Do you remember James Ray? If not, two words will help you remember…”sweat lodge.” Yes, he was the one that held a ceremony at a sweat lodge in Northern Arizona in October 2009 that resulted in 3 deaths. Not only is James Ray facing civil lawsuits, he has also been charged with 3 counts of Manslaughter for these deaths that occurred during his “motivational” and “inspirational” retreat that culminated in numerous rounds in a sweat lodge.
Even though you haven’t heard of the case for around a year, it is about to be back in the media as the trial is starting soon. Today was the first day of jury selection in what is expected to be a 2 month trial. Jury selection is very important to both sides as the jury is the one that makes the ultimate decision as to innocence or guilt.
Jury selection in a case like this is taken very seriously and often includes a questionnaire prior to the start of the selection inside the courtroom. Considering all the media attention this case received at its inception, the questionnaire can help determine if the individual juror has a bias or prejudices. This will then be followed up with “in the courtroom” questions by both the judge and the attorneys. The judge will be trying to weed out those jurors that cannot be fair and impartial and the attorneys will be trying to get rid of those potential jurors who they believe would hurt their case.
I have participated in numerous jury trials and personally I think it is a crap shoot. Honestly, how many people will actually tell the truth and show who they really are and what they really believe in a courtroom with lots of other people staring at them? No one wants to be seen as prejudiced or narrow minded. So, as an attorney, you just do the best you can do and, well, GUESS and keep your fingers crossed.
In order to be convicted, all 12 jurors must believe James Ray is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of recklessly causing the death of another. If the prosecution succeeds, he will be facing prison time. The range for one count goes from 3 – 12.5 years, when you have different victims, as we do here, this range can be stacked. So, in other words, he could be looking at over 36 years in prison. But remember, it only takes one person to believe he is innocent. Due to the length of the trial, it is likely 16 jurors will be chosen to sit on the jury. Just prior to deliberations the alternates will be selected (randomly) and will be dismissed. They will only be brought into the deliberations if one or more of the 12 cannot fulfill their duties on the jury.
There will be many interesting details that will come to light once the trial starts. So, stay tuned…