Jun 4, 2011

James Ray Sweat Lodge Trial Roundup June 3

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

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The State wrapped up its case yesterday, as promised, with testimony from Dawn Gordon and Sean Ronan. Ray's lawyers will open its case with a Rule 20 motion for immediate acquittal. In other news, the weather in the Northeast was really quite lovely.

Prosecutors in a self-help author's manslaughter trial rested their case Friday after months of testimony from participants of an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony whose experiences were sometimes as different as night and day.

The trial could end early next week if the judge grants a defense motion for acquittal of James Arthur Ray, who is facing three counts of manslaughter stemming from the October 2009 ceremony he led near Sedona. Oral arguments on the motion in which the defense contends the state hasn't proven its case are scheduled Tuesday.

. . .

Gordon told jurors that she had no idea that James Shore would die after he helped dragged a woman out of an Arizona sweat lodge and was propped up on his elbow encouraging one of the victims with "sweet words."

Nor did she know that the last she'd hear out of Kirby Brown, who had planned to paint a mural in her house, would be heavy breathing and gurgling that sounded like someone with a cold.

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As per Mark Duncan, Luis Li's cross examination broke new ground for the defense... in that it contradicted their position with every other sweat lodge participant so far. After reducing witnesses like Beverley Bunn and Lou Caci to tears by reminding them of their own inaction as James Shore, Kirby Brown, and Liz Neuman were dying, Li abruptly changed tack.Yesterday, he informed the jury that the progressing illness of other participants really wasn't the responsibility of people like Gordon who'd paid thousands of dollars to "have their own experience." No. It was the responsibility of unpaid volunteers like Mark Rock.

Gordon, continuing her testimony from Thursday, allowed that she had not called for help for Brown despite hearing her heavy, labored breathing. She did help Shore get Brown off of her back, but then returned her attention inward.

"I was in the environment for experiential reasons for my own growth and I was not in a position to partner in gaining help," she said. "My mindset was one of continuing a journey that I had set out to complete."

In his cross-examination of Gordon, defense attorney Luis Li made the point that she was not charged with responsibility for the well-being of other participants, as was dream team volunteer and prior witness Mark Rock, who sat near Gordon in the sweat lodge and testified earlier that he heard Brown's struggling breath and did nothing to help.

"Did you hear Mark Rock say, 'I believe I've just heard Kirby Brown's last breath?' Did Mark Rock say, 'Hey, we've got a problem over here'?"

As for the man who collected tens of thousands of dollars from participants while staffing the event with volunteers who not only weren't paid but had to pay for their food and lodging? He apparently had no responsibility whatsoever.

According to Ronan, however, none other than Megan Fredrickson disagreed with that. He testified that he had heard her say, "James, these people are your responsibility," as a huge pile of heated rocks were delivered to the already excruciatingly hot tent.

As per Duncan, Ronan did not remember hearing anyone call out in distress. Of course he had passed out during the fifth round only to awaken as they were performing CPR on James Shore and Kirby Brown.  So, he missed quite a bit, really. He spent the rest of the night fighting for his life in the hospital.

When interviewed by police, Ronan withheld certain details because he still felt the need to protect James Ray... as Dawn Gordon still does, apparently.

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Dateline's April Santiago continued to tweet some details from the courtroom. I'm not sure if this was Luis Li's argument for why the Dream Team, as opposed to James Ray, was responsible for the sick people inside the sweat lodge. But according to Li, Ray couldn't hear anything in the giant structure he himself requested Angel Valley build for him. In a demonstration we've seen repeatedly from the defense team,  Li moved around the courtroom to demonstrate how it would have been impossible for people to be heard or to hear what they claim to have heard. The punchline on all of these tactics is that when these attorneys have stood at the back of the courtroom, they've still been perfectly audible to the people in the witness stand. Li used a "speaking tone" to demonstrate why James Shore's calls for help could not have been heard by Ray. I wonder how it was, then, that Gordon heard Ray's response to Shore's concerns -- or any of his statements, really -- so clearly. So I asked Santiago if Li was whispering in his demonstration. She responded that it was a "quiet speaking voice."

One juror may have been a little confused by Li's sotto voce performance. Santiago reports that one of the jury questions for Gordon was, "Did James Shore's voice get weaker after getting Sidney out of the lodge?"

The second jury question to financial adviser Gordon is also interesting: "Has JamesRay or JRI employees ever been clients of yours?" I wonder if that juror was maybe a little suspicious of Gordon's continuing fealty to Ray. (???)

One of the truly groundbreaking elements of Dawn Gordon's testimony is that we have, at long last, found an actual human who heard the mysterious EMT (?) who gave birth to the organophosphate theory. Li actually played the recording for Gordon, and as per Mark Duncan, she actually remembered hearing this odd bit of background noise. So, that's it then. It must have been organophosphates. Someone who may possibly have been an EMT mentioned it in a very preliminary presumptive diagnosis, along with that medically disproved carbon monoxide possibility. So now we'll, no doubt, get to hear how the State blew it by not only not picking up on background noise in a recording of a dining hall police interview, but by failing to extract that random bit of memory from their own witness Dawn Gordon. How could prosecutors possibly not have known to run down the theory of organophosphates when it was so remotely and tangentially available in their own evidence?! What a bunch of slackers.

Never mind that the entire organphosphate theory has been demonstrated to be ludicrous by evidence already presented by prosecutors and, in a rather ironic twist, the defense:

  • If there was organophosphate poisoning, the paramedics did everything wrong. They would have killed a bunch of people by causing them drown in their own saliva... which did not happen. (See Dickson)
  • Organophosphates were, in fact, ruled out at the hospital. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that cholinergics were not part of the differential diagnosis by the toxicologist, who found the symptoms consistent with carbon monoxide poisoning. (CO was subsequently ruled out by blood work.) I say this despite Truc Do's complete incapacity to grasp this simple fact. (See Dickson)
  • None of the handful of pesticides so sparingly used at Angel Valley contain organophosphates. (As per Injun Samurai)
  • As per Truc Do's own evidence, death from organophosphate poisoning is an extremely rare event and requires massive exposure. (See Dickson)

Dawn Gordon was excused subject to recall.

Some interesting elements of Ronan's testimony were also presented by Santiago. Ronan admitted having had some exposure to media after witnesses were ordered not to. I believe this was discussed a while ago. I'm not certain of this but, if memory serves, Ronan was confused as to whether or not he would be testifying.

Under direct questioning, Ronan testified that James Shore told him when they were waiting on line that he was looking forward to the sweat lodge. Talk about bitter irony.

Under cross examination, Ronan admitted that he had not revealed Megan Fredrickson's statement earlier to detectives. Truc Do reminded him that it could be considered "obstruction of justice."

It's kind of an interesting pattern that's evolving here. It's only the really damning testimony that brings threats of legal consequences by defense attorneys. It seems Dawn Gordon also said things were inconsistent with her police interviews, but it doesn't seem that brought any threats of perjury charges as the recanted testimony of Mark Rock did. Of course, I could be completely wrong on that score. For all I know she was charged and is seeking legal counsel as we speak. What do I know now that I have to rely on sketchy reports from the handful of reporters still covering this trial as CNN no longer delivers live courtroom proceedings to me daily.

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The Salty Droid has posted a characteristically HILARIOUS take on the media's new-found contempt for the sweat lodge trial. It seems James Ray's star has been eclipsed by WordMaster champion Jeremiah McDowell. The seventh grader is a real "up-and-comer" as the Propecia dependent "Harmonic HasBeen" heads for a life of obscurity.

I’ve been looking for James Ray :: have you seen him? He’s like a tall guy :: concave mouth :: spray on tan :: walks around like an angry chicken is nesting at the far end of his colon?

It’s not a big deal or anything :: it’s just that I found some of his pills near my grandpa’s socks :: and I wanted to give them back. I know how serious it can be for a fake Samurai to lose his insecurity pills.

You’d think he’d be easy to find :: I mean this guy was so famous and successful that he had to start a company just to tell everyone about how famous and successful he was :: and you can too!

Definitely a must read.

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