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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Stark Country, Hot Justice

This week I dropped in on the courtroom where prosecutors and defense attorneys were haggling over the last details that would determine James Arthur Ray’s fate. I sat behind his parents. He barely glanced at them when he walked past them toward his seat.

The courthouse where the trial takes place is remarkable, probably unique in America, in that it is adjacent to a wild animal park where a rhinoceros, tigers and other giant predators roam in close-to-nature conditions, Look very closely at this photo, to the left you can see a green sign, the familiar green with white lettering of much govt signage. That green sign says “Superior Court” with an arrow pointing across the parking lot from the tigers!

The green sign is left of the stop sign, just below where the near horizon meets the far mesa-type hill .

To get an idea of the terrain in which Kirby Brown, James Shore, and Liz Neuman lost their lives, here is a view from the courthouse front door. That vista is probably in excess of hundred miles to the north, not really comprehensible from this pixel resolution.

The day I went, it was mild enough by Arizona standards, but before I knew it, I desperately needed water and downed as much as I could whenever I passed a fountain in the courthouse and as soon as I could sought out a restaurant where they’d serve it to me in big icy glasses.

I’m a seasoned Arizonan and I know the lethal combination of sunshine and dry, dry air.

What if I put myself in the mindset of a Canadian or Chicagoan, who has never faced these sweeping vistas of hot desiccation nor pondered what it might take to survive in them? I imagine paying a lot of money to a guy beaming with confidence and believing he knows the terrain. Why wouldn’t I believe that?

Experienced Arizonans know the signs of heat exhaustion and will not tend to confuse them with higher spirituality. Someone who’s lived in wetter, colder climates may not know the difference. And since heat exhaustion will diminish your mental functioning, your ability to critically think yourself out of the situation is going to lessen more and more with each sweatily passing moment.

That’s why I wanted to post these pictures. You’ve seen the face of James Arthur Ray, but have you seen the face of the land? I hope these photos, taken with nothing more than a cell phone, give you a glimpse.

In October 2009, just after the launch of my first book and shortly after the trials of serial killers Sam Dieteman and Dale Hausner, dozens of people seeking enlightenment entered a sweat lodge commissioned by motivational speaker James Arthur Ray. Ray first came to real prominence in the film, The Secret.

On that October day, three people lost their lives in that sweat lodge. The news of sudden, massive and suspicious tragedy pouring out of northern Arizona, yanked my attention out of the criminal trials I had been focusing on. I knew the ugly journey through hospitals, cemeteries and courtrooms was just beginning for a new group of people.

Hey! It's not easy taking a photo of yourself! Especially in bright Arizona sunlight making the view screen moot.. This one didn't quite capture the letters on the courthouse!

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  1. Thank you for this -very much appreciated and great insight - glad there was not a change of venue for this case

  2. You are very welcome. I'm working on putting up pics with a much higher resolution and some identified landmarks. It will make the point even better.