Jun 9, 2011

Defense Rests in James Ray Sweat Lodge Trial

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Rumors of a surprise witness today in the James Ray trial were greatly exaggerated. The surprise was... wait for it... no more witnesses!


The defense has effectively, if not officially, rested its case after calling only two witnesses. They informed the court that they are done but Judge Darrow will not let them close their case in front of the jury until next week. In the meanwhile, there will be more legal wrangling over what exhibits will be admitted into evidence.

I'm just reading the tea leaves here because of CNN's abandonment of this trial. I'm going by a handful of tweets from April Santiago and a smattering of other news coverage. But it looks like the defense had indeed intended to call a surprise witness, as they were going to call their next witness after their return from a break. But after the break, and without the jury present, they announced that they had no more witnesses to call.

It also looks like the rumored surprise witness was none other than James Ray. He will not, in fact, be testifying. He has waived his right to testify in his own defense. I would have been VERY surprised if he'd testified. Cross examination would have been brutal and would probably have opened the door to about a gazillion rebuttal witnesses.

As it is, Ray's lawyers called all of two witnesses, one of whom was a bumped prosecution witness who added next to nothing to their case. They seem to be betting it all on black; Dr. Ian Paul and his ridiculously oversized chart.

On the one hand, the defense team has limited the amount of rebuttal the State can offer by not presenting much to rebut. On the other hand, it's not much of a defense and sends the message that Ray has no supporters among former students or friends. Just an overly slick medical expert who was paid to defend him.

For his part, Ray started telegraphing his decision to hold his tongue earlier today:

Fair enough but I would add:


  1. That was funny.

    It must be excruciating for someone who is used to experiencing verbal diarrhea, to have to clam up at this point, and not share his side of the story. At least he has his quotes to comfort him.

  2. I had a vision of the defendant standing up, interrupting Li, and saying, "that's enough Luis, you tried your best but there's no way out of it. It WAS an accident, I did not intend to harm anyone BUT I am completely responsible for this disaster. I lost control, I got carried away with my own ambitions and self-importance and I totally screwed up! I betrayed everyone who ever had any faith or confidence in me. I am guilty as charged.

  3. LuckygalNJ: That's a great vision! Unfortunately some people can only teach lessons about "higher consciousness" and fail miserably at living their own teachings, while others can both teach and live these lessons.

    Unfortunately Mr. Ray can only teach these ideas. Words and ideas without congruent action are empty and meaningless IMHO.

    To your vision, I'd like to add the following: "I stood by and helped no one, and instead I watched others help those in need. This is a lesson I must learn if I am going to teach higher consciousness."

  4. @Kathy @luckygal The problem is that Ray's "teaching" has never been consistent, internally congruent, or integral. He gloms onto other people's ideas -- some good, others ludicrous (Castenada) -- and then just talks a really good game. There is no depth of understanding of any of it. And his allegiance to these ideas is entirely situational and based on what advantage he has to gain in the moment. He has never been remotely consistent on the "law of attraction" and he did a lot of tap-dancing around those principles after the sweat lodge when it meant he might have to cop to having some responsibility for his present circumstances. Instead we got some sort of gobbledygook about primary and secondary causes as I discussed here at length. His advocacy of the LOA was a good way to get into The Secret but he's contradicted it all over the place, even before he a law of attracted a bunch of dead people and manslaughter charge. In fairness, it's actually pretty hard to be consistent about the LOA because it's a deeply flawed teaching. Bottom line, though, he's a garden variety con man.

  5. That was a great article back in March. I guess I missed reading that one. Con man is quite accurate.

    The thing that I find very weird in this trial is that the after all the whining and objections and verbal diarrhea from the defense, then just rested their case after only 2 insignificant witnesses. Don't you think it would have been helpful for him to have had some "character" witnesses. What about his Dream Team? or others at JRI?

    If I was on the jury, the absence of character supporters would speak volumes for me.

  6. Hey Kathy, I think it's extremely telling that he couldn't get a single person to testify to his character. If I were on the jury, it would bother me. Not being in that bubble, I recognize the broader issue. I have little doubt that they could have put forward a range of sycophants to extol his virtues. I was under the impression that Hermia Nelson was supposed to testify, for instance. The problem is, having any of those people testify would open them up to massive rebuttal.

    Hermia Nelson was, if memory serves, one of those people whose muscles locked up after a previous sweat lodge in 2007. It doesn't appear to have shattered her devotion to him but it would invite uncomfortable inquiry into what really happened to her. Megan Fredrickson is still probably devoted but call her and she risks charges of perjury and massive legal jeopardy for herself.

    There was probably no one they could put forward who could give really clean, unimpeachable testimony. Legally it was probably the safest choice they could make but it sends a terrible message to the jury. He just looks like a sad, friendless relic of his former self.

  7. Kristina Bivins was also on the list in January and taken off it by February. She was speaking up for Ray in the media. She was (in case anybody has forgotten) the person Jennifer Hayley referred to as becoming hysterical in 08 and screaming obscenities at JAR, who left her screaming and disappeared in his golf cart. Like Hermia, it just seemed to have made her bond more closely to him and -- also like Hermia -- probably gained some approval for having played full on.

    The defense probably realized that calling her would probably open up a can worms (actually a huge school of migrating eels would be a better metaphor).

    Also, what she told the media in Feb 2011 would probably cause the jury to burst out laughing or shouting abuse if she repeated it in court....


    One participant in the latest sweat lodge questioned the worth of having Ray behind bars and said he could do more good by speaking publicly about how to handle adversity and contributing financially to the families of the deceased - something the families have said hasn't been done so far.

    "He can't change what happened, but he can respond to what happened in a concrete, tangible way," said Kristina Bivins of San Francisco. "His desire is to help the families, to help the Native American community, to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again."

    - Yakaru

  8. @yakaru I just threw up in my mouth a little

  9. @luckygalnj

    Ms Bivins is a model student, I guess. She seems to have learned what Ray was doing, rather than what he was teaching.

  10. @Yakaru, See, it was never clear to me who the woman was who was screaming obscenities out at Ray. This is the one he said was just "having an out of body experience," right? They were always careful to avoid directly naming her when they were describing the behavior, probably to keep from completely humiliating her. 'Cause how embarrassing. Where did you get that it was Bivins? Is it in any of police interviews or anything?

  11. Just for the record, I've always been careful not to use names unnecessarily, but if someone speaks out like that, then....

    It appears from various sources, including her own interviews that it must have been her. She says here --
    -- on page 11 that she remembers calling for James, and remembers him holding her hand. On p. 6 & 7, there's her interview in the hospital where she recalls she was in a weird state, thought she was going to die but couldn't remember much.

    Others elsewhere testified that she became agitated and didn't calm down. Some of that is here on p. 11

    I can't remember exactly where it was, someone else reported that James helped a woman who was in catharsis, and he helped her by "shaking her".

    Then there was the early testimony in the trial that "a woman was screaming sexual innuendo at James". I don't know who else that could be.

    (P.S. I notice that last link has Dream Teamer Marta Reis claiming that Ray stopped the 09 lodge after 7 rounds, but previously he'd done 10 or 11.)

  12. Looking a bit further, in Shawna Bowens' testimony she reports that Kristina Bivins was in a golf cart being taken back to her room, despite being delirious and convulsing.


  13. Thanks so much for your research, information and insight in this blog. I really appreciate the updates on the sweat lodge trial.


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