Mar 24, 2011

James Arthur Ray Sweat Lodge Trial: Day 18

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

More JRI Pictionary

Today we saw a kinder, gentler Tom Kelly. He clearly knows his courtroom demeanor yesterday was unbecoming and unappealing. Good. I was starting to fear that it was a deliberate tactic and that we'd be seeing a lot more of it. But, no. He lost control and he knows it.

He still seems intent on quizzing Martin on the corporate structure. Today he showed many pretty pictures of JRI's lavish offices. But he admitted that yesterday he was asking leading questions and that today he will ask only for her understanding of that corporate structure. From there he proceeded to do exactly the same thing; name people and ask what they did. The only difference is that he didn't supply their titles even if she doesn't know them. He's even drawn a new chart.

It's seems the purpose of this exercise is to prove that James Ray has nothing to do with the day to day operations of JRI and that if anything goes wrong it's someone else's fault. Secondarily, his point is that Melinda Martin is a nothing, a nobody, a never was. She's "on the bottom of the totem pole," as Kelly said earlier this morning to Judge Darrow when he heard arguments over the admission of evidence.

She'd only been there for six months. She doesn't know who did what job. When Martin prepared the first aid kit it was based on a list that came from Megan Fredrickson. She can't even help Mr. Kelly make a decent chart!

"What she doesn't know is as relevant as what she does know," explained Kelly in justification of his artwork.

In the evidence hearing, Sheila Polk expressed her displeasure over Kelly's creation of an exhibit that would never have passed muster as an accepted exhibit because Martin would not have been able to vouch for the information in it. There's been "no evidence that there's 27 employees" from any one who would know, explained Polk.

After all of Kelly's impassioned raving about how ignorant of the corporate structure Martin was and how the chart was designed, in part, to prove it, he said, "The witness has admitted that there were 27 employees. Now she complains of it." Actually what the witness had admitted was that she wasn't sure.

And there you have the stupefying disingenuousness of Tom Kelly. His questioning of Martin was to establish what she doesn't know and the chart is not meant to be accurate but her "admission" about the number of employees is proof of the number of employees. 

In his subtler cross of Martin, he demonstrated that James Ray was not present for a lot of things; selecting the Dream Team, the signing of waivers, the designing of first aid kits... Get it? James Ray is actually a laissez faire leader; not a narcissistic control freak.

It wasn't James Ray who stopped the Marzvaan sister from getting her sister; it was Megan Fredrickson. Ray didn't take the other sister out; Martin did.

James Ray did, however, tell everyone to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. He also told people how to enter and leave the sweat lodge. His instructions were good, when he gave them. It was just the participants who didn't follow them and the JRI staff and volunteers who did the legwork who are to blame for this debacle.

I realize that it's now the custom of the country that CEO's and other senior executives take no responsibility for the failings of their companies. Heck, sometimes they get bonuses for it. But I'm old fashioned. I'm a real "buck stops here" kind of gal.

Later, when Kelly brought up the wine incident, he explained that there was, in fact, a "no alcohol" rule. Melinda Martin didn't know. Apparently, neither did the Dream Team members. But James Ray knew and he pitched a hissy. Kelly pointed out that some of the Dream Team members were angry over how he'd treated Martin. Barb Waters had said she was going to write him letter. Liz Neuman was very upset. He described these "ladies" as "clearly bucking the authority of James Ray."

So which is it? Is James Ray the authority at the event or not? Is aware of, overseeing, and disciplining event rules or not? 

Despite Kelly's overall change in tone from yesterday, he could not seem to resist getting in his digs. "I thank you for your attempt to not exaggerate," he said as he questioned her about her first aid treatment of various participants.

And this was special:

Kelly: Then, uh, I believe we, uh, you have tried to the best of your ability to relay to this jury on cross examination what you actually saw or heard during this event, correct?

Martin: Correct.

Kelly: Without any sensationalism, correct?

Martin: Correct.

Kelly: Without any exaggeration, correct?

Martin: Correct.

Kelly: Which you may have done on other occasions, correct?

Martin: I don't know what you're referring to.

Kelly: Well, remember yesterday we had our little fight and uh, uh, there were statements like "MASH unit" and "mass suicide" and so forth that may be the result of emotion which is associated with this traumatic event, correct?

Martin: Correct. It's very emotional.

He let her know that he appreciated her not exaggerating like the media. He understands how she was taken in by their agenda when she was vulnerable and how she was made to say all those wild things.

What a guy... What a paternalistic, dripping with condescension, guy.

Polk Redirects Martin

Polk's redirect was brief and mostly dedicated to establishing that Martin is a non-exaggerator -- something that should be obvious to anyone who's heard her speak for five minutes. But who knows what damage may have been done by the hundred or so mentions of her tendency to exaggerate.

The highlight of Polk's redirect was when she had her break down a bit of that corporate structure she knows nothing about and explain how she knew that James Ray was in charge of pretty much everything. 

It was clear even from working with Megan that she had to check everything with James Ray. She started off insulating Ray and running interference. She needed to be the conduit for every detail right down to the temperature of his drinking water. Later, Ray himself started dealing with Martin directly on things like room set up and other minutiae.

But Polk was at her best when she asked Martin about what activities he supervised during the Spiritual Warrior event (paraphrased):

Who was it who delivered the lectures for the week? Had interaction with participants when they took the microphone? Told participants the rules of the Samurai Game? Told the participants rules of the vision quest? Ran the sweat lodge ceremony? Determined when the sweat lodge ceremony began? Called for the number of rocks for each round? Determined how much water to pour on the rocks? Determined how long each round would last? Determined how long the door would be open between rounds? Determined when to end the sweat lodge ceremony?

James Ray, James Ray, James Ray, etc., etc., etc.

When it was over, who was it who was tending to people who appeared to be suffering?

Everybody but James Ray, including Melinda Martin.

Polk gave her a chance to demystify things her choice not to pursue her workers comp claim, her emotional condition after the event, and her desire to leave it all behind and start her "new life" in the big apple.

Mostly Polk allowed Megan to express her pain and sadness over the loss of Liz Neuman, James Shore,  and Kirby Brown whose families she connected with afterward. And how impossible it was for her to return to work after all the loss and trauma.

Martin also expressed her sadness and disappointment at Ray's failure to contact her.

I thought that I had done a lot, went way beyond the scope of duty of any job. And, you know, I thought maybe he would be appreciative of me helping save lives instead of throwing me aside. And not having and sort of connection or thanks or anything toward me instead of just throwing me aside.

William Scott Barratt

Scott Barratt wanted to "play full out." He may have the terminology of his thought stopping maxims wrong but he quotes them repeatedly and with gusto. He's a rugged guy -- a former Army helicopter pilot and later trained as medevac pilot by the National Guard.

Like so many participants, he was caught off guard by the announcement of the sweat lodge two hours before the event. He agreed that he'd been encouraged to hydrate but he would have made more of an effort had he known what was coming. Was he hydrated enough going in? He didn't think so. He'd just spent a day and a night doing the vision quest with no food or water in the desert. Before that he'd been sweating profusely during the Samurai Game. He'd also eaten a light breakfast because he was afraid of making himself sick.

This is a major point that I hadn't heard made yet. Breaking a fast is something you do gradually, starting with a light meal. And neither gorging nor eating and drinking lightly after a 36 hour fast in the desert would set a person up well for going into a superheated environment.

Be that as it may, Barratt did the sweat lodge. He wanted to "play full out" and he wanted to get his money's worth.

Barratt was also enthusiastic about getting his head shaved. Unmentioned is that he has a military background so it would not have been anything new. But he wanted to do it because Ray had explained that Buddhist monks shave their heads. He explained that he wanted to be an achiever and play full out... like Buddhist monks do.

He played full out in the Samurai Game, too. He died late in the game and was only dead, he thinks, for 10 minutes or so. He had a heavy blanket over him that made it hard to get air. He couldn't move to clear the blanket from his nose because he didn't want to kill a team member. Good thing he wasn't pretend dead for too long or...

Barratt didn't really want to do the sweat lodge. In addition to not being as well hydrated as he would have cared for, he's a little claustrophobic. Elsa Hafsted didn't want to go in either. She explained to Barratt,  "I know if I go in that sweat lodge I will die." It's hearsay and all but I really wonder how she meant that. That she'd be miserable or was she being prescient enough to save her own life?

At stage four -- Barratt calls rounds stages -- he began feeling very uncomfortable with what his body was telling him. He was concerned about his core temperature. His breath was hot. As a trained medic he knew that a high core temp was bad. He laid down on the ground for a while where it was cooler. But he was there to play full out so he sat up again.

He thought he was starting to experience an altered state of consciousness, which he wanted to do. But he struggled with his concern over his noticeably rising core temperature. Ultimately he wanted to ride it out because he wanted to "play full out." This overrode his medically based concerns.

Barratt was impressed by Ray's ability to continue on and lead chants. Meanwhile Barratt couldn't even remember his formulated intention for being there. If James Ray could do all that, surely he could push through.

Like most people, Barratt's was under the impression that you only left between rounds when the flap open. The man in front of him got up to leave during the break. In his increasing delirium Barratt thought it was time to go so he followed the man out. He believes it was after the fourth round. He was outside for a while before he realized that he'd left before it was over. He has no idea how long he was outside; whether it was a few minutes or another round or two.  But as soon as he realized he headed back in.  Said Barratt, "If I'd been thinking clearly I don't know if I'd have gone back in again."

When he returned to the sweat lodge his path was obstructed by the oft-mentioned Linda. She was lying face down and appeared to be unconscious. Ray asked someone to move her back. But the person he'd asked couldn't because she was lying across his legs. Barratt tried to help move her but Ray told him he was too close to the fire and to "leave her." She was lying with her head towards the fire pit. Barratt wanted to help her or sit in front of her to protect her head but he'd already been admonished by Ray once for trying to help her so he let it go.

Barratt sat the rest of it out, having forgotten his commitment and convictions and felt terrible. It was really just about completing it at that point. He was "nauseous," "foggy," and "not playing with a full deck." But there were people who were in there the whole time and hadn't had a break like he had. If they could do it so could he.

He just wanted to take off after it was over.  He couldn't understand why people weren't leaving. But he realized that Linda was still prostrate and blocking traffic. He helped to maneuver her out.

Barratt wanted to help more people out but collapsed after taking Linda out who he thinks was unconscious. She's a "bigger" woman and he was pretty out of it, so it was quite challenging. He had to drag her but it was hard to do while crawling. He thinks it was Greg Hartle who helped him, but it was more likely Lou Caci.

Barratt thinks Ray was still present, because he recognized his voice warning them to stop. They were knocking out a support post.

So the only references so far to post sweat lodge involvement from James Ray come from two people; Barratt and Jeanne Armstrong. The first has him walking -- not running, mind you -- to look for a portable defibrillator. The second has him telling people, who had paid him thousands of dollars, to maneuver an unconscious woman out without knocking down the tent. Useful.

Barratt was aware that he was in shock and starting to go into convulsions. He drew from his military training to get blood back into his core, by lifting one leg at a time. Then he passed out.

He woke up when heard the sound of a helicopter. By then, the sun was going down and he was starting to get very cold.

He was not attended to by paramedics. He was transported by golf cart to the showers. He was left alone to shower and get himself back to his tent and then back to the dining hall where they were assembling. When he got back to his tent, he crawled into bed to try to get warm. He fell asleep eventually but was awakened by a deputy who checked to see who all was in the tent. He dragged himself to the dining hall. He wasn't asked for a statement and went back to the tent.

Eventually his tent mate Dennis Mehravar came back to the tent around 1:00 am. He was packing and chattering anxiously about getting a cab into town and finding a hotel. He left for a while and came back because there were, of course, no cabs. It made no sense to Barratt but he couldn't talk him out of it.

Barratt had hearing, speech, and thinking problems for a couple of weeks afterward.

Polk asked artful questions about why he stayed in the sweat lodge. He trusted Ray because he'd taught him to do amazing things like walking on hot coals.

What Barratt doesn't know is that, like splitting boards, walking on hot coals is something of a parlor trick which pretty much anyone can be taught to do it. Ray probably also learned that at a Tony Robbins seminar.

He wanted to see it through because he wanted to "commit new goals and commitment to [his] unconscious mind." He didn't want to be "a quitter."

Polk asked if his decision to go back in to the sweat lodge, with all of his concern over his core temperature, could be compared to drunken decision making. Yes, Barratt agreed. It was the same kind of poor decision making.

Kelly Crosses Barratt

Tom Kelly's cross today was dedicated to the second pillar of the defense strategy: grown-ups making choices.

Where Polk had drawn the analogy between Barrett's impaired decision-making to drunkenness, Kelly compares drunkenness to love. When Barrett compares it to hypoxia, which he's experienced, Kelly quickly points out that, yes, all kinds of things can lead to poor decisions. (Whew. I'm sure no one noticed the reference to hypoxia.)

Kelly makes the point that given Barratt's history as a cowboy, a soldier in a competitive MOS, etc., he knows a little something about risk and he certainly knew he was taking on risk when he chose to do Spiritual Warrior. Fair enough. Barratt is clearly a hard charger.

He talks about the Marzvaan sisters again who chose to leave and Elsa who sat out the sweat lodge out of fear for her life. They used their freedom of choice. Sure. And Dennis Mehravar used his freedom of choice to go look for a taxi into town and a hotel room. Yeah... ummm... It was after 1:00 in the morning after he'd been discharged from a hospital and he was babbling like a loon.  That's up there with the choices people make to leave a bar, three sheets to the wind, when reasonable bar owners who don't want to be sued take away their car keys. But, sure, it's all free choice.

But surely Barratt knows he's made free choices all the way, even when he was suffocating under his death shroud. Barratt cites peer pressure and competitiveness and the fact that one of his team members would have died as factors but Kelly is quick to distract him by talking about his pouches and his "purpose" in the sweat lodge. He knows exactly what buttons to push on the motivated Barratt.

Kelly began to list other participants by name to get Barratt's read on whether they made independent choices too. But Barratt doesn't remember any of those other people who made choices by name. "Most all this stuff. I've moved on in life. I've put it behind me."

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. LaVaughn -
    Another great article about the James Ray trial. I've been thinking about the various witnesses who attended the Spiritual Warrior workshop and the type of people that JAR attracted to his events.

    Seems he was offering them some kind of 'short cut' to enlightenment. These seem to be accomplished, mostly mainstream type of people who, no doubt, wanted 'in' on enlightenment - especially the kind that promised harmonic wealth. They have careers, families, obligations, etc., and may not be inclined or able to go off on a 'Eat, Pray, Love' journey of self-discovery.

    It's sad that so many seekers got caught up in JAR's version of enlightenment for profit. The stories the participant witnesses tell are heart-breaking and so many of them have emotional wounds as a result of their dealings with JAR.

    I wrote about this on my new blog - check it out:

  2. @ Vortexter, Thanks for passing this along. I enjoyed the blog post and I will probably have more to say on that soon. I'd also like to set this as a hypertext link to make it easier for people to click to: Enlightenment in a Can


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