Mar 31, 2011

James Arthur Ray Sweat Lodge Trial: Day 22

James Ray Sweating in Court

There is much to report on the trial today. But first, this fascinating item from reporter Tim Geller. Ray may be on trial but that doesn't stop him from sell, sell, selling.  Nor from relying on the adage, there's no such thing as bad publicity.  A sales letter to James Ray's email list went out for a product called Mind Movies:

You know, when I first started to study the laws that govern our Universe, I diligently practiced daily visualization. If I had the Mind Movies technology, it would have added a whole new powerful dimension to my "going 3 for 3" practice!

Gee wiz James, are you saying that if you'd had Mind Movies technology you wouldn't currently be  on trial for reckless manslaughter?

But here's the catch...

The team at Mind Movies are only able to offer the incredible Mind Movies 2.1 software at a MASSIVELY discounted price with all the extras to the first few thousand people to take big, bold, fast action.

Oh! There's a catch? And time pressure... What to do? What to do? Tick, tick, tick.

So they're sweating it out, because there is a good chance they will sell out today.

Did he say "sweating?" He did, didn't he. Bad taste? Perhaps. But we can't let all that great media attention to the sweat lodge trial go to waste, now can we? Not if his current website is any indication, where news videos of the trial are featured prominently. But a sweating reference? Seriously?

Well, this is the man who featured death as the prominent theme at a seminar only a few short months after Colleen Conaway died at another of his seminars. Some might find that to be in bad taste as well. But they don't know how the universe works.

Judge Darrow Decides

Judge Darrow ruled against the prosecution continuing to investigate at this point in the trial and against them giving the product of investigation to upcoming expert witnesses. He does not feel that the organophosphate defense should have constituted surprise.

Interestingly, the defense seemed far less interested in the "disclosure violation" that they were ranting about yesterday and rapidly let the matter drop. After prosecutors explained that Dr. Lyon had not read the new material they'd sent over from the now disallowed investigation, the defense quickly moved on. They were so quick to dismiss their concern, in fact, that I can't help wondering if this was yet another red herring in order to remove Dr. Lyon from the witness list. They're primary concern with allowing Dr. Lyon to testify today actually revolved around whether or not his testimony will cover the prior sweat lodge of 2005. This involves "Daniel P" and his shower at the hospital.

After all Kelly's ranting about Constiutional issues, concern over which Judge Darrow dismissed, the defense team greenlighted Dr. Lyon's appearance and was eager to proceed.

It remains unclear whether or not Darrow will allow the Hamiltons to testify. 

But it was a day full of legal wrangling. After Do's cross of Dr. Lyon, prosecutors again tried to move the prior incidents in through the back door. It seems to me that they are as determined to get this evidence in as the defense is to blocking it.

Bill Hughes argued that because Do had left the impression with the jury that Dr. Lyon had been under-informed by the state, they should be able to question him on what information he did get. This includes a powerpoint presentation that includes, among other things, references to past sweat lodges and the heat related illnesses that occurred. It also looks like Hughes is going to contend that Daniel Pfankuch did, indeed, have heatstroke because he exhibited delirium, which we now know from medical testimony is consistent with heatstroke. It is not consistent with syncope, which was his official diagnosis. The defense strenuously objects. Do, to her credit, did not reduce his experience to showering.

At the end of the day there was more legal wrangling but it's hard to say what it was about because CNN failed to turn the audio on again today.

If I go strictly by the visuals, I'd have to assume that it wasn't going well for the defense. Tom Kelly was gesticulating wildly again and turning red as beet. Or maybe he was just demonstrating the effects of organophosphate poisoning. I'm afraid I'll never know.

Dr. Robert Lyon

Dr. Robert Lyon is a forensic pathologist and a medical examiner. He and two other medical examiners are currently on loan from Maricopa County to Yavapai County, which currently lacks someone to fill the position permanently. He has extensive experience as a medical examiner, both in Texas and Arizona. This quickly becomes apparent from his practiced courtroom manner. He delivers his answers to the jury, not the attorneys. He knows to give one word answers to yes/no questions. All in all, it's a pretty slick courtroom presentation.

Dr. Lyon went on to explain that medical examiners are brought in to determine cause of death when that death is from something other than disease. In such cases autopospies are performed. Such autopsies don't necessarily determine cause. Sometimes they simply rule things out.

In a sense this is true with heatstroke for which there is no specific lab test. The findings for heatstroke are "nonspecific." In such a case, he would have to look primarily at temperature factors and rule out other possible causes of death. 

Lyon found that both James Shore and Kirby Brown died from heatstroke. The only complicating factor was his discovery that James Shore had heart disease and evidence of high blood pressure. His heart was enlarged and there was some arterial plaque. He did not think, however, that Shore died of a heart attack. There is some possibility that he had one but, if so, it would have been caused by the heat exposure.

Kirby Brown had no underlying physical condition that could have contributed to her death. She appeared to be in great health. 

Both of them had had their heads shaved... or cut. Whatever you want to call it. You know, I think from here on out I'll just refer to these as buzz cuts. It's an accurate term and it splits the difference. So there we are. James Shore had been buzzed to 1/4" in length and Kirby Brown to 1" in length.

Hughes raised the question of pupil size. Neither James Shore nor Kirby Brown exhibited pinpoint pupils. In both cases, their pupils were described as fixed and dilated at the time of death and the pupils do not change significantly at the moment of death. They may change later as rigor sets in but not at the time of death.

Lyon found that the deaths were accidental. This does not mean that this wasn't manslaughter. He explained in testimony that the classifications --  natural, accident, suicide, homicide, undetermined -- do not correspond to the criminal statutes.

Hughes posited the following scenario for clarification: If a drunk driver ran over a pedestrian in a crosswalk, would that be ruled accidental? It would, explained Lyon, unless it was deliberate. Then it would be homicide.

The conditions of the sweat lodge and the fact that others became ill were major components of his determination. He attended an official briefing on the sweat lodge and the conditions.

Hughes asked if he tested for organophosphates. He did, but not at the time of the autopsies. He saw no symptoms that suggested organophosphate poisoning that would have prompted him independently to have that lab work done. He also explained that he has never, in his career, seen a death from organophosphates.

In further explanation of his finding of heatstroke, he testified to some of the other factors. Hughes asked him if body temperature was a factor. He said that it would be more evidence to consider. That temperature would be most relevant at the time of death. Hughes asked him if the body could cool down once it was removed from the hot environment and into cooler one. He said that yes, the heat would disseminate into the cooler environment. He expected that the extremities would cool faster than the torso but not necessarily. (Again, Shore and Brown were out of the sweat lodge and cooled with water and cool desert air some time before being transported to the hospital.)

Lyons testified that he has examined many cases of heatstroke over the course of his career; at least three or four a year. His worked entirely in desert environments where it's not uncommon. From people attempting to cross the border to elderly people in trailers without air conditioning, these instances come up for examination.

It was Lyon's finding that neither Shore nor Brown were dehydrated and he did not agree that the CCR and fluid IVs would have moved fluid into the eyes which is how the postmortem testing was done. Their electrolyte levels were normal.

However -- and this was my favorite part -- he made the point that dehydration is NOT a necessary cause of heatstroke. Yes, Bill Hughes finally got round to asking that very essential question. He explained, as I have previously, that heatstroke is a result of the body's inability to cool itself. If it's hot enough, no amount of hydration will save you. Hughes asked if you gave someone a large bottle of water and locked them in a car on a hot Arizona day, could they succumb to heatstroke? Yes, according to Dr. Lyon.

Do Cross Examines Dr. Lyon

Truc Do started out her cross examination by, again, going after the credentials of a witness whose testimony did not favor the defense. In this case, she drew a distinction between medical doctors who treat living patients and pathologists like Dr. Lyon. Are there doctors who do both? Yes there are. And they would, of course, be better qualified to speak to how a living person would respond to both heat exposure and toxic poisoning, Dr. Lyon agreed.

Do also quickly introduced the word "circumstantial" to explain Dr. Lyon's findings. Circumstantial simply means pertaining to the circumstances around an event. But we all know that the word has a negative connotation when it comes to law -- as in, "The case is entirely circumstantial."

In a finding of heatstroke, the doctor explained, the finding would indeed be circumstantial. There is no positive test for heatstroke. There are only things that can be positively ruled out. 

Do also quickly established that he would not have access to Maricopa County's high tech facilities when he was working for Yavapai County.

Do challenged him on the "vitreous testing" that was done to determine whether or not there was dehydration in the cases of Shore and Brown. She pointed out that he had used exclamation points to designate the importance of getting that lab work back. And those very important labs showed a normal level of hydration.

The rest of their lab work was also normal. There was no evidence of intoxicants and, once again, no evidence of carbon monoxide, all of which were tested at the hospital.

As Do really got going with cross, it became apparent that it would be another examination by bombardment. She also dragged out the Pictionary again. Lyon became visibly annoyed as it went on.

It also became apparent that Do was building up to the implication that the state and Det. Diskin had prejudiced Dr. Lyon's findings. Most of his "circumstantial evidence" had come from the police investigators who had surveyed the scene. They hadn't passed on all that other very important information, like the nameless, faceless person who suspected organophosphates. They hadn't told him that the sweat lodge materials had been stored with rat poison. They hadn't told him that the wood used in the fire may have been treated. They had never told him that there were reports of people foaming at the mouth. They had never told him about some victims having pinpoint pupils.

He was never told that the rocks, the materials for the sweat lodge, and the wood were sent out for testing. He never got that report.

Curiously absent from Do's description of what had been tested is anything about what results there may have been from those tests.

Still, the doctor agreed that had he known that any of these substances were suspected he would have tested for them.

He had ultimately ordered an environmental test for organophosphates because the state had requested it -- in response to the defense's position at trial --  but by then it was too late. As such, he can't rule out organophosphates

Do also implied that the Det. Diskin may have controlled the flow of information in other ways by selecting which witnesses he would and would not be able to interview.

So, it seems obvious at this point that the defense is accusing the state and Det. Diskin of impropriety.

She also implies that he was pressured into finalizing his conclusions -- that is to say, unpending the pending determination that he'd had for months -- without his having crucial information.

How much of Dr. Lyon's conclusion, Do asked, was based on circumstantial evidence. Over 50%, he explained. But Do was armed with the results of a past interview in which he'd said it was 90-95% circumstantial. He had no argument with that.

Remember that circumstantial evidence, in this case, is a description of the environment in which these injuries had occurred; a sweat lodge of unusually high temperature in which a number of people became ill. Temperature exposure would naturally be the key element in a finding of heatstroke.

Do also asked him about a difference in opinion he had with Dr. Mosley who did the examination on the deceased Liz Neuman. They did not agree as to whether or not to call this heatstroke. Mosley placed more emphasis on the body temperature at the time of expiration than Dr. Lyon. Dr. Lyon felt that obtaining that temperature information is not always possible. In many cases those high temperatures remain undocumented.

Mosley also placed more emphasis on whether or not there was dehydration. Do claimed that Mosley is of the opinion that dehydration is a necessary component of a finding of heatstroke. Dr. Lyon did not recall that to be true. Do asked if he would dispute it? He said no.

This started an academic discussion of that key question of whether or not dehydration was necessary to a finding of heatstroke. Do implies that there are "many" in the medical field who believe that. "I don't know that," replied Dr. Lyon but he did acknowledge that there were some.

Many of them would include the doctors who treat live patients, said Do. Dr. Lyon didn't know that to be true either. But would he have reason to dispute it? No.

For as often as Do likes to invoke Dr. Cutshall, strangely, she didn't in this case. Dr, Cutshall also had a contradictory opinion on dehydration. He didn't believe normal lab findings disproved it, believing instead that it is really a clinical diagnosis.

She also asked if the knowledge that Liz Neuman's temperature was recorded at the hospital as being 101.7, would have changed his finding. It would not.

Dr. Lyon also disputed that Dr. Mosley did not believe that Liz Neuman had died of heatstroke. The debate was actually semantical. Ultimately Dr. Mosley concluded that she had died because of hyperthermia (elevated temperature).

In fact all of the missing information suggested by Do, and absent any positive findings of such facts, he is still confident of his findings of heatstroke to a reasonable degree of medical certainty.

On redirect Bill Hughes tried to dispel the idea of Det. Diskin's impropriety.

Is it common practice for detectives to attend autopses? Yes. And he's fairly certain that Det. Diskin was present.

Hughes also pointed out that Dr. Lyon had the discretion to pursue any witness he wanted to.

Hughe's also took the tack of asking Lyon if he was aware of some of the other evidence when he reached his conclusion. Did he know the sweat lodge was full of steam? Did he know how many people were packed into it? No and no.

Hughes asked Dr. Lyon if Do had shown him any evidence of organophosphates. He said she had not. Had he seen any medical evidence that pointed to organophosphates. No, he had not.

Hughes also asked him to posit, in the event of treated wood, who would be most effected: the fire tenders or people walking by. Answer: Most likely the fire tenders and people walking by only if they happened to be taking deep, gulping breaths.

Had the doctor, himself, seen any evidence of foam in the mouth. This was interesting. Apparently James Shore had some residual pink foam in the mouth. This, Dr. Lyon found wholly consistent with his finding of heatstroke. He explained that when someone goes into cardiac arrest their bodies release fluids.

Can you ever be 100% certain of the cause of death? Hughes asked. No. Not even if there's a bullet or a knife in the heart could there be 100% certainty.

Hughes also asked him to clarify his disagreement with Dr. Mosley. According to Dr. Lyon, Dr. Mosley felt that heatstroke was a clinical diagnosis that could only be reached by doctors treating live patients. Dr. Mosley prefers the term hyperthermia as it relates to findings on dead people. Hence his finding of hyperthermia in Liz Neuman's case. Dr. Lyon feels hyperthermia is too nonspecific because it covers a range of causes and temperature variations. It's more of an umbrella term.

Dr. Lyon also also disagreed with Dr. Mosley as to whether these deaths were caused by an accident or homicide. So, if Dr. Mosley actually thinks this was homicide, his testimony could be very interesting. I hope he's not excluded and is able to give it.

The most demystifying question actually came from the jury:

Approximately how much "organic phosporus" poison would have to be absorbed by a normal, healthy person to expire from that poison within that time-frame of two hours?

Dr. Lyon does not know.

Hughes followed up by asking if Dr. Lyon if he had ever seen a case of organophosphate poisoning which he had not.

Do followed up by asking if he knew that the CDC has organophospates listed as the most common form of pesticide poisoning. There is actually a little problem with this logic. If it's so common why haven't any of these health care professionals asked so far ever seen it? This raises an interesting question: How many of those exposures are actually life threatening?

Dr. Lyon was excused subject to recall.

Gary Vanderhaar... I think

The above paramedic was called and questioned in the shortest witness testimony yet. I have no idea what was said because CNN, once again, failed to turn the audio on.

All information on the trial comes from news articles with provided links or live courtroom footage on TruTV's "In Session" or CNN's live feed. All quotes and paraphrased statements that are not linked to a source document are my best attempt to transcribe material from live broadcasts.

Comments on this entry are closed, on this blog. If you wish to comment, please find this and all newer blog entries crossposted on Celestial Reflections.

Mar 30, 2011

James Arthur Ray Sweat Lodge Trial: Day 21

Joel Swedberg

Joel Swedberg is a flight paramedic. He was part of a team that came to the scene by helicopter and transported patients to the Flagstaff Medical Center. He arrived on scene -- he was told roughly three hours after the incident -- to find numerous fire trucks, EMTs, paramedics, and other aircraft. He explained to prosecutor Bill Hughes that helicopter teams are called in when the conditions "preclude ground transport." In other words, when patients' conditions are extremely critical and they need more speed than an ambulance can provide.

Such was the case with Liz Neuman to whom Swedberg attended.

Neuman was unconscious when Swedberg's helicopter team arrived. She was brought to him strapped to a spine board, not because of any spinal injury, but because they provide overall stability.  None of the medical personnel knew quite what had happened and they took every precaution.

Swedberg described Neuman as not responsive or alert; in other words, not conscious. She exhibited a rapid heartbeat and low blood pressure. She had been started on IV fluids before he arrived which had caused slight improvement. But he administered a lot more fluid, in the form of IVs -- 500 cc's an hour -- and a fluid bolus. The IV was run with the clamp completely open to rush the fluids into her body.

She also exhibited Kussmaul, or labored, breathing and irregular cardiac rythm She received oxygen through a mask.

Because there was no explanation for her altered state of consciousness -- no obvious external injury -- narcotics were assumed. And at some point he administered Narcan (Naloxone), an anti-narcotic. She also had pinpoint pupils which can indicate use of narcotics.

There is some confusion as to her temperature as the obviously incorrect number of 207.5º was entered on the paperwork due to celsius/fahrenheit conversion error. (This confusion was later compounded under Do's cross.)

Swedberg determined Neuman to be a 7 on the Glasgow Coma Scale. For reference, 15 is normal and 3 is dead or virtually dead. Neuman was completely unresponsive.

Trembling in her upper extremities was also noted by Swedberg.

He was unable to obtain any medical information on site. There were, as discussed, no medical history taken by JRI. So there was no knowledge regarding health condition, medication, allergies, etc.

Neuman deteriorated further during the flight to the hospital. On intake she was intubated and medicated. 

Asked if he thought Liz Neuman's symptoms were consistent with heat exposure, he said yes. Asked if he thought her symptoms were consistent with pesticide poisoning, he said no. Among other reasons, she did not exhibit a lot of mucus.

Do objected to this line of questioning because Swedberg is not a doctor. She also objected to any discussion of his Navaho wife and participation in numerous sweat lodges. Go figure.

On cross, Do immediately took up the issue of Swedberg's credentials describing the difference between paramedics and EMTs. (Paramedics can break the skin.) And, of course, Swedberg is not a medical doctor. So he's not qualified to make a medical diagnosis. And he would defer to a doctor's opinion.

I may have been imagining it but I thought Swedberg bridled at her questioning about his credentials. I bridled at it, more because of her tone than the questions themselves. We saw more of the edgy, ballbusting Do, as opposed to the more coquettish Do, today.

There were moments of pure hilarity during Do's cross. The first when she asked if the temperature of 207.5º could be considered inaccurate. (Seriously???) She dug a little deeper on the issue of temperature, as one might hope she would after that. He had measured her temperature, using the less accurate armpit reading, as 97.5º. But Do pointed out that a rectal read of 38.7ºC was recorded as soon as she was admitted to the hospital. This, by the way, works out to 101.66ºF.

Now that's interesting, isn't it. If Swedlow arrived anywhere close to the three hours post event that was reported to him, and she arrived at the hospital some time after that, that could be up to four hours after she was dragged from that sweat lodge. We already know that she was aggressively cooled and that the outside temperature was becoming chilly. If that time-frame is anywhere near accurate, you really have to wonder what her temperature was when she first came out of the sweat lodge.

In more bizarre questioning, Do asked him if there were a thousand cc's in the thousand cc bag? This caused him to blink in confusion.

Finally, Do got to the pinpoint pupils and the Narcan.  It rapidly became apparent that she didn't understand what Narcan does at all. In her usual, leading manner, she attempted to draw a time-line that would preclude the Narcan having been the cause of the pinpoint pupils. She pointed out, quite logically, that the pinpoint pupils were observed at least half an hour before the administration of the Narcan.

Swedberg was more confused by her questions than ever. He finally asked her, "Are you asking me if Narcan causes pinpoint pupils?"

Narcan, of course, does exactly the opposite. Narcan is administered to counteract the effects of narcotic drugs, one of which is pinpoint pupils.

Despite her objections to Swedlow being asked his opinions on heatstroke and poisoning, she asked him herself. She asked him about the signs and symptoms of heatstroke and then asked if they were similar to the effects of poisoning. He said no. She quickly reminded him that he was not a medical doctor.

The real doctor, Dr. Cutshall had testified that he couldn't rule out organophospate poisoning. Swedlow just started blinking and looking confused again.

For reasons my nonlawyer mind can't grasp, Do was also very fixated on the fact that Swedlow's company had a sent legal representation with him. She had a number of questions about that, too tedious to enumerate. But this is where Hughes began his redirect.

Was it common practice for his company to send an attorney with any employee testifying in a trial, Hughes asked? Swerdberg believed so. Moving on.

Hughes also asked him to clarify the differences as he understood them between heatstroke and pesticide poisoning. The main difference in this case was the lack of excessive mucus. I also don't think anyone has described her as being "red as a beet." He also explained that skin temperature was not a good indicator of heatstroke an hour or more out.

Do, of course, objected.

The jury had no questions for Mr. Swerdberg and he was excused.

Dustin Chambliss

Next up was another paramedic -- in other words, not a doctor -- named Dustin Chambliss. This Aryan specimen described the code 3 alert that brought him to the site. That's lights and sirens.

Chambliss administered advanced life support to the unconscious Kirby Brown. When he arrived on scene he found the nonprofessional, event participants administering very capable CPR. He asked them to continue while he set up his equipment.

In the confusion, no one seemed able to even to give him her name, let alone any other useful information.

He described her as completely unresponsive. Her pupils were nonreactive. On the previously discussed GCS, Brown was a 3. That's comatose state equivalent to death.

He put her on a CCR, which replaces CPR by doing rapid chest compressions. He set up two IVs, of 1000ml each, and oxygen which were administered concurrent to the CCR compressions. This answers the question once and for all as to whether fluids were circulated through her system, thus alleviating some of her dehydration. This regimen was continued all the way to the hospital.

Her heart was asystolic, meaning there was no electrical activity. He did not check her temperature as he was just trying to get her breathing. He also observed no "foaming at the mouth." (Or frothy sputum, even.) Her skin was warm but no temp was taken and he doesn't know what cooling efforts may have been made. He didn't notice her pupil size.

She was rushed to the hospital as a "full code." On the way, blood started coming out of her mouth.

She was pronounced dead on arrival.

I don't know what it was about this man's extremely factual, dry recollection of Kirby Brown that brought tears to my eyes. But my head filled with little pictures of this woman as they worked so futilely to save her life; of the blood pouring from her mouth. It's going to take a long time for me to get over that image.

Li looked defeated before he even began his cross. "I'll make this quick," he said. More amazing still, he really did.

He also made the point that a paramedic is not a doctor, though he managed to do it without sounding like he was trying to humiliate the man. Good for him.

Other than that, his questions did little more than clarify his direct testimony. I'll be damned if I can see what gain the defense made here... or if that was even the point.

Did he remember the "sturdy" Dr. Jeanne Armstrong? No.

Is the purpose of flushing the system with fluids really for administering medication? Yes.

Did she get epinephrine? Yes.

The only question that seemed at all pointed had to do with whether the medical examiner or other officials had contacted him. Hughes took care of that with his only redirect question. Had the medical examiner ever contacted him about a dead patient? No.

Yes, it was mercifully brief.

The jury had no questions and Mr. Chambliss was also excused.

Judge Darrow Hears Oral Motion

What was left of the day did not go as smoothly. In fact, it exploded.

Having actually moved through two witnesses today -- a record for this trial -- the prosecution was prepared to bring in the next witness on the schedule but the defense objected. The witness in question is Michael Hamilton, who, with his wifeAmayra, owns Angel Valley Ranch; the site of this horrific tragedy. The defense's objection stems from the Hamiltons' recent contact with Det. Diskin and their turning over materials pertaining to the poisoning issue. These include some photos of rat poison, information about the wood that was used in the fire, and so forth.

The defense's contention is that the prosecution has violated Judge Darrow's order by allowing communication between witnesses -- Diskin is also expected to testify -- and tipping off upcoming witnesses to trial proceedings that they are not allowed to hear. The defense is also outraged that they only received disclosure notification about this last night, on the eve of Michael Hamilton's scheduled testimony.

Tom Kelly requested the opportunity to question Det. Diskin as to what transpired in conversation with Hamiltons so that he can learn the scope of this egregious impropriety.

The story from the prosecution is, naturally, quite different. There was nothing improper, according to Sheila Polk. The entire thing had been cleared with Judge Darrow beforehand. The prosecution was gathering additional information to address the question of pesticide poisoning that has been presented by the defense. The prosecution contends that this is perfectly appropriate and that this is why the state has a "case agent" available to them; in this case Det. Diskin.

Polk also clarified that they did not, in fact, disclose the materials from the Hamiltons on the eve of Michael Hamilton's scheduled appearance. As is their practice, they emailed the photos and other materials as soon as they had them last week. They then followed up with the formal disclosure which was sent yesterday.

Polk fully recognizes that the organophosphate question is a red herring for which no real evidence will ever be presented but that this is what a strong defense does. There is nothing wrong with it. It is their job to create reasonable doubt. Likewise, it is the job of the prosecution to respond to the defense's case, as it develops, by gathering any necessary information.

To Kelly's claim that the prosecution had seventeen months to get their ducks in a row and gather the necessary evidence, Polk explains that the claim of organophospates was sprung on the prosecution in the defense's opening argument. There is almost no mention of organophospates in the existing evidence.

Worse, their references to an EMT suggesting organophosphates as a cause is "classic hearsay." The unidentified voice is in the background on a recording that was transcribed by the defense. The owner of that voice has never been located. He can, therefore, never be called to testify. He can never be cross examined. And yet the defense has referred to this nameless, faceless entity repeatedly, including in its attempts to confuse the medical personal testifying. (And it occurs to me, that by Do's own standard, as outlined to Mr. Swedberg, an EMT isn't even qualified to assess the cause of death and injury.)

Polk also asserts that the defense withheld the witness, Dr. Paul, who theorized organophosphates. The prosecution, despite repeated requests to interview him, was only granted that interview in January of this year. And his claim of organophosphates only came out in that interview. It wasn't even in his original report.

The state, Polk offers, would have tested samples for organophospates if the defense had disclosed their contention in a timely manner, rather than springing this tactic on them during the trial.

Medical records do not cite organophosphates. The only contention of organophosphate poisoning comes from the hearsay in recorded background noise and defense expert Dr. Paul.

The defense never interviewed Hamiltons and at no point asked them about their pesticides; organophosphate or otherwise.

To this rather solidly reasoned argument, Kelly replied, "We have just turned the Constitution on its head."

Dare I say it? I think Mr. Kelly is something of an exaggerator.

Once again, the argument is that the prosecution should have anticipated the defense's argument. In fact, due diligence would require that they disclose all evidence that supports the defense's contention. By not doing so, they have failed to disclose exculpatory evidence. And they should have interviewed their witness Dr. Cutshall and disclosed to the defense that he could not say "to a medical degree of certainty" that it was heatstroke. This, of course, misstates what Dr. Cudshall said. Do asked him if he could rule out organophosphates with certainty. He agreed that he could not.

Let's unpack this, as Do would say. There is a big difference between not being able to exclude another possibility with certainty and being something other than reasonably certain of the conclusion you've already drawn; in this case, heatstroke. There is no such thing as absolute certainty in medicine. To say that no other possibility exists would be bad medicine and bad science. And the law recognizes that, requiring only a "reasonable medical certainty."

While there must be more than a bare possibility, the law does recognize that a degree of uncertainty is present in almost every medical opinion.

It's one thing to try to confuse the jury with these tactics. That's just a defense attorney doing her job. But to try to confuse a sitting judge? That takes guts.  

Judge Darrow appears to be leaning toward the prosecution's position, explaining that his order was designed to keep witnesses from discussing information with each other, especially because of the trial being broadcast. It was never intended to preclude communication between attorneys and witnesses and he seemed a little shocked that Kelly might be suggesting that.

And once again the defense's tactics tried the judge's patience. At various points he ordered both Li and Do to "sit down."

I expect some sort of ruling will be forthcoming tomorrow morning as this and other issues continue to be hashed out.

One other intriguing piece of information emerged during this motion hearing. In reference to defense expert Dr. Paul, Do explained that in his original report he concluded that a finding of heatstroke was inconsistent and pointed to a "secondary process." He did not, at that time, cite organophosphates. That came out later. She connects this later deduction to organophosphates, however. If that's the case, I wonder what he thinks is the primary cause. Because a secondary process or cause is just that. It's an exacerbating factor.

From the medical dictionary:

secondary cause
a factor that assists the primary cause. A cause of secondary importance.

I'm starting to wonder just how strong a witness Dr. Paul is going to be for the defense.

All information on the trial comes from news articles with provided links or live courtroom footage on TruTV's "In Session" or CNN's live feed. All quotes and paraphrased statements that are not linked to a source document are my best attempt to transcribe material from live broadcasts.

Comments on this entry are closed, on this blog. If you wish to comment, please find this and all newer blog entries crossposted on Celestial Reflections.

Mar 29, 2011

James Arthur Ray Sweat Lodge Trial: Day 20

Someone called Vortexter passed along her blog entry on James Ray and the Sedona scene. Her comment can be found here and her blog entry here. It got me to thinking about how I got interested in this whole James Arthur Ray debacle. It was really an outgrowth of my interest in The Secret. I started writing about the The Secret a few years ago when I realized I couldn't ignore the problem any longer. I posted a long entry here and thought it important enough that I sent it out as an e-newsletter. I expected a lot of hostility from people but I thought that even if it meant I lost some clients and some friends, it needed to be said. I got exactly one overtly hostile message and one somewhat quizzical one. And I got reams of messages from people saying, "Thank-you." A client told me just recently that he keeps that email in his quiver to send to any of his friends who bring up the subject.

So, my interest in this whole phenomenon grew out of my concern over something that I consider to be just bad metaphysics. When I first heard reports that James Arthur Ray's sweat lodge had gone so horribly awry I thought, geez, I knew The Secret was dangerous. I really didn't expect anyone to die. But aside from the recklessness, the egomania, the long con, the cultish manipulation, and everything else that characterizes this horrible event, I still keep coming back to bad metaphysics. As I wrote in my first post on the sweat lodge deaths, "A little learning is a dang'rous thing."

Years ago I was taking a class with shamanic healer Christina Pratt. She started out her first lecture of that weekend with the observation that it is the best of times and the worst of times when it comes to the range of spiritual thought and traditions available to us. She made the point that all of these wisdom traditions come as complete bodies of knowledge and provide essential safeguards we really need as we open spiritually. And many of those safeguards are not expressed in the marketplace of spiritual ideas.

A lot of what's out there is well-intended if insufficient. But sometimes it is venal, exploitative, and mercenary. And that, to my mind, is where The Secret and James Arthur Ray fall in. Their message is as deceptive as it is seductive. You need never suffer and you can have whatever you want. The universe just wants you to have happiness, health, and a Mercedes. And if you don't, the problem is your attitude. And your attitude can be changed. Voila!

Some of the techniques offered in The Secret are nice tools for mental focus and goal structuring. And I don't dispute that there is a relationship between intention and manifestation. But there is a difference between opening a dialog with spirit, in right relationship with the world, and trying to make the universe your bitch (or catalog or genie). 

When I was listening to Scott Barratt last week, one of the things that struck me was his explanation of the tobacco pouches and the use of the sweat lodge as a vehicle for manifesting goals. Nothing against Barratt, who was just articulating what he was taught by Ray, but the idea of ceremony as ego exercise disturbed me. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with bringing our goals and intentions into ritual or ceremonial settings but we are also there to open to spirit. In addition to our intentions we need to bring our humility. It's not just about telling the universe something. It's about listening.

There is no component, in anything I've heard thus far in this trial, of surrender to any kind of higher power; God, the universe, spirit, higher self.... The only "higher power" any of them seemed to be surrendering to was James Arthur Ray.

So these people were not listening to their own inner wisdom or to that still, small voice of spirit. They weren't listening to their own bodies. (They'd been told it was "mind over matter.") They were listening to Ray, who had been conditioning them to see him as God, however subconsciously. And their tin god was telling them they wouldn't die no matter how bad they felt.

A few more thoughts on the stupefying disingenuousness of Tom Kelly: During the bench conference last Friday Sheila Polk sought to introduce prior incidents of sweat lodge induced heat related illness. Kelly assumed a posture of indignation, waved his arms around a lot, and referred to the one hospitalization that occurred as "Daniel P. goes to the hospital and takes a shower." He then suggested the ludicrousness of Ray including pre-sweat lodge a warning like, "A guy took a shower back in 2005 at the hospital and I want to let you guys to know that."

I knew that didn't sound right, so I reviewed pdfs for The State v. James Arthur Ray and police interviews with both Daniel and Michelle Pfankuch. It turns out that his hospital visit was not simply about showering. Not according to Pfankuch or a number of other 2005 participants.

Pfankuch had become irrational and violent after the sweat lodge. After much deliberation the owner of Angel Valley had called the paramedics, and he was treated in the hospital for heat syncope. According to his police interview he spent "many hours" receiving IV fluids. I suppose it could be argued that Ray remains somewhat ignorant of what treatment he received since no one from JRI actually went to the hospital.

Pfankuch doesn't really seem to have completely recovered from his brush with, um, hospital hygiene. He described a kind of near death experience that he never really wanted to come back from. His marriage is over. He can't afford medical care to determine if there are lasting physical effects. James Ray wouldn't pay for his original hospital visit. He believes he had heatstroke, although the hospital placed him lower on the continuum. And yet, he appears to have been hallucinating which is consistent with severe heat related illness.

Another participant named David DuHaime believes he saved Pfankuch's life. He tried to cool his brain by hosing down his head with cold water. But DuHaime couldn't convince anyone from JRI to call 911. He found Angel Valley owner Amayra Hamilton and she called. This led to an altercation between Hamilton and Ray who said, "Don't waste your energy. I take care of my people -- leave." So, for all that, it was quite some time before Pfankuch actually got to the hospital to receive care. And, as we learned from testimony today, that kind of time lapse can skew the data.

Both DuHaime and Hamilton, as well as several others, confronted Ray over the incident and said his sweat lodge was unsafe. And JRI took greater precautions in later events; providing electrolyte beverages and fruit, and lowering the temperature the following year.

Pfankuch's now ex-wife Michelle said that Ray fixated on Daniel's "out of body experience." She was left with the impression that Ray thought it was a good thing.

So that was Daniel Pfankuch's "shower" at the hospital. Move along folks. Nothin' to see here.

In Session ran several segments of a taped interview with Ray's mother Joyce. She talked a bit about what her son was like as a child, the good person she knows him to be, and how she knows he's suffered over this tragedy. They've cried together. The whole family has. He cared about the people who died, she says --and this is the kicker -- because "they've followed him" for years. But "the rain falls on the just and the unjust" and it will all work out for the better because it says so in the Bible.

As she talked about the people who've been lost, and their poor families, her voice quavered with emotion. She talked about how devastated they all were over it. Her voice caught, the corners of her mouth turned down, and her whole expression was one of sorrow. But she never shed a single, solitary tear. There is always something disturbing about someone whose face does one thing when their eyes do another. And that was all I could think about watching Joyce Ray. She remained clear eyed throughout. Her eyes didn't even get moist.

I was acutely aware that I was watching a performance. Most people, when they cry in a public setting, particularly on camera, fight the tears back. They get embarrassed and struggle to regain their  composure. Joyce Ray did the exact opposite. She was workin' it but she doesn't know how to cry on cue.

Linda Andresano, whose testimony we just saw, comes to mind as a someone who was genuinely emotional and struggling to hold herself in check. It was heart-rending. And I got teary-eyed listening to her. I'm a sympathetic crier. I can't help it. The tiny, little people on the TV that I don't even know cry -- I cry. Beverley Bunn made me cry. A lot of the testimony has made me weepy. Joyce Ray? Nothin.' Nada. I didn't feel a thing because I didn't believe her for a minute.

The closest Joyce Ray came to looking genuinely emotional was when she talked about how misunderstood her her son is. She wants people to know that he's not a "dictator" at all. He cares about people. She knows that he can appear "egotistical" but it's just because he's so strong. He's just trying to teach other people to be strong.

She also gave up some rather intriguing details about her son's character. James Ray "was a very obedient child" and "not like other children," said his mother. He rarely needed to be disciplined. The girls, she said, were "sweet on him but he didn't care so much about it." He's still like that, she says. Lots of women are attracted to him because of his "bearing" and because he's "a nice looking man," but he doesn't seem too interested.

Think about that for a moment. This is a man who's teaching other people how to have, among other things, great relationships but whose own relationship status is, at best, mysterious. If his mother has any idea what's going on in her son's life, his love life is nearly non-existent. As he would say, "That's not real wealth." Relationships are, after all, one of the main pillars of Harmonic Wealth.

So this interview was very interesting. Creepy, but interesting.

Dr. Brent Marsden Cutshall

The very stoical Dr. Brent Marsden Cutshall testified today. This is the internal pulmonary and critical care specialist who treated Liz Neuman, Sidney Spencer, and Tess Wong.

This testimony got mind-meltingly technical and I lack a medical degree so I was running to keep up. But some interesting things emerged under Bill Hughes's direct examination.

Carbon monoxide poisoning was suspected early on and all three had blood tests to make that determination. They all had normal levels, so that's a negative on CO. They all appeared to be dehydrated. They all exhibited pinpoint pupils, and there's the rub. There was much discussion of this symptom, which is not a result of heat exhaustion and indicates drug or toxin exposure. The short answer: They were intubated by paramedics and narcotics are often administered when a patient is intubated. This would result in pupil contraction.

Liz Neuman and Sidney Spencer were dehydrated and comatose. Low blood pressure and elevated heart rate are consistent with dehydration. Liz Neuman's heart rate was 140; normal is 90.

Tess Wong presented with low body temperature and low blood pressure. She was not seen at the ER, though, until after 8:00 and may have cooled over those hours, according to Dr. Cutshall.

Cutshall still thinks heatstroke was a possibility but the body had cooled too much by that point to make that diagnosis. Her major problems were coma, and renal failure (which could have been caused by dehydration), and a collapsed lung. He believes the collapsed lung was probably due to difficulties with her intubation. She also had problems associated with muscle breakdown, most likely from having been unconscious and not moving for a long time. This could also have been responsible for problems with her liver and kidney function. 

Truc Do Takes Many Notes

I'm not sure if Truc Do was trying to confuse the good doctor, the jury, or me personally. If it was me, mission accomplished. This was one of the longest, most confusing courtroom examinations I've ever witnessed.

Do dragged out the Pictionary easel and took many over-sized pages of notes, writing down every medical term she could think of or pry out of Dr. Cutshall's mind. But this was all set-up for her actual argument. It took forever. The set-up took forever. I'm inclined to think that she was trying to overwhelm the listener with her own James Ray style, cult snapping process. I know I was feeling more than a little suggestible after a couple of hours of this. Increasingly I find the defense's presentations, particularly Li's and Do's, make me feel like I'm being softened up for interrogation. Dear God. They could go to work for the CIA.

Do started out by focusing on differential diagnoses; in other words, symptoms that can present for more than one disorder. And I have to hand it to her. She did what every good defense attorney does. She threw enough sand into the gears to create a shadow of doubt. It was boring. It was infuriating. It was cloying... well... I find her and California up-talking cloying, but that's my problem. I think, though, she actually accomplished her goal.

One curiosity: Do asked if heavier people would be more likely to succumb to heatstroke than fit people. He said yes if those heavy people had comorbidities common to overweight people. She dropped it after that. I think what she may going for is the suggestion that since the heavier people did okay and the people who died were fit, it wasn't heatstroke. But I'll take a wait and see attitude on that.

After Do had compiled her giant glossary of medical terms she finally made her way 'round to where we all knew she was headed: toxidromes.

What about those pinpoint pupils? Well, yes, they could have been caused by the emergency responders doing their jobs. But they could also have been caused by a cholinergic toxin. And you know what toxins ar cholinergic? Organophosphates. In other words, common pesticides.

It took her well over an hour to get there, but she got there.

Was Dr. Cutshall ever told that the sheriff's office considered soil testing? Well, no. He wasn't. Was he told that people at the scene witnessed foaming at the mouth, which would be consistent with a cholinergic substance? Well, no. But, he points out, getting a lot of random bits of hearsay isn't terribly helpful when you're trying to administer emergency care. (Note: Dr. Jeanne Armstrong who, as a participant, was at the scene administering care said that there was a little "frothy sputum." Not foaming at the mouth.)

Cutshall also explained a bit later that symptoms like foaming at the mouth that may have presented on scene but that had cleared by the time the patients arrived at hospital would not be his concern. He'd be looking at ongoing symptoms in making his determination as to how best treat the patient. And the patients presented to him with dry mouths and other symptoms of dehydration that would not be consistent with cholinergic poisoning.

Towards the end of Do's cross-examination, Cutshall explained that the patients presented with a mix of symptoms, consistent with both cholinergic and anticholinergic toxicity. This would make it difficult to narrow down a toxic cause. But again, Do doesn't need to prove what substance may have poisoned these people. She just has to confuse the jury enough that they think it's possible. She does this beautifully and I have the headache to prove it.

Do also set out to prove Neuman wasn't dehydrated because nitrogen, sodium, and chloride levels were normal. Dr. Cutshall explained that this doesn't necessarily mean she wasn't dehydrated. "Someone can be dehydrated with totally normal numbers," he went on. He described dehydration as a clinical rather than a laboratory diagnosis. In other words, it's based on observable symptoms; not blood work. None of this stopped Do from raising the issue of similar numbers with the other patients.

With the torrent of verbiage Do managed to obviously irritate the stoic doctor. It may have had something to do with her checking off symptoms on her giant list even when he didn't concur with their validity. And, of course, there was the steamrolling over everything he said that didn't accord with her thesis. (She does this very adorably by saying, "I understand," and then saying the complete opposite of what a witness says.)

Most of her questions, consistent with the defense strategy so far, focused on what doctors said while they were spitballing possible diagnoses to try to figure out how to quickly treat patients in an emergency situation. This, to the defense, is more important than what they concluded after more of the clinical and lab findings were in.

At the end of the exercise, though, Do accomplished what every defense attorney wants. The witness admitted that he "could not rule out organophospates with certainty." And with that she, she finally, mercifully, ended her examination. 

On redirect, Hughes had Dr. Cutshall again broke down the difference between cholinergic and anticholigeric toxins. He clarified that there was a mix of symptoms from column a and column b. In fact, aside from the pupil dilation, the symptoms were more consistent with anticholinergic toxins. (In other words, not organophsosphates.) The symptoms, though, across the board, were consistent with heatstroke, except for the small pupils which could have been caused by medications administered by paramedics.

I also give Hughes props for at least touching on the issue of the moist environment of the sweat lodge and how it would slow evaporation of perspiration and raise body temperatures. The doctor agreed.

Hughes also addressed the reported lack of dehydration in Kirby Brown and James Shore and claimed that they had presented at the hospital with normal hydration levels. Do had questioned Cutshall on whether or not a patient whose heart wasn't beating could take up fluids. Answer, no. But, Hughes asked, what if they were receiving CPR when they had an IV for an 45 minutes or so. Yes, it's possible, but it's hard to imagine keeping the heart pumping viably for that amount of time.

I just wish at some point the prosecution would deal with the straw man that dehydration is a necessary cause of heatstroke.

In the end, not surprisingly, Dr. Cutshall stuck by his diagnoses. But I have to admit that Do created a lot of confusion and confusion works to the benefit of the defense, not the prosecution.

I still have to say, though -- and I wonder if the prosecution will find some way to underscore this point -- if this was a freak incident due to poisoning, rather than heat,  and the symptoms are consistent with that poisoning, why were Ray and his staff so slow to respond? Why did they insist the unconsciousness and delirium were perfectly normal and that it was best to let people "have their own experience?" Have they been poisoning people with organophosphates all along?

Dr. Cutshall was excused subject to recall.

All information on the trial comes from news articles with provided links or live courtroom footage on TruTV's "In Session" or CNN's live feed. All quotes and paraphrased statements that are not linked to a source document are my best attempt to transcribe material from live broadcasts.

Comments on this entry are closed, on this blog. If you wish to comment, please find this and all newer blog entries crossposted on Celestial Reflections.

Ripping Open the Heart

We're in a new stage of heart chakra opening that is causing many people confusion and discomfort. The collective grief over the tragedy that is still unfolding in Japan (and New Zealand and Burma, etc.) has been catalytic but it's more of the same overall process that I addressed here. What is happening right now is, if possible, even more sudden and dramatic. The experience for a lot of us has been physically uncomfortable: racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pains, and pressure between the shoulder blades. It started for me a couple of weeks ago. I have also spoken to a number of clients who are experiencing varying degrees of the same thing. The message I got around this was that the heart chakra was being "ripped open." I have since stumbled on a number of similar observations so I've collected a few different perspectives on this process.

The first is from Lauren Gorgo:

The devastating & recalibrating events that took place in Japan and shook the globe last week, in a very literal sense, were the result of the same energies that precipitated a major heart & plexus opening throughout all of humanity. The energies behind this event caused a massive expansion in the (high) heart, as well as the solar plexus, and this expansion process is creating the new template of love that is now anchoring on the planet. This new love is a combination of empowered love (high heart) & spiritual wisdom (solar plexus)…what the unseens refer to as the activation of the "body brain".

On a physical level, this opening can be felt in the center of the chest, thru the back of the heart and in the pit of the stomach. Symptoms can vary based on our personal collection of energetic/genetic miasms, but generally our solar plexus (third chakra) is linked to our stomach, abdomen, upper GI tract, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidney, spleen and adrenal glands…and the heart center (fourth chakra) is linked to our heart, lungs, blood vessels, shoulders, ribs, breasts, diaphragm, and upper esophagus, and so all of these areas are subject to cellular detoxification during this time.

Some of the more prominent symptoms may be manifesting as tightening/pain in the chest, shortness of breath, anxiety, extreme and unrelenting heartburn/indigestion, acid reflux, nausea, heart-flutters, palpitations, arrhythmia, soreness/sensitivity in detox organs and along the spine. (**NOTE: for the lucky ones experiencing that drop-to-the-floor heartburn, drinking a little baking soda in water is the only thing I have found to put out the fire…temporarily) Also, as these energy centers open more fully, it can also cause great discomfort in the middle of the back where many are unfolding their "etheric wings" (opening the energy center behind the heart)….I am hearing that those affiliated with the first wave of the ascension timeline are affected/afflicted by these energies the most right now.

The second is fromTom Kenyon:

Due to the fact that you are in a Chaotic Node and energies from deep space conjoined with solar flare activity are affecting your energy bodies, you, as a collective, are more affected. What we mean by this is that witnessing the suffering of your fellow humans shatters the heart. There is a recognition that their predicament could easily be yours. This recognition can create an opening in your heart, and it is through the heart—your heart—that higher states of consciousness are realized, and so the earthquake in Japan is, in many ways, an earthquake of the collective heart.

The third is from Karen Bishop and I can't provide a link because it's from a pdf that she emailed out on Sunday. If you're not on her email list and would like to have the whole thing, just shoot me an email, with "Karen Bishop" in the subject heading, and I will happy to forward.

Heart pain, lung ailments, esophagus, and upper back pain are our own individual experiences of readying to receive this light… just as the earth is having her own readying experience. As our hearts open then, they break apart and move old energy out, thus creating inflammation around our heart area. And this is what manifests as unusual pain in these areas. But as always, it is best to consult a professional health care practitioner if own is experiencing a health problem, as not everything can be attributed to our spiritual evolutionary process.

So, obviously, I second her opinion on getting medical help if you feel you need it. Actual heart health issues aren't anything to mess around with.

The other thing that has been coming up a lot is major difficulty with grounding right now. I know, for myself, I have found merging with earth energy downright uncomfortable. The more I try to ground, the less grounded I feel because it's like being electrocuted. It all just feels like fire. So until things settle down (???), I've been more focused on centering than grounding, per se. And this is what I've been suggesting to clients who are having the same type of experience. For me that generally means breathing into the solar plexus. But I would say, do whatever works to maintain your equilibrium. These are strange times, indeed.

Comments on this entry are closed, on this blog. If you wish to comment, please find this and all newer blog entries crossposted on Celestial Reflections.

Mar 25, 2011

James Arthur Ray Sweat Lodge Trial: Day 19

I made a mental note yesterday to pay close attention to Tom Kelly's demeanor when questioning male witnesses. After his nasty, condescending, questioning of Beverley Bunn and Melinda Martin, I got a whiff of sexism. That question was answered when I had the opportunity to watch him question Scott Barratt. What a difference in tone. Of course I'm also finding it a little disturbing how prone both Li and Kelly are to developing obvious man crushes on every alpha male who testifies.

Tom Kelly got off on the wrong foot this morning by trying to get off on the right foot with the Scott Barratt. He tried to make a little joke about having seen him on TV. Sheila Polk immediately objected. Judge Darrow lost his seemingly endless patience and told him to just ask a question. Kelly whined about how he was just being friendly. Barratt one-upped him by making a joke about how he hoped it wasn't when he was in the shower. Then he scrunched up his twinkly, Steve Martin-like eyes and grinned.

Kelly simply rephrased his television story as a question... sort of.

Kelly: You had mentioned yesterday that when you were a boy you were a cowboy?

Barratt: Yes.

Kelly: And the TV this morning identified you as a cowboy. Did you know that?

Barratt: Um. You're trying to trick me into thinkin' I was watchin' TV. No. I didn't do that, no.

Kelly: So my point is despite all those other accomplishments that you've, uh, described yesterday, the media has identified the cowboy as the most important attribute. Are you aware of that?

After another sustained objection, Kelly finally got down to his point which was that Barratt is rugged and manly and has done many dangerous things. Yes, Barratt is a hard charger. He's competitive. And when people are being competitive they might push themselves too hard and not listen to their body's signals. In other words, it's Barratt's competitive spirit that caused him to stay in the sweat lodge when he could have just left; not the "encouragement" from James Ray. Ray had done his job by giving fair warning. He reminded him of Elsa who was scared off the whole thing, reasoning that "Mr. Ray, in his pre-sweat lodge presentation, gave a very good description of what was going to happen."

So, that takes care of the second pillar of the defense's argument: adults making choices. And then it's on to pillar one: waivers.

Scott Barratt signed the waivers. Shocker. Moving on.

Barratt is in a very good shape, noted Kelly. And Kirby Brown was quite fit, too. But, he points out, not everyone there was so fit. He points to a picture of Linda Andresano. Barratt doesn't know her by name -- he doesn't know anybody's name -- but he recognized her as the woman he dragged out of the sweat lodge. Kelly pointed out that she's a "rather heavy set lady." Quips Barratt, "You said that."

Kelly's point? It would be easy to tell the difference between Linda Andresano and Kirby Brown. Barratt wouldn't get confused and think he had dragged Kirby Brown out of the sweat lodge. Yes. Tom Kelly really spent ten minutes identifying the size difference of these two women. He really went there.

At some point in that exchange Kelly went off on another hair tangent. He's just not going to let this go. No one is going to say those heads are shaved. Not even the studly Scott Barratt. People went to Spiritual Warrior and got their hair cut. Shaving, I guess, sounds cultish. Cutting, well, everyone does that. Somehow he doesn't grasp that if a bunch of people at a self improvement seminar get their hair nipped off with electric clippers, it really doesn't matter what you call it.

But Kelly points at head after head that shows a half an inch or more of hair and insists that it's a haircut, not a shave. Personally, I think women, in particular, would consider getting their hair trimmed down to a half or three quarters of an inch rather dramatic and refer to it as shaved or buzzed. To women a hair "cut" is when you go to the salon and a hair stylist makes it pretty.

Well, I decided, I needed to resolve this once and for all. As stated, I went through cosmetology school and I know a bit about cutting hair. I did not, however, go to barber school, which is where you're trained in clipper cuts. But one of my closest high school friends, with whom I also went through cosmetology school, decided to further her education and go to barber school. She worked for many years in a unisex salon, before furthering her education still more and becoming an English teacher. I hadn't spoken to my friend in years, although we reconnected recently on Facebook. So I contacted her this evening and we had a lovely chat about old times and hair fashions. I asked her, in her professional capacity as a trained barber, to settle this for me. Is it hair cutting or hair shaving when it's done with electric clippers but with the guard to leave some length? Her answer: "It's all semantics."

So there you have it.

Judge Warren Darrow

In another bench conference, Sheila Polk argued that because Kelly had opened the door by asking Barratt if Ray had prepared him for what would occur in the sweat lodge (see above), she should be able to bring in prior events. Her argument was that this witness was not prepared for things that had also happened at past sweat lodges -- vomiting, unconscious people left on the ground, convulsions, delirium, hospitalization, and so forth. Ray had knowledge that these things could occur. Her concern is that the jury is being left with the impression that these kinds of health issues had never occurred in the past.

Ultimately Judge Darrow ruled that the prior incidents were not analogous because no one died, as per his prior ruling. Also, there is no clear evidence that Ray had knowledge of those issues. He said it was fair for her to ask Barratt about whether or not he was prepared for the things he himself witnessed, without drudging up a prior event. So be it.

On redirect Polk asked Barratt a series of questions as to what Ray had prepared him for other than feeling like his skin was going to fall off. She got pretty far before one of Kelly's objections was finally sustained.

Polk: Did Mr. Ray ever warn you that the conditions inside the sweat lodge could cause participants to vomit?

Barratt: No.

Polk: Did he ever warn you that the conditions inside his sweat lodge could cause participants to lose consciousness?

Barratt: No.

Polk: Did Mr. Ray ever warn you that the conditions inside his sweat lodge could cause you to suffer shock?

Barratt: No.

Polk: Did Mr. Ray ever warn you that the conditions inside his sweat lodge could cause you to suffer convulsions?

Barratt: No.

Polk: Did Mr. Ray ever warn you that the conditions inside his sweat lodge could cause people to stop breathing?

Barratt: No.

Polk: Did Mr. Ray ever warn you that people inside his sweat lodge that lost consciousness would be left inside the sweat lodge throughout rounds?

Barratt: No.

Polk: Did Mr. Ray ever warn you that outside the sweat lodge when you were suffering loss of consciousness that no one would tend to you?

I think had Judge Darrow not sustained an objection from Kelly at that point, Barratt would have answered no.

Scott Barratt was excused subject to recall. 

Linda Andresano

Linda Andresano actually read the waivers. More than that, the waivers raised concerns for her. She has some medical issues and she's an RN. So, she did the responsible thing and called JRI for clarification about the events. They told her that they couldn't give her any details but that there wouldn't be anything dangerous. She was concerned because she'd had recent surgery on her shoulder and was preparing to start a chemotherapy regimen.

Linda took JRI at their word and came to the seminar ready to play full on. She got what she described as #4 buzz cut. (That's 12 mm in length.) She stayed up all night journaling a couple of times. She played the Samurai Game and lived... well until the end when they all died of the plague. And she did the vision quest before being rushed on to the sweat lodge.

Linda has great familiarity with sweat lodge ceremony. She has done Lakota Sioux and Apache sweat lodges. By her rough count she's done twelve to fifteen sweats ranging from small to large. By large she meant fifteen to twenty people.

Things were decidedly different in those "weenie-ass" sweat lodges she had done. She was used to feeling breeze when door was open. She recalls leaders checking on people, passing water around, and offering to let people leave if they needed to. And Ray's sweat was much hotter than anything she'd experienced before.

When the sweat lodge was announced at Spiritual Warrior, she didn't feel they had adequate time to prepare. She was still in lecture mode and had thirty minutes to rush through changing and getting back to lodge with notes.

Andresano, though, had been steadily hydrating because unlike many of the participants, she knew the sweat was coming. She had noticed the structure -- which she noted had plastic tarps "sticking out" -- when she'd arrived. She confirmed it with an Angel Valley staff member.

In the sweat lodge, she was aware that things weren't exactly smooth. She heard voices explaining that someone was "having trouble." And she heard Ray say, "let her be."

At another point, Kristina Bivins who was sitting in front of Andresano asked if she could move back. Bivins proceeded to rest her head on Andresano's chest. She was immediately aware that it was much hotter when Bivins wasn't blocking the heat from the fire pit.

Around the seventh round, Alesandro explained how she lost consciousness. Choking back tears, she explained that she thought "It's a good day to die."

For Alesandro the message of Spiritual Warrior was about living and dying with honor. She was prepared to die an honorable death. Still fighting back tears she explained:

Hughes: You mentioned that prior to blacking out you said to yourself, "It's a good day to die." Did you think to yourself I should get out of here?

Andresano: No, I didn't.

Hughes: As a nurse were you thinking about the heat in there having it's effect on you?

Andresano: No, I wasn't.

Hughes: Why is it that you, when you were thinking to yourself, "It's a good day to die." Why is it then that you stayed inside?

Andresano: I don't have an answer for that. The only thing I can think of is what I said before. That I, that I believed what he said about an honorable death and I didn't wanna [pause] You know at the very beginning he said, are you gonna play full on. So I was playin' full on.

Hughes: Was that important to you to play full on during the sweat lodge?

Andresano: Yes it was. I also felt like I didn't want to, uh, disappoint Mr. Ray. [pause] Some of the things that we chanted in the, uh, sweat lodge were 'I am more than this', and I chanted that loudly. I am more than this.

Hughes: Did you feel like you could speak up and call out for help while a round was going on?

Andresano: I don't, I don't know. [pause] This sounds weird but I don't, I don't know why I didn't. Because as a nurse, I don't, If anybody else would have been. If I had been sitting next to me, and I would have, this sounds strange, but if I had been more, um, in my nurse mode, in my conscious mind, in my own practical mind and someone was in the shape that I was in I would have said get the hell out of here. You're not doin' well. You need to get out of here. And I don't understand.

Hughes: Did you feel clear headed at that point?

Andresano: Apparently not, because, if I'd been in my right mind, I would have gotten out of there.

Andresano doesn't know how she got out of the sweat lodge. As she came to she thought, "I'm not dead. I'm not gonna die. Get your shit together."

She was transported by golf cart to a room that wasn't hers. Her tent mate brought her some clothes. The dress she'd worn for the sweat was sodden and had been taken off of her. She just wanted to sleep.

When she learned that there were medical personnel in dining area, she declined at first. All she wanted to do was sleep. But then became concerned about how tired and woozy she felt and sought help.

Andresano was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. She was given IV fluids. But her ambulance broke down and she to wait for at least a half, maybe an hour. Her memory is a bit fuzzy. She was transported to another ambulance and treated at the hospital.  She's not sure how long it took to get to the hospital where she was diagnosed, she believes, with dehydration.

A couple of weeks later, Andresano was interviewed by Detective Wilingham. But she was guarded about the details of her experience. At the time she spoke to the detective, she explained to Hughes, she was trying not to say anything for or against Mr. Ray. Asked why she explained that she was just grateful to be alive. That was all that mattered.

Less than a month later she went to a World Wealth event in San Diego.

Li Crosses Andresano

The defense is really on about the hair cuts. It's not a big deal, insisted Li because, "Every single person in this world is different." Yes, we all have our own, individual reasons for wanting to look the same.

And they're on about cowboys as well. Li explained more about the joys of uniqueness and how Andresano's experience of the Samurai Game would be very different from that of a 6'5" 230lb cowboy. (Man crush.)

Apparently James Ray hugged Andresano after the sweat lodge. She remembers that, yes. Li insists that he looked shocked and there were tears in his eyes. That she really can't recall, so Li whips out her deposition in which she described Ray's demeanor as he hugged her.

Li's new tack seems to be to expound on some philosophy and tell people that they agree with it. He takes massive liberties with their previous statements, reinterpreting them through that filter. It's confusing the hell out of me. I can't make heads or tails of it. And I wonder how the witnesses feel as they struggle to determine whether or not they agree.

When Li attempts to apply this treatment to one of her previous statements, she is amazingly able to recognize it and explains that it's a statement she'd like to clarify. He tells her he'll get back to it after he asks a few more questions.... Sure he will.

Li also reminds her that she said in her police interview that some positive things came out of that week and that she found some of what she learned helpful. At the time, she explains, yes. She'd thought that.

Li doesn't seem to care for that answer so veers into his new favorite theme of how no one can tell her how to spend her money. No one but her husband, said Andresano.

Next comes a treatise on how no one can know what's in someone else's mind; not Kirby Brown's or James Shore's or Liz Neuman's. No, she only knows what they said, what they did, and what they showed by their behavior.

I didn't know what I was thinking so I certainly didn't know what she was thinking.... I didn't even know what was in mind so I certainly didn't know what was in their mind.... I wasn't in my right mind so I don't know what they were thinking.

Li delivered what may be the most tortuous explanation of how we're none of us mind readers I've ever heard. And I don't even understand why because I don't think Andresano ever claimed to read anybody's mind. After that I was actually relieved to move on to the damn waivers.

After lining up some exhibits, he points out that one of the two waivers she signed specifically addresses medical conditions and recommends consulting a physician if necessary. What he avoids saying until he actually quotes it from the the text is that it's the Angel Valley form; not the JRI form.

Either way Andresano is not signing off on his assertion that the whole thing is really best handled by her and her doctor. Well, no, because she called JRI to get specific enough information to take to her doctor for evaluation of whether or not it was a safe activity for her.

She was concerned because she was thinking, "How bad is this? 'Cause this sounds terrible. I mean this sounds like you could die. It says that you know I mean we are not responsible if you die. Basically. I mean so I thought, it can't be that bad. Someone's gotta give me a little more explanation. What is this?"

And, of course, the JRI person told her that nothing would be dangerous.

In short, the waiver didn't give specific enough information to take to a doctor and get an evaluation. And the JRI person said they couldn't be specific... but it's all good. Relax.

Said Andresano:

The person that I spoke to was not a medical professional. But the person I spoke to did represent JRI. Because they said "James would never do anything to hurt you," I believed what they said. Not to the exclusion of my own medical knowledge or my own judgment or my own responsibility. But as you say, we all bring things to the table through our own lens and that comment helped me to decide.

Note: When the trial resumed from break, for some reason, the CNN feed had no audio. I tried watching this silent movie for a while but their lips were way too tiny to read on my computer screen. So, with any luck they'll air the rest of Linda Andresano's testimony next week on In Session.
I do know that she was excused subject to recall, thanks to a tweet from April Santiago of Dateline NBC.

All information on the trial comes from news articles with provided links or live courtroom footage on TruTV's "In Session" or CNN's live feed. All quotes and paraphrased statements that are not linked to a source document are my best attempt to transcribe material from live broadcasts.

Comments on this entry are closed, on this blog. If you wish to comment, please find this and all newer blog entries crossposted on Celestial Reflections.

Mar 24, 2011

James Arthur Ray Sweat Lodge Trial: Day 18

More JRI Pictionary

Today we saw a kinder, gentler Tom Kelly. He clearly knows his courtroom demeanor yesterday was unbecoming and unappealing. Good. I was starting to fear that it was a deliberate tactic and that we'd be seeing a lot more of it. But, no. He lost control and he knows it.

He still seems intent on quizzing Martin on the corporate structure. Today he showed many pretty pictures of JRI's lavish offices. But he admitted that yesterday he was asking leading questions and that today he will ask only for her understanding of that corporate structure. From there he proceeded to do exactly the same thing; name people and ask what they did. The only difference is that he didn't supply their titles even if she doesn't know them. He's even drawn a new chart.

It's seems the purpose of this exercise is to prove that James Ray has nothing to do with the day to day operations of JRI and that if anything goes wrong it's someone else's fault. Secondarily, his point is that Melinda Martin is a nothing, a nobody, a never was. She's "on the bottom of the totem pole," as Kelly said earlier this morning to Judge Darrow when he heard arguments over the admission of evidence.

She'd only been there for six months. She doesn't know who did what job. When Martin prepared the first aid kit it was based on a list that came from Megan Fredrickson. She can't even help Mr. Kelly make a decent chart!

"What she doesn't know is as relevant as what she does know," explained Kelly in justification of his artwork.

In the evidence hearing, Sheila Polk expressed her displeasure over Kelly's creation of an exhibit that would never have passed muster as an accepted exhibit because Martin would not have been able to vouch for the information in it. There's been "no evidence that there's 27 employees" from any one who would know, explained Polk.

After all of Kelly's impassioned raving about how ignorant of the corporate structure Martin was and how the chart was designed, in part, to prove it, he said, "The witness has admitted that there were 27 employees. Now she complains of it." Actually what the witness had admitted was that she wasn't sure.

And there you have the stupefying disingenuousness of Tom Kelly. His questioning of Martin was to establish what she doesn't know and the chart is not meant to be accurate but her "admission" about the number of employees is proof of the number of employees. 

In his subtler cross of Martin, he demonstrated that James Ray was not present for a lot of things; selecting the Dream Team, the signing of waivers, the designing of first aid kits... Get it? James Ray is actually a laissez faire leader; not a narcissistic control freak.

It wasn't James Ray who stopped the Marzvaan sister from getting her sister; it was Megan Fredrickson. Ray didn't take the other sister out; Martin did.

James Ray did, however, tell everyone to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. He also told people how to enter and leave the sweat lodge. His instructions were good, when he gave them. It was just the participants who didn't follow them and the JRI staff and volunteers who did the legwork who are to blame for this debacle.

I realize that it's now the custom of the country that CEO's and other senior executives take no responsibility for the failings of their companies. Heck, sometimes they get bonuses for it. But I'm old fashioned. I'm a real "buck stops here" kind of gal.

Later, when Kelly brought up the wine incident, he explained that there was, in fact, a "no alcohol" rule. Melinda Martin didn't know. Apparently, neither did the Dream Team members. But James Ray knew and he pitched a hissy. Kelly pointed out that some of the Dream Team members were angry over how he'd treated Martin. Barb Waters had said she was going to write him letter. Liz Neuman was very upset. He described these "ladies" as "clearly bucking the authority of James Ray."

So which is it? Is James Ray the authority at the event or not? Is aware of, overseeing, and disciplining event rules or not? 

Despite Kelly's overall change in tone from yesterday, he could not seem to resist getting in his digs. "I thank you for your attempt to not exaggerate," he said as he questioned her about her first aid treatment of various participants.

And this was special:

Kelly: Then, uh, I believe we, uh, you have tried to the best of your ability to relay to this jury on cross examination what you actually saw or heard during this event, correct?

Martin: Correct.

Kelly: Without any sensationalism, correct?

Martin: Correct.

Kelly: Without any exaggeration, correct?

Martin: Correct.

Kelly: Which you may have done on other occasions, correct?

Martin: I don't know what you're referring to.

Kelly: Well, remember yesterday we had our little fight and uh, uh, there were statements like "MASH unit" and "mass suicide" and so forth that may be the result of emotion which is associated with this traumatic event, correct?

Martin: Correct. It's very emotional.

He let her know that he appreciated her not exaggerating like the media. He understands how she was taken in by their agenda when she was vulnerable and how she was made to say all those wild things.

What a guy... What a paternalistic, dripping with condescension, guy.

Polk Redirects Martin

Polk's redirect was brief and mostly dedicated to establishing that Martin is a non-exaggerator -- something that should be obvious to anyone who's heard her speak for five minutes. But who knows what damage may have been done by the hundred or so mentions of her tendency to exaggerate.

The highlight of Polk's redirect was when she had her break down a bit of that corporate structure she knows nothing about and explain how she knew that James Ray was in charge of pretty much everything. 

It was clear even from working with Megan that she had to check everything with James Ray. She started off insulating Ray and running interference. She needed to be the conduit for every detail right down to the temperature of his drinking water. Later, Ray himself started dealing with Martin directly on things like room set up and other minutiae.

But Polk was at her best when she asked Martin about what activities he supervised during the Spiritual Warrior event (paraphrased):

Who was it who delivered the lectures for the week? Had interaction with participants when they took the microphone? Told participants the rules of the Samurai Game? Told the participants rules of the vision quest? Ran the sweat lodge ceremony? Determined when the sweat lodge ceremony began? Called for the number of rocks for each round? Determined how much water to pour on the rocks? Determined how long each round would last? Determined how long the door would be open between rounds? Determined when to end the sweat lodge ceremony?

James Ray, James Ray, James Ray, etc., etc., etc.

When it was over, who was it who was tending to people who appeared to be suffering?

Everybody but James Ray, including Melinda Martin.

Polk gave her a chance to demystify things her choice not to pursue her workers comp claim, her emotional condition after the event, and her desire to leave it all behind and start her "new life" in the big apple.

Mostly Polk allowed Megan to express her pain and sadness over the loss of Liz Neuman, James Shore,  and Kirby Brown whose families she connected with afterward. And how impossible it was for her to return to work after all the loss and trauma.

Martin also expressed her sadness and disappointment at Ray's failure to contact her.

I thought that I had done a lot, went way beyond the scope of duty of any job. And, you know, I thought maybe he would be appreciative of me helping save lives instead of throwing me aside. And not having and sort of connection or thanks or anything toward me instead of just throwing me aside.

William Scott Barratt

Scott Barratt wanted to "play full out." He may have the terminology of his thought stopping maxims wrong but he quotes them repeatedly and with gusto. He's a rugged guy -- a former Army helicopter pilot and later trained as medevac pilot by the National Guard.

Like so many participants, he was caught off guard by the announcement of the sweat lodge two hours before the event. He agreed that he'd been encouraged to hydrate but he would have made more of an effort had he known what was coming. Was he hydrated enough going in? He didn't think so. He'd just spent a day and a night doing the vision quest with no food or water in the desert. Before that he'd been sweating profusely during the Samurai Game. He'd also eaten a light breakfast because he was afraid of making himself sick.

This is a major point that I hadn't heard made yet. Breaking a fast is something you do gradually, starting with a light meal. And neither gorging nor eating and drinking lightly after a 36 hour fast in the desert would set a person up well for going into a superheated environment.

Be that as it may, Barratt did the sweat lodge. He wanted to "play full out" and he wanted to get his money's worth.

Barratt was also enthusiastic about getting his head shaved. Unmentioned is that he has a military background so it would not have been anything new. But he wanted to do it because Ray had explained that Buddhist monks shave their heads. He explained that he wanted to be an achiever and play full out... like Buddhist monks do.

He played full out in the Samurai Game, too. He died late in the game and was only dead, he thinks, for 10 minutes or so. He had a heavy blanket over him that made it hard to get air. He couldn't move to clear the blanket from his nose because he didn't want to kill a team member. Good thing he wasn't pretend dead for too long or...

Barratt didn't really want to do the sweat lodge. In addition to not being as well hydrated as he would have cared for, he's a little claustrophobic. Elsa Hafsted didn't want to go in either. She explained to Barratt,  "I know if I go in that sweat lodge I will die." It's hearsay and all but I really wonder how she meant that. That she'd be miserable or was she being prescient enough to save her own life?

At stage four -- Barratt calls rounds stages -- he began feeling very uncomfortable with what his body was telling him. He was concerned about his core temperature. His breath was hot. As a trained medic he knew that a high core temp was bad. He laid down on the ground for a while where it was cooler. But he was there to play full out so he sat up again.

He thought he was starting to experience an altered state of consciousness, which he wanted to do. But he struggled with his concern over his noticeably rising core temperature. Ultimately he wanted to ride it out because he wanted to "play full out." This overrode his medically based concerns.

Barratt was impressed by Ray's ability to continue on and lead chants. Meanwhile Barratt couldn't even remember his formulated intention for being there. If James Ray could do all that, surely he could push through.

Like most people, Barratt's was under the impression that you only left between rounds when the flap open. The man in front of him got up to leave during the break. In his increasing delirium Barratt thought it was time to go so he followed the man out. He believes it was after the fourth round. He was outside for a while before he realized that he'd left before it was over. He has no idea how long he was outside; whether it was a few minutes or another round or two.  But as soon as he realized he headed back in.  Said Barratt, "If I'd been thinking clearly I don't know if I'd have gone back in again."

When he returned to the sweat lodge his path was obstructed by the oft-mentioned Linda. She was lying face down and appeared to be unconscious. Ray asked someone to move her back. But the person he'd asked couldn't because she was lying across his legs. Barratt tried to help move her but Ray told him he was too close to the fire and to "leave her." She was lying with her head towards the fire pit. Barratt wanted to help her or sit in front of her to protect her head but he'd already been admonished by Ray once for trying to help her so he let it go.

Barratt sat the rest of it out, having forgotten his commitment and convictions and felt terrible. It was really just about completing it at that point. He was "nauseous," "foggy," and "not playing with a full deck." But there were people who were in there the whole time and hadn't had a break like he had. If they could do it so could he.

He just wanted to take off after it was over.  He couldn't understand why people weren't leaving. But he realized that Linda was still prostrate and blocking traffic. He helped to maneuver her out.

Barratt wanted to help more people out but collapsed after taking Linda out who he thinks was unconscious. She's a "bigger" woman and he was pretty out of it, so it was quite challenging. He had to drag her but it was hard to do while crawling. He thinks it was Greg Hartle who helped him, but it was more likely Lou Caci.

Barratt thinks Ray was still present, because he recognized his voice warning them to stop. They were knocking out a support post.

So the only references so far to post sweat lodge involvement from James Ray come from two people; Barratt and Jeanne Armstrong. The first has him walking -- not running, mind you -- to look for a portable defibrillator. The second has him telling people, who had paid him thousands of dollars, to maneuver an unconscious woman out without knocking down the tent. Useful.

Barratt was aware that he was in shock and starting to go into convulsions. He drew from his military training to get blood back into his core, by lifting one leg at a time. Then he passed out.

He woke up when heard the sound of a helicopter. By then, the sun was going down and he was starting to get very cold.

He was not attended to by paramedics. He was transported by golf cart to the showers. He was left alone to shower and get himself back to his tent and then back to the dining hall where they were assembling. When he got back to his tent, he crawled into bed to try to get warm. He fell asleep eventually but was awakened by a deputy who checked to see who all was in the tent. He dragged himself to the dining hall. He wasn't asked for a statement and went back to the tent.

Eventually his tent mate Dennis Mehravar came back to the tent around 1:00 am. He was packing and chattering anxiously about getting a cab into town and finding a hotel. He left for a while and came back because there were, of course, no cabs. It made no sense to Barratt but he couldn't talk him out of it.

Barratt had hearing, speech, and thinking problems for a couple of weeks afterward.

Polk asked artful questions about why he stayed in the sweat lodge. He trusted Ray because he'd taught him to do amazing things like walking on hot coals.

What Barratt doesn't know is that, like splitting boards, walking on hot coals is something of a parlor trick which pretty much anyone can be taught to do it. Ray probably also learned that at a Tony Robbins seminar.

He wanted to see it through because he wanted to "commit new goals and commitment to [his] unconscious mind." He didn't want to be "a quitter."

Polk asked if his decision to go back in to the sweat lodge, with all of his concern over his core temperature, could be compared to drunken decision making. Yes, Barratt agreed. It was the same kind of poor decision making.

Kelly Crosses Barratt

Tom Kelly's cross today was dedicated to the second pillar of the defense strategy: grown-ups making choices.

Where Polk had drawn the analogy between Barrett's impaired decision-making to drunkenness, Kelly compares drunkenness to love. When Barrett compares it to hypoxia, which he's experienced, Kelly quickly points out that, yes, all kinds of things can lead to poor decisions. (Whew. I'm sure no one noticed the reference to hypoxia.)

Kelly makes the point that given Barratt's history as a cowboy, a soldier in a competitive MOS, etc., he knows a little something about risk and he certainly knew he was taking on risk when he chose to do Spiritual Warrior. Fair enough. Barratt is clearly a hard charger.

He talks about the Marzvaan sisters again who chose to leave and Elsa who sat out the sweat lodge out of fear for her life. They used their freedom of choice. Sure. And Dennis Mehravar used his freedom of choice to go look for a taxi into town and a hotel room. Yeah... ummm... It was after 1:00 in the morning after he'd been discharged from a hospital and he was babbling like a loon.  That's up there with the choices people make to leave a bar, three sheets to the wind, when reasonable bar owners who don't want to be sued take away their car keys. But, sure, it's all free choice.

But surely Barratt knows he's made free choices all the way, even when he was suffocating under his death shroud. Barratt cites peer pressure and competitiveness and the fact that one of his team members would have died as factors but Kelly is quick to distract him by talking about his pouches and his "purpose" in the sweat lodge. He knows exactly what buttons to push on the motivated Barratt.

Kelly began to list other participants by name to get Barratt's read on whether they made independent choices too. But Barratt doesn't remember any of those other people who made choices by name. "Most all this stuff. I've moved on in life. I've put it behind me."

All information on the trial comes from news articles with provided links or live courtroom footage on TruTV's "In Session" or CNN's live feed. All quotes and paraphrased statements that are not linked to a source document are my best attempt to transcribe material from live broadcasts.

Comments on this entry are closed, on this blog. If you wish to comment, please find this and all newer blog entries crossposted on Celestial Reflections.