Jun 8, 2011

CNN Shows Up Late to James Ray Sweat Lodge Trial

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

CNN Schedule Showing James Ray Trial

Promises, promises... So 12:15 came and went and CNN continued it's cutting edge news offerings of empty feeds and weather maps. Eventually, they revised their schedule listing a 5:00 PM arrival. Meanwhile, back in Camp Verde, Dr. Ian Paul took the stand where he was questioned by that precocious tween Truc Do. Oh, how I wish I could have heard the esteemed forensic pathologist explain how the none of the patients had heatstroke.

Thanks to some occasional tweets from April Santiago, we know that Dr. Paul found the symptoms consistent with organophosphate poisoning. He did not find that there was evidence of severe dehydration or that high body temperature of 105° F. Dr. Paul did not think the medical records support a finding of heatstroke or that organophosphate testing was done in a timely fashion.

So, thanks to April Santiago, we know that the defense's paid medical expert is testifying to the key elements of their case. But I have been waiting for weeks to hear how strongly he endorses the organophosphate theory that isn't in his official report and that, according to Truc Do, he has only said he couldn't "rule out." I was really looking forward to Do's examination of the heavily credentialed Dr. Paul and thrilled to learn that he was testifying on this one final day of CNNLive's streaming of the trial. Oh well... I guess CNN had far more important news to cover.

Or not.

CNN did eventually start streaming the trial much later in the afternoon covering the bitter end of Truc Do's direct examination of the defense's star witness and the beginning of Bill Hughes's cross.

Frankly, I expected to be more impressed with the Medical Examiner Dr. Mosley compared to Superman. Mostly, I expected him to talk like a medical science professional; not a shill for the defense. Every other medical expert we've heard from, including the State's paid witness Dr. Dickson, has been at least somewhat circumspect. Dr. Dickson expressed the closest thing to certitude of any of them but he supported his conclusions with research documentation and very specific elements of his own clinical experience to justify that 99% certainty. Dr. Paul on the other hand contradicted his own research sources and gave evasive, if impressively technical sounding non-answers, when questioned about those inconsistencies.

Truc Do has said repeatedly that Dr. Paul came to the defense and offered his services even though he has never testified for a criminal defendant before. During her questioning of Dr. Mosley, Do described Dr. Paul as a State Medical Examiner and not "available for private hire." He made an exception in this case, the defense has implied, because he was so troubled by the incorrect conclusions of heat related death reached by Drs. Mosely and Lyon that he felt compelled to come forward and set the record straight.

After watching Dr. Paul in action for ten minutes or so I began to doubt that he was offering his testimony out of any such moral imperative. He just struck me as too slick by half. I rapidly came to the conclusion that while he may never have been available for hire by criminal defendants before, Ray will not be the last. I got the sense that this is just the beginning of his budding career as a professional witness. That intuitive leap was at least partially confirmed when another trial watcher posted a link to his new and still under construction website where he will advertise his services as a "Forensic Pathology Consultant."

So, as Dr. Paul embarks on this new career trajectory, I'd like to pass along a few tips from my wealth of experience in forensics, which is to say, competitive public speaking:

  Firstly, visual aids are a real asset in an informative presentation but they shouldn't upstage you. This is one case where bigger isn't necessarily better. Especially if they're so large that people have trouble seeing you.

  Or if they evoke nothing so much as one of those giant, novelty checks people get when they win the Publishers Clearing House or Lotto. Remember. You're being paid for this now. Best not to draw too much attention what a cash cow this is for you.

  Or if they dwarf the visual aids prepared by your employers in both size and quality.

  Finally, when answering difficult questions from opposing counsel, it's best not to keep looking nervously at the defense table. Look at the jury. They're your intended audience; not your employers.

In the small amount of direct testimony I was able to hear today, there wasn't much in the way of surprise. Although Dr. Paul did in fact hew more closely to the defense's case than I'd expected. I don't know where I got the idea that he'd convey some intellectual independence. At times this sounded more like the scripted dialog in an infomercial than an interview. One slightly unexpected answer came when Do asked him if pinpoint pupils can occur in heatstroke and he said that they could, echoing Dr. Dickson's testimony about the range of pupil presentations in heatstroke patients. But he was still confident that miotic pupils are a hallmark of a toxidrome and that that was what was indicated here.

I've also found it very interesting to hear how different Do sounds with a defense witness. It turns out that she doesn't always talk faster than the speed of sound and is capable of a conversational tone. I've also learned that she doesn't always end sentences with "correct?" Sadly, even with her more measured and less dictatorial tone, she's still nigh well unbearable to listen to.

Bill Hughes Cross Examines Dr. Ian Paul

Bill Hughes went straight for one of my biggest questions. Why weren't organophosphates suggested in Dr. Paul's written report? Dr. Paul said it was because he had still been waiting for information on Stephen Ray and the report was, therefore, incomplete. He said organophosphates were always part of his differential diagnosis. So, he felt confident enough to say it was a toxidrome, not heatstroke, without Stephen Ray's medical record but not confident enough to say what likely toxin he was contemplating? This makes no sense whatsoever but he said it with a patina of such reasonableness, it was hard not to accept the answer... He's really smooth.

As questioning went on, however, he began to look uncomfortable. Hughes confronted him directly on some of the central planks of his case.

Under direct Paul had claimed that the surviving victims had recovered fully and that this was consistent with organophosphate poisoning, whereas heatstroke would likely cause long-term neurological damage. Hughes pointed out that both Stephen Ray and Sidney Spencer described a litany of symptoms: memory problems, ringing in the head, trouble swallowing, numbness in the limbs, kidney pain, malaise, blurred vision, disequilibrium... Paul seemed to go out of his way to discount each symptom as unlikely caused by heatstroke because he would expect to the see the brain injury confined to the cerebellum instead of the parts of the brain indicated by those symptoms, or because they could be caused by other things, or because they are not specific to heatstroke -- anything but admitting that they could, in fact, be caused by heat related brain injury. Although he allowed that he was not a neurologist so he couldn't be certain.

Dr. Paul had claimed that Liz Neuman's "clammy" skin was an indication that she did not have heatstroke. Hughes pointed out that his own attached article said that not all heatstroke patients present with anhidrosis -- lack of perspiration. Rather than concede the point, he cited a problem with his own reference material. The article didn't differentiate between exertional and non-exertional heatstroke.

Hughes: Can you show us the article then that says that that would only apply to exertional heatstroke.

Paul: I'm not saying that it would only apply to exertional heatstroke but it would be much more common, uh, finding in exertional heatstroke, uh, and this area's not differentiating between the two.

Hughes: Okay, can you show us the article that says that it'd be much more common in exertional heatstroke as opposed to non-exertional.

Paul: Uh, I'm not exactly sure what source or I couldn't identify the, what source I read that in.

Hughes: Is that do you believe in one of the articles that you provided to Ms. Do when you were asked to provide the articles you had relied upon in making your report.

Paul: Yes.

Hughes: You believe it's in here?

Paul: Oh I don't know if it's in there or not.

Hughes: Well, are there other articles then that you relied upon that you didn't provide to Ms. Do?

Paul: I've had training in heat related injury. Um. I'm an ER physician. Uh, it would be a very common subject for me to read either during my training, um, or after my training. And I can't tell you exactly where I read that source, um, it would be basically understood in the medical literature, uh, that there's a clear differentiation between exertional and non-exertional heatstroke. I think it's imperative that you make that difference because they can present in different ways and they affect a completely different group of patients.

Hughes: Do you believe that's an important distinction?

Paul: Yes.

Hughes: Would it surprise you not a single one of these articles on heatstroke you provided make that distinction?

. . .

Hughes: Doctor, can you point out to me then a single article that you provided that make that distinction?

Paul: Uh, I don't know if it's in there or not in those articles. I don't recall them.

. . .

Hughes: Would you look through them and tell if it's in any of those articles?

After a brief recess was called by Judge Darrow, Hughes asked Dr. Paul if he'd had a chance to review the articles and locate a citation for his claim.

Paul: So, uh, the point I was trying to make is that in exertional heatstroke... some people maintain the ability to sweat and um, as compared to patients that have non-exertional heatstroke. In non-exertional heatstroke, patients do not maintain the ability to sweat and, uh, that it stated in this article that I provided and, um, I'll read the sentence. "Because their ability to sweat remains intact patients with EHS (which stands for exertional heatstroke) are able to cool down after cessation of physical activity and may present for medical treatment with temperatures well below 41° C."

Hughes: Now where in there does it say that patients with non-exertional heatstroke, uh, will always lose the ability to sweat? 

Paul: Uh, so I'd have to go through this again but the hallmark of non-exertional heatstroke is anhidrosis, mental status changes, and elevated temperature. 

Hughes: And you believe you saw in there that it indicates that a patient with non-exertional heatstroke would always have lost the ability to sweat?

Paul: It's a hallmark of that process but I did not read specifically that they always lose the ability to sweat.

Hughes: Did you look through the article?

Paul: Yes, and um, I don't see it. 

Hughes: Okay.

So that was a lot of time and energy for Dr. Paul to establish that, in fact, he could provide zero documentation to support one of the central claims of his, and by extension, the defense's case.

As I've discussed at length, dehydration, the underlying cause anhidrosis, is not a necessary cause of heatstroke and is not always present in heatstroke. Nor, obviously, is anhidrosis, as this eMedicine article points out. (Like Dr. Dickson, Dr. Paul relies heavily on eMedicine's scholarly articles and he extolled the virtues of the resource Do derided during her questioning of Dr. Dickson.)

Similarly, some patients may retain the ability to sweat, removing anhidrosis as a criterion for the diagnosis of heatstroke. Therefore, strict adherence to the definition is not advised because it may result in dangerous delays in diagnosis and therapy.

. . .

Anhidrosis due to cessation of sweating [in NEHS] is a late occurrence in heatstroke and may not be present when patients are examined.

The discussion is emblematic of most of Hughes's questioning of Dr. Paul. Hughes asked pointed questions in an attempt to clarify Dr. Paul's claims with Paul avoiding directly answering for as long as possible.

When Hughes asked the Medical Examiner why he used a different diagnostic criteria for heatstroke death than the National Association of Medical Examiners to which he belongs, the dance went on for quite some time. Their position paper does not require a determination of dehydration to diagnose heatstroke.

Dr. Paul would not answer how much the bodies of participants may have cooled in the lengthy process of getting them to the hospital where their rectal temperatures could be measured. He refused to try to calculate how much the cool, breezy, evening air, the wetting down with cold water, and the air conditioned ambulance rides, would have lowered their temperatures after upwards of an hour. Probably because it's hard to argue that they would not have cooled substantially. Instead we got a lot doubletalk about how it would impossible to calculate the temperature drop with certainty. It sure would be easy to cite a ballpark figure, though, which he would not do.

Most tellingly, he had no answer as to what quantity and concentration of organophosphates in pesticides would have been necessary to cause the deaths and injuries. He had done no research on what products could have poisoned people. After claiming that organophosphates had always been part of his differential diagnosis -- despite their lack of inclusion in his report -- his response to questions about what sort of exposure could have caused this tragedy he responded, "That's outside my area of expertise."

Dr. Paul testified today that he's never seen an actual case of organophosphate poisoning -- alive or dead. And yet, unlike every other expert to testify he's the only one willing to say that it's the likely culprit. Dr. Dickson remains the only one of the medical experts to testify who has treated patients with organophosphate poisoning and he is the only willing to dismiss the possibility with near certainty. What does that tell you?


  1. Defense witness or experts are almost certainly always paid for their consultation or testimony. This works for both sides. Needless to say, pointing out how much money an expert is offered to testify is a popular 'tactic' that is utilized by both prosecution and defense. As far as I am concerned, I would not expect this to be any different.

    I do not see a problem with Mr. Ray mounting a defense. He is entitled to mount a defense. Even if he chained those people to floor and there were ample proof, this would not change the fact that he is entitled to mount a defense.

    I have followed this trial from the beginning, and I do not believe the state has met its burden to prove manslaughter. I certainly think that Mr. Ray needs to be held responsible, but manslaughter, in my opinion, is a stretch. I certainly believe he was negligent, there is no question about that. There is a bit of doubt, speaking for myself, that I see as reasonable. While I do have a medical background and degrees to support it, I do not claim to be an expert. In fact, much of this case is based upon other variables that have nothing to do with the alleged cause of deaths.

    Either way it comes out, I will continue to follow its developments, most likely using this site and others since CNN has decided to pursue Casey Anthony as its juggernaut.

  2. Although, I should add that I am VERY disappointed that CNN live stopped broadcasting this. Casey Anthony is important and all, but do they really need the weather streaming?

  3. Hi Brad,

    My issue isn't with the expert being paid. It's with the expert being bought. There's a big difference which is why I call him a shill. Dr. Dickson was also paid $400 and hour, just like Paul. The difference is he really sounded like he reached his conclusions independently and that's what your better paid experts do. Paying an expert doesn't mean you own them. When it sounds like you do, they cease to be good experts for your side; defense or prosecution. Paul hewed so closely to the defense's strategy that he didn't sound credible, in my opinion. He was slippery and evasive and his answers sounded more like crafted rhetoric; like they were designed to persuade rather than clarify facts.

    Sorry that didn't come across so well when I was venting my spleen last night. I hope that clarifies.

  4. One other thing: On Casey Anthony. I don't believe for a second that this trial was sacrificed because of the Casey Anthony trial. In Session routinely covers more than one trial. Had the Michael Jackson doctor trial not been postponed they would have most definitely been covering and hyping the hell out of both. That was their original plan and, though it would not have pleased me, it would have made more sense to me that this lower profile trial was marginalized. I still would have expected them to give this some coverage, though, just to see through something they started and hyped the hell out of at the beginning.

    This is not a question of inadequate resources to cover this trial. They had resources in place, in LA to cover the Conrad Murray trial and when it was continued at the last minute they pulled their people out.

    CNN and In Session, in my opinion, have shown nothing but contempt for this trial and for the people who care about its outcome. It has shown in their commentary and it shows in their disappearing of it. There's no way it would have been a hardship or stretch of their very ample resources to see through a couple more weeks to the conclusion.

    I agree that the Casey Anthony trial is important. Maternal infanticide is a mind scramble. It turns every idealistic belief we have about motherhood on its head. I'm a mother. Can't wrap my head around it. Most mothers are so hardwired to protect their children -- well let's just say that sometimes I terrify myself, that instinct is so fierce. A mother is hardwired to kill anything that threatens their child; not their child. So I do get the fascination.

    For some reason though, the trial itself bores me. None of the people except Casey Anthony -- whose pathology is sort of fascinating -- are interesting. I haven't been able to sit through more than five minutes of it. Dull, dull, dull. And I say that even after having discovered, as I recently did, that Casey Anthony is from my HOME TOWN. I know that and it STILL bores the bejeesus out of me. Go figure.

  5. One more thing, while I'm clarifying my thinking here. The other reason I have such a problem with the bought and sold testimony of Dr. Paul is that he was not as advertised. The defense has made an issue of his independence. They've repeatedly asserted that it is so unusual for him to appear for a criminal defendant as to be the sole time he's done it; that he felt so strongly about the set of facts in this case, he made himself available. His under construction website would seem to indicate that the James Ray trial is just the maiden voyage in his new career as a paid expert. So a singular passion about this case does not appear to be what drove him to accept that giant check and testify.

  6. Thanks for your clarifications. I appreciate your comments. I actually should add that I was impressed by the doctor yesterday; more so by his answers and having a medical background myself, but less so by certain aspects. There were many times when Dr. Paul sounded very obstinate, but he certainly was no doubt a slouch.

    I don't really see a difference with any expert coming and testifying for either side. Both are bought and paid--that's why they are experts. Unless they are subpoenaed, then they should claim no allegiance to either side. Dr. Paul would have got his money either way, I am sure--even if he was assuaged by the state's very pointed arguments from the lead DA. In the end, I believe it's for a jury to decide which issues are being examined and interpreted legitimately and which are being blown up their asses. I tend to look at things pessimistically, but if ANY paid expert is involved, I always take that in to account.

    As for Casey: Well, people no doubt think it's more interesting because it's been fodder for so long in the news. Three years in the making, so I understand how CNN would grab it. But it still troubles me that they completely lost sight of this trial which I followed for so long.

    Speaking of length: The James Ray trial has been going on for quite some time. In fact, too long. Do you have any idea when closing arguments are planned for?

  7. I should correct this: I meant to say that Dr. Paul was certainly NO slouch.

  8. What I took from the legal arguments I heard, is that the trial is expected to come in on schedule June 21. It has been a long trial for a couple of reasons: the fact that they don't have a 5 day week, the number of witnesses, and Luis Li's scheduled two week vacation. Then, there's the fact that the defense has really dragged this out with objections, sidebars, mistrial motions, etc. I really do think they've been waging a war of attrition and the State slashed their witness list to keep to time constraints.

    I agree with you that Dr. Paul is knowledgeable. He's certainly highly credentialed. I'm not a doctor and I wouldn't pretend to understand all the medical jargon. I do, however, know rhetoric and debate, so I'm always looking at things from from a communications perspective. And that's why Paul set off alarm bells for me. I know verbal trickery and evasion when I hear it and I heard a lot of it yesterday. It's a politician's trick: Don't answer the question you were asked. Answer the question you wish you'd been asked. An expert is paid to present and interpret facts; not spin them. He was spinning like a top.

  9. Yes, he was certainly very smoke and mirrors. Lots of gaslighting at times.

  10. I also felt Dr Paul's testimony sounded scripted and staged. He often shot an involuntary glance to the defense table when confronted with an unwanted question from Hughes. I didn't see all of it, so it didn't really register what that enormous display board was, until I read the description here. LOL.

    The contrast between Paul and Dickson could hardly be starker. Paul is obviously looking to launch a new career and probably (like Do?) jumped on a band wagon he thought was headed for an impressive celebrity success. (Even if Ray gets off, I doubt it would down to the defense.)

    The reason why Dickson's testimony was so devastating was, I think, simply because he is someone who loves his work and cares about it too much to let Do distort his testimony. He didn't come across as having any acrimony towards Ray, rather someone who wanted the job to be done properly and in accordance with the known facts.

    Paul on the other hand looks like the kind of "expert medical correspondent" that CNN might use to explain why waterboarding isn't torture.

  11. @ yakuru, Great analogy!

    'Paul on the other hand looks like the kind of "expert medical correspondent" that CNN might use to explain why waterboarding isn't torture.'

    Indeed! And who knows. Maybe that's where his consulting business is heading. I mean being a witness for hire can be lucrative but it's every shill's dream to go all the way to the show.

  12. Since we are still on the 'shilling' topic: Since both LaVaughn (at least more so from comments) and spirituality find Dr. Paul's testimony to be disingenuous (i.e. appearing to be a shill for the defense), do you believe that Mr. Ray is not entitled to utilize the expert testimony of Dr. Paul? Put another way, should the defense not be entitled to utilize him just because he is 'shilling' for them?

  13. Hi Brad,

    I've never said anything remotely like that. He has every right to put on the defense of his choosing. I've said his defense was both lackluster and appallingly disingenuous but I've never even implied that he shouldn't have the right to mount a defense, even if it means he has rent his friends at this point.

  14. Brad,

    I have also never said or even remotely implied that James Ray does not have the right to mount a defense.

    Strangely this is about the fourth or fifth time that exactly that accusation has been leveled at me. Each time it has also come from someone who claims not to support Ray, and claims to be just "neutrally watching the case", yet feels strongly enough about it to enter the discussion and push what seems to be the last possible barrow to push in defense of Death Ray.

  15. Thank you both for your comments.

    Spirituality: Do I support Mr. Ray? No. I certainly feel that he should be held responsible for his actions, and in this some instances, his lack of action. He is certainly negligent, but, in my opinion, the state has not convinced me of manslaughter.

    I have followed the case since it's inception on TruTV to its burial in exchange for an alleged tot killer.

    Either way, I was brought to comment only because this page used the word shill in regards to a defense witness. I have already said, or will say now, that because you are an expert witness, you are paid regardless of which side you opine for.

    Ironically, it only becomes shilling when it is for the accused.

  16. No Brad, It becomes shilling when it's not the independent analysis it purports to be.

    As you, yourself, have admitted, "he was very smoke and mirrors."

    An expert can be paid for testimony and still manage to keep his integrity. And when he doesn't, and I don't think Ian Paul did, he goes from expert to shill.

  17. Brad, I am truly grateful you are not on the jury and am sincerely hoping and praying that the actual jury groks the big picture and convicts James Ray of criminally negligent manslaughter.
    From Wiki:

    "The law generally differentiates between levels of criminal culpability based on the mens rea, or state of mind. This is particularly true within the law of homicide, where murder requires either the intent to kill – a state of mind called malice, or malice aforethought – or the knowledge that one's actions are likely to result in death; manslaughter, on the other hand, requires a lack of any prior intention to kill or create a deadly situation.

    Criminally negligent manslaughter occurs where there is an omission to act when there is a duty to do so, or a failure to perform a duty owed, which leads to a death. The existence of the duty is essential because the law does not impose criminal liability for a failure to act unless a specific duty is owed to the victim. It is most common in the case of professionals who are grossly negligent in the course of their employment. An example is where a doctor fails to notice a patient's oxygen supply has disconnected and the patient dies (R v Adomako)."

    James Ray INTENTIONALLY instructed Angel Valley to construct a huge sweat lodge (not normal), INTENTIONALLY told participants (his people) to ignore physical distress) INTENTIONALLY overheated the sweat lodge with too many rocks, INTENTIONALLY poured too much water, INTENTIONALLY IGNORED the cries and pleas from his people for help, INTENTIONALLY ignored the warnings from prior his sweat lodge incidents (inadmissible evidence for some unGodly reason), INTENTIONALLY did not provide adequate professional medical help standing by if needed (he had this knowledge from prior sweat lodge incidents), INTENTIONALLY shrugged his shoulders when told his friend was not breathing, INTENTIONALLY sat around and watched his people writhing and gasping for air, not calling 911, INTENTIONALLY went back up to his room, showered and ate a sandwich while his people were sick, dying or dead, INTENTIONALLY left Angel Valley with his people still in the hospital. Did I forget anything? Smoke and mirrors aside, causation is irrelevent, he had a duty of care, which he did not provide to his people, and for which he was paid quite handsomely. They trusted him to keep them safe and he treated them like so much garbage. He's guilty, not a shadow of a doubt exists and he knows it too. That's why he did not testify on his own behalf.

  18. Hi Elizabeth,

    I am glad you are not on the jury either. Your knowledge of the law is unfortunate. This is probably why you have to look it up on Wikipedia. James Ray does not need to testify. It's the state's burden to prove guilt.

    Did Mr. Ray chain those people to the floor? No. Were those people free to leave when they wanted? Yes. The fact he told them to leave if they felt sick means he performed a 'duty.' That's enough proof for me. Intentions here don't matter.

    Those people could leave. Sure they probably saw James as some God--probably because they didn't have the gumption to believe in themselves.

  19. Actually Brad, what he told them was that if they felt like they were going to die, they wouldn't, and that their feeling terrible was the objective. It was what they were paying for. So, no. He did not tell them to leave if they were feeling sick. He told them feeling sick was normal in that context. He told them could leave if they just couldn't take it; in other words, if they were too weak to accept the challenge he was presenting them with.

    Then he intimidated a number of people out of leaving when they headed for the door. He also said not to worry if they passed out because they'd be carried out. But when people tried to assist others who had passed out or were in trouble, he told them to leave them be because he needed to get on with the ceremony. Whatever messages about the right to leave or listening to their own bodies were severely undercut by the majority of what he said, which were directions very much to the contrary.

    Once delirium has set in, your ability to decide anything is seriously compromised. And his stated objective was to make them delirious, which he promised would not kill them. It would turn them into shamans... dear Christ.

    More to the point, after telling people he was "in charge," he didn't call 911 even though he had access to a cell and made some other mystery call. And then he went back to his room, had a sandwich, and took off his pants for some reason. The man loves to sit around without his pants. It is at the very least negligence and there is, in my opinion, plenty of evidence of reckless disregard, which is the official charge. (We still don't know if Judge Darrow will instruct the jury to consider the lesser included charge of criminally negligent homicide.)

    And, as a point of law, intentions absolutely do matter. State of mind is very much at issue. Mens rea is very much at issue.

    The jury will decide the weight of the evidence but the judge has already said that the facts as presented support the manslaughter charge and establish a mental state of recklessness. Had the State not met its burden, in that regard, he would have given the defense that directed verdict they sought. He also said there is evidence of mens rea. The evidence is there. It's the up to the jury to decide whether or not those facts have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt but if they do, it's their duty to convict.

  20. LaVaughn,

    Everything you said does not negate the fact that he said they could leave if they wanted.

    The fact is this: There was no physical barrier that prevented them to leave.

    Except, of course, you count the thousands of dollars they spent to feel enlightened.

  21. So let me get this straight, Brad. The fact that he said they could leave establishes he fulfilled his duty, but the fact that he admonished them not do didn't show a failure of duty? You can't have it both ways.

    Just out of curiosity, if Judge Darrow instructs the jury to consider the lesser included, do you think the jury should convict on that charge>

  22. LaVaughn,

    The fact that he did admonish them does not, again, negate the fact that he said they could leave. There was no physical barrier.

    I may have this incorrect, but some people did leave before the three passed out, correct?

    Let's also get something straight: I do not believe he should not be held responsible. I would vote for a guilty on the lesser charge, but not for the original one stated in his indictment.

  23. We'll have to agree to disagree. I think the fact that he mislead them about what to expect and what threats it posed to their physical safety makes him guilty.

    And there was a physical barrier. Several them became delirious and some passed out. Unconsciousness makes it impossible to leave as does that level of mental confusion. He mislead them about what altered mental status was, in that instance.

    If he had slipped them hallucinogens without telling them, would he be guilty then? Because that's effectively what he did. He induced severe heat related illness for it's hallucinatory effect without telling them that that's what he was doing.

    Yes, some people did leave. And he repeatedly coaxed them to come back in and many did. It doesn't matter that some weren't intimidated to sit through it. Many were and three of them are dead. And once that disordered mental state kicks in, their freedom of choice is absolutely gone.

  24. Then you misread what I said, except about the physical barrier part. And, if he had slipped them hallucinogens, then we wouldn't be having this conversation.

    I stated that he should be held responsible, but for the lesser charge.

    I think there's A LOT wrong with this case. A man who makes money off people who are vulnerable. People who believe they need pay a man thousands of dollars to feed them self-esteem. A man who only partially prepares for a dangerous situation, and people who do the same.

  25. How did I misunderstand you, Brad? Are you saying that slipping them hallucinogens would have been reckless manslaughter? Because that's effectively what he did. He induced delirium and unconsciousness without disclosing the means by which he was doing so.

    If he had laid out for them the signs of symptoms of heat related illness and warned them to leave if they started to experience those symptoms, then he would have met the minimum of that burden of care. That's what every responsible organization does when they take people into physical peril. In the very first blog posts I did on this, I posted links to what other forms of wilderness training and the like do in terms of waivers and questionnaires. They inform people fully of the risks. They take thorough health histories. My husband does this kind of shit all the time. He's done things with Outward Bound. You should see the paperwork for that one. He looked at Ray's program and said, never in a million years would he undertake that, it was so reckless. And he fought in a friggin' war. But that's because he's thoroughly acquainted with the dangers of things like heat related illness. It's one of the first things they teach you in the military.

    But Ray told these people was that they would not die no matter how horrible they felt. He didn't just fail to fully prepare them. He actively mislead them about the physical risks and then failed to do anything when their physical peril was apparent. Even those people who had no duty of care and who had been actively discouraged from helping other people by Ray and his staff saw how serious it was and leapt into action. And Ray, who did have a duty of care, shrugged his shoulders, chatted on the phone with someone who was not 911, and went and had a sandwich and a shower.

    I think you've set an unreasonably high bar for what would constitute manslaughter. For one thing, you're ignoring psychological factors. It's not as simple as them having been physically restrained or not. If that were the legal bar, Judge Darrow would have thrown the case out. You don't have to physically restrain someone to be legally responsible for their death if you expose them to physical risk. An example would be spousal abuse. In most cases, a battered wife is not being physically prevented from leaving. But if she doesn't and her husband slams her head against a cabinet one night and accidentally kills her when he just means to, you know, "teach her a lesson," he's still guilty of murder. Even if her judgment was poor in staying with him. (It may seem like a stretch as a comparison but not if you look at Ray's history and the abuse and psychological games he played to foster dependency.) The poor judgment in choosing to stay whether it's for love, for money, out of fear, because her self-esteem is shattered... Whatever the case may be, if the batterer kills that spouse, the fact that the spouse should have recognized that her life was in peril and left but failed to do so, doesn't legally absolve the batterer.

    And I just don't share your contempt for Ray's students. We're all searching for meaning and I, for one, have also made some bad choices in the course of that quest. Thankfully, none of them were life-threatening.

  26. You're saying James Ray drugged them with hallucinogenic drugs?

  27. I'm saying he induced an hullucinatory state without disclosing that he would be doing so or the means by which it would be accomplished and that it was life threatening. He incapacitated them and did not warn them that he would incapacitate them.

  28. Brad,

    There was one instance where he told a female trying to leave as the flap to the SL was open (I think her name was Laura) that the round had begun and she couldn't leave, then closing the flap on her before she could get out, a.k.a "leave."

    So if you followed the trial from the beginning you would have already been aware of that fact and that James Ray didn't really, truly, want people to exercise their "free will" to remove themselves from danger.

    Just saying...

  29. Steve,

    Thanks for that comment. I do vaguely remember that testimony now that you've reminded me.

    As I mentioned before, I still maintain that Ray was negligent and should be charged with the lesser charge (not manslaughter).

  30. Brad,

    I understand your point of view but from previous SL's he was fully aware of the fact that he was playing with fire and with people's lives, he knew full well he was pushing people to the door of death (and not just metaphorically). Of course that info won't get to the jury.

    So in my point of view it was an unjustifiable risk to want to make his SL's "Hotter than any other." That was his intention, He told them they were going to feel like they were going to die and meant it. He said that, he knew the risk. I don't believe he purposely tried to kill them, only get them as close as possible without actually doing it, to give them that "altered state" he wanted so badly for them to experience (and not the altered state that his attorney Li so disingenuously compared to the euphoria of love). That to me is incredibly reckless and dangerous.

  31. So, I take it from this that you don't buy the organophosphate poisoning?

  32. If it were proven that organophosphate poisoning had killed the three, would you believe he were still guilty? Just a thought.

  33. Speaking for myself, I don't by the organophosphate theory at all. There's zero evidence of it. It doesn't comport with the majority of symptoms presented which is why cholinergic poisoning was excluded from the toxicology. None of the pesticides used at Angel Valley contained organophosphates. And the amount of exposure would have to be massive. It is very unusual to die to from organophosphate poisoning despite their very widespread use.

    It CAN'T be proven. It can only be not thoroughly disproved which is why the defense has chosen it. They just have to confuse one juror with what is actually a ludicrous theory.

    And even if it were some sort of poisoning, he'd still be guilty of some offense because he ignored the distress and physical peril of people in his care. People who'd paid him thousands of dollars were dying in front of him and he went and had a sandwich.

    It's actually quite obvious that nothing extraordinary like a freak poisoning occurred because he and his staff were treating these aberrant symptoms that the defense has claimed were caused by organophosphate poisoning like they were normal and expected. So, no, there was no novel toxicity that made people sick and delirious. Just the same thing that had been making them sick and delirious for years running.

  34. If it was proven to be organophosphates I would agree with your assessment of the charges but I don't buy that defense at all. I have known people to directly drink/eat poisons etc to try and commit suicide but all they do is get really sick, one instance a guy drank Drano but only lost his ability to eat foods orally for awhile and is forced to breath through a tube in is trachea, but he still lives to this day and functions normally otherwise. I am no doc but just have seen the direct outcome of taking large doses of it internally. So I can't imagine that a small dose would kill anybody. I just don't buy it.

    I would even go so far to say that if this happened at Ray's first or second SL I would also agree with it being negligent and him not truly knowing how dangerous it could be.

    But knowing the facts that he was fully aware of the dangers from past SL experiences and pushed to re-create those dangers and sell them off as an "altered state." I in my heart of hearts do not feel he was anything but reckless. But that is just my opinion.

    That is why I feel it is a shame that the jury isn't allowed to hear the full story of what the guys is about.

  35. @LaVaughn,

    All it takes is one juror.

  36. Well, Brad, let's be clear. They need to confuse one juror to get a hung jury. In which case it's possible that the State would retry him and he'd probably be convicted because he won't be able to afford these legal eagles again. Truc Do certainly knows that because she nailed Phil Spector on the second trial after a hung jury.

    I think the defense's primary effort here is to keep from losing outright anyway they can. They'd take a hung jury. From what I understand they've tried to settle at least twice. I suspect they're trying to settle it right now. And of course they tried six ways from Sunday to get it kicked. They just don't want a high profile loss. I think they're unlikely to put this in the win column. Their whole strategy is based on cutting losses.

  37. That really surprises me how Do, and other previous prosecutors, change sides.

    You think Ray couldn't afford them again? I assumed he'd have to be loaded.

  38. Loaded? Not anymore. He made a nice living for a while but it looks like he was spending it faster than he was earning it. Even when was bragging about his income he was crying poverty to his students. And spending like a drunken sailor at the same time. He owned, I think it was 5 houses, and had to give 4 them up as the market was crashing because that was when he had to liquidate his assets to pay his attorneys. He had to let them go into foreclosure. Then he got his bail reduced because he claimed he couldn't afford it. I know I heard somewhere that a bail bondsman wouldn't post bond because the one house he could put up as collateral was ridiculously overvalued.

    This defense costs a bloody fortune. Three attorneys from two law firms and a very, very long trial. I think he's probably running a tab at this point which is part of why his attorneys can't wait to dispose of this. They gotta know how well he pays the money he owes. He doesn't. He has been sued though and he's settled some of those suits already and there are more in the offing. All that while he's earning virtually nothing. Make no mistake. The guy's harmonic broke.


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