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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sweat Lodge: Transcript of Disputed Clip

Author Camille Kimball & the Yavapai County Courthouse

In the James Ray sweat lodge trial, everyone is waiting to hear what the sentence will be. We were supposed to find out on Monday July 25, but that date has been vacated. Why? For a whole myriad of reasons laid out in an aggressive defense motion for a new trial. So the quick answer is--no, we don't know the sentence yet.

What is the defense complaining about? One of their major beefs is that prosecutor Sheila Polk played an audio clip of James Ray's voice during her address to the jury in the aggravation phase [what the heck is 'aggravation phase?' click here]. She thought this clip had been previously admitted into evidence but the defense claimed it had not. It turned out the defense was right and she admitted so after doing further research.

Looking at the details, we find that her mistake was in using a piece of audio that had been admitted into evidence during the guilt. Only she started it one minute and fourteen seconds too soon. Imagine the transcript set off here in italics, in the voice of James Ray, speaking in his charismatic way to those gathered at Angel Valley Lodge:

"Really truly set on bending commitment, I'm really going to do whatever it takes no matter how uncomfortable it is no matter how frightening, then you will have a breakthrough. You may feel as if you're having a breakdown some point in time and that's ok because sometimes the walls must come down so that new walls may be built. But I promise you you'll have a breakthrough and that's what you really want isn't it? I mean, isn't that why you made the investment to be here, and you trudged off into the desert to sleep in a tent and share bathrooms? You know, I mean, some of you are already having a breakdown: 'For the amount of money I spent you'd think I'd have my own shower and my roommate snores (laughter), but at least he's consciously aware of that! And so on."

This one minute 14 second audio clip comes immediately prior to the tape you may have already heard where Ray tells the Spiritual Warriors he wants them on a vegetarian diet to "keep them off balance" and that they will have "plenty of altered state experiences this week."

Polk has argued it was an innocent mistake to start the clip too soon and no harm was done to the defendant because:
  • jurors did not find for the pecuniary gain aggravator
  • there was plenty of evidence that had been properly admitted that established the same point (folks paid a lot and needed value for their "investment")
  • similar words were, in fact, used by the defendant in a different audio clip that was properly admitted
  • the error wasn't committed during the guilt phase (and failed during the aggravation phase)
With all this fuss, I thought you'd like to see the actual minute of audio in dispute.

**This transcript is obtained from public filings by the Yavapai County Attorney's Office and used under Arizona's Public Records Law

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