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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Update on the Aggravation Phase--Sweat Lodge

There's been some negotiating going on this morning and the aggravators have changed slightly. What was just presented to the jury in instructions are these three aggravators:

1. The crime committed for or in the expectation of pecuniary gain. What's interesting about this one is that the defendant doesn't need to have collected on his expectations or even that he did get a gain (perhaps coincidentally), the jury must simply be convinced that there was a clear connection between the crime and expectations of pecuniary gain. Pecuniary means something with a money value, dollars or property.

2. That the families of the victims suffered emotional loss. The allegation that the families suffered financial losses has been specifically dropped.

3. That the defendant was in a "unique position of trust" over his victims. This one is most interesting to me and is being fought hard over. The prosecution wants to play audio tapes of James Shore and Kirby Brown as they spoke at the Spiritual Warrior weekend. But the defense is afraid "that's the first thing they'll (jurors) do, play that audio."

James Ray is looking significantly more worried this week than he did during the guilt phase. At every break, there are urgent whispered conferences with his parents--them standing on the gallery side, him standing over the rail inside where are all the action takes place. And well he should look worried. Last week he had high hopes he'd walk out free and confident and on top of the world. This week he knows he's looking at jail time unless his cadre of Beverly Hills attorneys pull a rabbit out of a hat.

The victims section is very full this week, there really isn't an empty seat on this side of the courtroom. Victim impact statements are coming up. Quite a few tribal members are here, too. They are keeping a close watch on what they see as an assault on their religion i. e. James Ray's commercial and distorted use of the sweat lodge concepts and nomenclature.

Dateline techies are manning the courtroom audio/video now. The InSession crew skedaddled after the guilty verdicts.


  1. Thank you for posting this - greatly apprciated.

  2. You are very welcome. It is my pleasure.

  3. I am a huge A. Rule fan, glad to have another option :)
    Thanks for the updates on this trial and explaining. I have so many questions...glad to understand more about sentencing phase! Looks like that should be easy to determine!
    What do you think of the jury not returning today with sentencing? I am shocked...please tell us your thoughts and predictions?

  4. I'm a huge Ann Rule fan, too! So glad to have you here.

    As for the jury, I am sure they are considering the finer points of "pecuniary gain," not emotional damage. Defense argued heavily that the distinction between Mr. Ray and his corporation, which actually collected the money, should be recognized and protected. There is also the better argument that the pecuniary gain aggravator is really meant for someone robbing a liquor store, committing murder for hire, or collecting an inheritance. So some jurors may have trouble with that one.

    The "unique position of trust" aggravator may be a sticky wicket, too. According to the defense, this one is supposed to be for parent/child or fiduciary relationships. Defense says James Ray was a virtual stranger to most of the sweat lodge participants and therefore doesn't qualify. However, his position as spiritual leader certainly seems unique to me! And they definitely put more trust in him than in, say, a wedding planner or other commercial relationship.

    What do YOU think will happen?

  5. You called that one! Where you a fly on the wall?
    I am upset for all th families...AND seems so much of the truth was not allowed in! With what the jury was told, not sure justice can be served!! I do believe that Darrow will do what's right and sentence to some jail time. But, all will have to trust in KARMA for true sentencing! What a worm he is...I watched the trial and read Connie's book because it could have been me!
    The defense topped OJ Simpsons dream team and they are all miserable now! So again, karma!
    Very sad no matter what the outcome!
    And, I think JAR is a full blown narcissist hence his behavior!

  6. Interesting comments, thanks for posting! It is frustrating that what seems like a compelling piece of evidence is often kept out of trials. I admit there are many, many times I don't understand these rulings. The principles behind them, though, have evolved over hundreds of years. Let's just hope the convictions are enough to discourage more dangerous behavior by anyone in this vein or in this field.