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Appeal filed in Arizona sweat lodge deaths
Motivational speaker James Ray is appealing his conviction in the deaths of three people during a ceremony in an Arizona sweat lodge.
Ray, who was sentenced to two years in prison for the 2009 incident in Sedona, said in his appeal the trial judge gave improper instructions to the jury.
Ray was holding the sweat-lodge ceremony as part of a spiritual retreat. Occupants were felled by the excessive heat and three victims died. Ray was convicted last year of negligent homicide.
The Bugle in Camp Verde, Ariz., said Ray’s appeal hinged mainly on the legal term omissions. Ray said Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow incorrectly told the jury they could convict him on omissions, which were actions he had not taken, without defining what Ray was legally required to do.
“Ray is entitled to a new trial because the trial court erroneously instructed the jury on omissions, and then compounded that error by defining ‘duty’ in a manner squarely prohibited by settled Arizona case law,” Ray’s attorneys said in the 98-page brief.
The Bugle said the appeal contends the omissions, which involved the presence of medical personnel and equipment at the sweat lodge, were the responsibility of Ray’s company and not him personally.
Copyright 2012 by United Press International