education still more and becoming an English teacher. I hadn't spoken to my friend in years, although we reconnected recently on Facebook. So I contacted her this evening and we had a lovely chat about old times and hair fashions. I asked her, in her professional capacity as a trained barber, to settle this for me. Is it hair cutting or hair shaving when it's done with electric clippers but with the guard to leave some length? Her answer: "It's all semantics."

So there you have it.

Judge Warren Darrow

In another bench conference, Sheila Polk argued that because Kelly had opened the door by asking Barratt if Ray had prepared him for what would occur in the sweat lodge (see above), she should be able to bring in prior events. Her argument was that this witness was not prepared for things that had also happened at past sweat lodges -- vomiting, unconscious people left on the ground, convulsions, delirium, hospitalization, and so forth. Ray had knowledge that these things could occur. Her concern is that the jury is being left with the impression that these kinds of health issues had never occurred in the past.

Ultimately Judge Darrow ruled that the prior incidents were not analogous because no one died, as per his prior ruling. Also, there is no clear evidence that Ray had knowledge of those issues. He said it was fair for her to ask Barratt about whether or not he was prepared for the things he himself witnessed, without drudging up a prior event. So be it.

On redirect Polk asked Barratt a series of questions as to what Ray had prepared him for other than feeling like his skin was going to fall off. She got pretty far before one of Kelly's objections was finally sustained.

Polk: Did Mr. Ray ever warn you that the conditions inside the sweat lodge could cause participants to vomit?

Barratt: No.

Polk: Did he ever warn you that the conditions inside his sweat lodge could cause participants to lose consciousness?

Barratt: No.

Polk: Did Mr. Ray ever warn you that the conditions inside his sweat lodge could cause you to suffer shock?

Barratt: No.

Polk: Did Mr. Ray ever warn you that the conditions inside his sweat lodge could cause you to suffer convulsions?

Barratt: No.

Polk: Did Mr. Ray ever warn you that the conditions inside his sweat lodge could cause people to stop breathing?

Barratt: No.

Polk: Did Mr. Ray ever warn you that people inside his sweat lodge that lost consciousness would be left inside the sweat lodge throughout rounds?

Barratt: No.

Polk: Did Mr. Ray ever warn you that outside the sweat lodge when you were suffering loss of consciousness that no one would tend to you?

I think had Judge Darrow not sustained an objection from Kelly at that point, Barratt would have answered no.

Scott Barratt was excused subject to recall. 

Linda Andresano

Linda Andresano actually read the waivers. More than that, the waivers raised concerns for her. She has some medical issues and she's an RN. So, she did the responsible thing and called JRI for clarification about the events. They told her that they couldn't give her any details but that there wouldn't be anything dangerous. She was concerned because she'd had recent surgery on her shoulder and was preparing to start a chemotherapy regimen.

Linda took JRI at their word and came to the seminar ready to play full on. She got what she described as #4 buzz cut. (That's 12 mm in length.) She stayed up all night journaling a couple of times. She played the Samurai Game and lived... well until the end when they all died of the plague. And she did the vision quest before being rushed on to the sweat lodge.

Linda has great familiarity with sweat lodge ceremony. She has done Lakota Sioux and Apache sweat lodges. By her rough count she's done twelve to fifteen sweats ranging from small to large. By large she meant fifteen to twenty people.

Things were decidedly different in those "weenie-ass" sweat lodges she had done. She was used to feeling breeze when door was open. She recalls leaders checking on people, passing water around, and offering to let people leave if they needed to. And Ray's sweat was much hotter than anything she'd experienced before.

When the sweat lodge was announced at Spiritual Warrior, she didn't feel they had adequate time to prepare. She was still in lecture mode and had thirty minutes to rush through changing and getting back to lodge with notes.

Andresano, though, had been steadily hydrating because unlike many of the participants, she knew the sweat was coming. She had noticed the structure -- which she noted had plastic tarps "sticking out" -- when she'd arrived. She confirmed it with an Angel Valley staff member.

In the sweat lodge, she was aware that things weren't exactly smooth. She heard voices explaining that someone was "having trouble." And she heard Ray say, "let her be."

At another point, Kristina Bivins who was sitting in front of Andresano asked if she could move back. Bivins proceeded to rest her head on Andresano's chest. She was immediately aware that it was much hotter when Bivins wasn't blocking the heat from the fire pit.

Around the seventh round, Alesandro explained how she lost consciousness. Choking back tears, she explained that she thought "It's a good day to die."

For Alesandro the message of Spiritual Warrior was about living and dying with honor. She was prepared to die an honorable death. Still fighting back tears she explained:

Hughes: You mentioned that prior to blacking out you said to yourself, "It's a good day to die." Did you think to yourself I should get out of here?

Andresano: No, I didn't.

Hughes: As a nurse were you thinking about the heat in there having it's effect on you?

Andresano: No, I wasn't.

Hughes: Why is it that you, when you were thinking to yourself, "It's a good day to die." Why is it then that you stayed inside?

Andresano: I don't have an answer for that. The only thing I can think of is what I said before. That I, that I believed what he said about an honorable death and I didn't wanna [pause] You know at the very beginning he said, are you gonna play full on. So I was playin' full on.

Hughes: Was that important to you to play full on during the sweat lodge?

Andresano: Yes it was. I also felt like I didn't want to, uh, disappoint Mr. Ray. [pause] Some of the things that we chanted in the, uh, sweat lodge were 'I am more than this', and I chanted that loudly. I am more than this.

Hughes: Did you feel like you could speak up and call out for help while a round was going on?

Andresano: I don't, I don't know. [pause] This sounds weird but I don't, I don't know why I didn't. Because as a nurse, I don't, If anybody else would have been. If I had been sitting next to me, and I would have, this sounds strange, but if I had been more, um, in my nurse mode, in my conscious mind, in my own practical mind and someone was in the shape that I was in I would have said get the hell out of here. You're not doin' well. You need to get out of here. And I don't understand.

Hughes: Did you feel clear headed at that point?

Andresano: Apparently not, because, if I'd been in my right mind, I would have gotten out of there.

Andresano doesn't know how she got out of the sweat lodge. As she came to she thought, "I'm not dead. I'm not gonna die. Get your shit together."

She was transported by golf cart to a room that wasn't hers. Her tent mate brought her some clothes. The dress she'd worn for the sweat was sodden and had been taken off of her. She just wanted to sleep.

When she learned that there were medical personnel in dining area,  she declined at first. All she wanted to do was sleep. But then became concerned about how tired and woozy she felt and sought help.

Andresano was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. She was given IV fluids. But her ambulance broke down and she to wait for at least a half, maybe an hour. Her memory is a bit fuzzy. She was transported to another ambulance and treated at the hospital.  She's not sure how long it took to get to the hospital where she was diagnosed, she believes, with dehydration.

A couple of weeks later, Andresano was interviewed by Detective Wilingham. But she was guarded about the details of her experience. At the time she spoke to the detective, she explained to Hughes, she was trying not to say anything for or against Mr. Ray. Asked why she explained that she was just grateful to be alive. That was all that mattered.

Less than a month later she went to a World Wealth event in San Diego.

Li Crosses Andresano

The defense is really on about the hair cuts. It's not a big deal, insisted Li because, "Every single person in this world is different." Yes, we all have our own, individual reasons for wanting to look the same.

And they're on about cowboys as well. Li explained more about the joys of uniqueness and how Andresano's experience of the Samurai Game would be very different from that of a 6'5" 230lb cowboy. (Man crush.)

Apparently James Ray hugged Andresano after the sweat lodge. She remembers that, yes. Li insists that he looked shocked and there were tears in his eyes. That she really can't recall, so Li whips out her deposition in which she described Ray's demeanor as he hugged her.

Li's new tack seems to be to expound on some philosophy and tell people that they agree with it. He takes massive liberties with their previous statements, reinterpreting them through that filter. It's confusing the hell out of me. I can't make heads or tails of it. And I wonder how the witnesses feel as they struggle to determine whether or not they agree.

When Li attempts to apply this treatment to one of her previous statements, she is amazingly able to recognize it and explains that it's a statement she'd like to clarify. He tells her he'll get back to it after he asks a few more questions.... Sure he will.

Li also reminds her that she said in her police interview that some positive things came out of that week and that she found some of what she learned helpful. At the time, she explains, yes. She'd thought that.

Li doesn't seem to care for that answer so veers into his new favorite theme of how no one can tell her how to spend her money. No one but her husband, said Andresano.

Next comes a treatise on how no one can know what's in someone else's mind; not Kirby Brown's or James Shore's or Liz Neuman's. No, she only knows what they said, what they did, and what they showed by their behavior.

I didn't know what I was thinking so I certainly didn't know what she was thinking.... I didn't even know what was in mind so I certainly didn't know what was in their mind.... I wasn't in my right mind so I don't know what they were thinking.

Li delivered what may be the most tortuous explanation of how we're none of us mind readers I've ever heard. And I don't even understand why because I don't think Andresano ever claimed to read anybody's mind. After that I was actually relieved to move on to the damn waivers.

After lining up some exhibits, he points out that one of the two waivers she signed specifically addresses medical conditions and recommends consulting a physician if necessary. What he avoids saying until he actually quotes it from the text is that it's the Angel Valley form; not the JRI form.

Either way Andresano is not signing off on his assertion that the whole thing is really best handled by her and her doctor. Well, no, because she called JRI to get specific enough information to take to her doctor for evaluation of whether or not it was a safe activity for her.

She was concerned because she was thinking, "How bad is this? 'Cause this sounds terrible. I mean this sounds like you could die. It says that you know I mean we are not responsible if you die. Basically. I mean so I thought, it can't be that bad. Someone's gotta give me a little more explanation. What is this?"

And, of course, the JRI person told her that nothing would be dangerous.

In short, the waiver didn't give specific enough information to take to a doctor and get an evaluation. And the JRI person said they couldn't be specific... but it's all good. Relax.

Said Andresano:

The person that I spoke to was not a medical professional. But the person I spoke to did represent JRI. Because they said "James would never do anything to hurt you," I believed what they said. Not to the exclusion of my own medical knowledge or my own judgment or my own responsibility. But as you say, we all bring things to the table through our own lens and that comment helped me to decide.

Note: When the trial resumed from break, for some reason, the CNN feed had no audio. I tried watching this silent movie for a while but their lips were way too tiny to read on my computer screen. So, with any luck they'll air the rest of Linda Andresano's testimony next week on In Session.
I do know that she was excused subject to recall, thanks to a tweet from April Santiago of Dateline NBC.

All information on the trial comes from news articles with provided links or live courtroom footage on TruTV's "In Session" or CNN's live feed. All quotes and paraphrased statements that are not linked to a source document are my best attempt to transcribe material from live broadcasts.


  1. I am loving your daily summaries! Loving your writing! Keep up the great work!

  2. Agree with hotmud. It must be something to be married to those jerks Li and Kelly. They shove people around and get punitive with disagreement, especially from women. And see how we often are cowed by the asshats! Of course these women are looking for ways to be more autonomous, to be taken seriously. Good luck on convincing ray to take you seriously! He don't know how.


Opinions and ideas expressed in the comments on this page
belong the people who stated them. Management takes no
editorial responsibility for the content of public comments.