May 30, 2011

James Ray Sweat Lodge Trial Resumes

James Ray with Defense Attorney Tom Kelly

Thanks to CNN's abandonment of the James Ray trial, we missed what looks to have been an exciting couple days of testimony. The trial resumed from its Luis Li induced hiatus on Thursday and ended the week in the high drama of perjury charges and another announcement from the team Ray that they will attempt to have the case thrown out.

What follows is a round-up of the meager news coverage available.

From the Associated Press we learn that Brandy Rainey found the sweat lodge unbearably hot and that Tom Kelly covered at least two of the three pillars of the defense's strategy as outlined here.

There are three major pillars to the defense's cross examination strategy: 1)You signed a waiver so you knew what you were getting into. 2) You are a grown-up and you are responsible for all your choices to participate in these activities. 3) Some questions may seem obscure but they lay the groundwork for the poisoning, as opposed to heat related death, theory.

I don't know from news reports if Kelly hinted at the poisoning thing and it will be interesting to see how they handle that after Dr. Dickson rather thoroughly discredited it. (I have little doubt, though, that Truc Do is gearing up to beat that dead horse for many more painful hours.) But we do know that Brandy Rainey was thoroughly reminded that she was solely responsible for her own misery as heat and steam scalded her throat, leaving her extremely ill after only five of the eight rounds.

Rainey said she only skimmed the waiver. During questioning from defense attorney Tom Kelly, she said she never communicated her concerns directly to Ray, who has pleaded not guilty to three deaths stemming from the ceremony.

. . .

While she had a headache, stomach cramps and flushed skin, others were in worse condition. Rainey and other witnesses have recounted people vomiting, violently shaking and experiencing delusions from the sweat lodge.

. . .

Kelly pointed out that Rainey made that decision on her own, "as a strong, independent, professional woman, that you were going to stay there through five rounds."

"Yes," she responded.

From Mark Duncan we learned a bit more about Rainey's direct testimony. That waiver she signed, which only said that there may be a sweat lodge with sauna like conditions, left her unprepared for both the sweat lodge and its very not sauna-like heat levels. Rainey was "in disbelief" after the rigors of the week that they would in fact have a sweat lodge but she was determined to get her "money's worth."

But the sweat lodge was even hotter than she had imagined, even though Ray had warned the group that they would "feel like our skin was burning off." She said the heat made her nauseous and, when Ray poured water on the hot rocks, "the steam sort of rolled over your body and went up your nose and down your throat."

. . .

After finally leaving the lodge, she said she was too weak to stand for some time, so she sat in a chair and watched a scene that has been well-described by previous witnesses in the trial, which began March 1. She saw Lou Caci come out of the lodge, badly burned after crawling through the rock pit, and witnessed Dennis Mehraver's shouted ravings about his belief that he was having a heart attack.

She said she never saw Ray doing anything to help any of those in distress, including her friend Amy, who was dragged unconscious from the lodge.

. . .

"I was coherent," she said. "I don't know if I was thinking clearly. If I was thinking clearly, I would have thought, 'Maybe you should get checked out by the paramedics right now.'"

Rainey was briefly hospitalized over concerns of carbon monoxide poisoning, which we now know was ruled out. It's pretty clear that she suffered severe heat related illness because her body's set point has changed. She now gets rashes and blisters in heat as low as 100 degrees.

We also have to rely on Mark Duncan for coverage of Mark Rock's testimony as I've been able to find no other. It was apparently quite dramatic. He was accused of perjury and Judge Darrow suspended proceedings until next Wednesday to allow him to consult with court appointed counsel.

At issue are three alleged false statements, one of which came to light during the trial's mid-morning break. Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk reported to the court, with the jury out of the courtroom, that Rock had just told her he had been asked by fellow members of Ray's volunteer dream team not to cooperate with police.

"That night," Polk said, referring to Oct. 8, 2009, the day on which a Ray-led sweat lodge went bad and resulted in three deaths, "(A dream team member) told him not to talk to the police because they are trying to frame James Ray."

. . .

Those statements, Polk said in court, are less important than the defense gives them credit for because they may well be a result of the stress Rock was under on that tragic day and are clear targets for impeachment on cross-examination.

"His testimony is what he recalls today," she said, "and those would be areas to impeach him on. It is appropriate to confront the witness with prior inconsistent statements."

They certainly have used such inconsistencies as impeachment material previously, so either these inconsistencies were far more egregious than they appear to be from Duncan's accounting, or this is more of the desperate grandstanding that has become de rigueur for the defense. This will waste yet another trial day. But not to worry. The defense team is also offering to solve the time crunch they are largely responsible for creating. They will present a motion to acquit at the end of the State's case in chief, contending that prosecutors have not met their burden.

On a side note, I must say that attending a James Ray event is the gift that keeps on taking. In the course of this trial we've learned that many people have been left with medical bills, permanent physical damage, legal jeopardy, and massive credit card debt. (If you really want a good overview of how Ray's high pressure sales tactics extract credit card payments from people, read Hope Miller's police interview which Connie Joy makes available here. My favorite part is when Miller describes a woman sobbing through the entire transaction because she can't afford it and leaving the auditorium still in tears.)

Prosecutors still intend to come in on schedule after another abbreviated week of testimony, wrapping up their case next Friday. Over the break Judge Darrow disallowed two of their intended witnesses, Dr. David Kent and Douglas Sundling.

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May 26, 2011

Oprah, James Ray, and the Media Effect

As Oprah wrapped her history-making show this week, amidst the cascade of media coverage could be found a lot of ambivalence about her impact on society. On the one hand, she had an undeniably positive impact on public perception of what a woman of color can accomplish in America. She broke a lot of ground for women, period. For that we can all be grateful. On the other hand, she foisted a lot of pop psychology and dumbed down spiritual teaching on an eager public. It ranged from the helpful to the useless to the destructive to the deadly. I'm referring, of course, to James Arthur Ray, on whose watch -- during his post-Oprah years -- four people have died. Many people are angry with Oprah for enabling Ray's success and subsequent recklessness.

So is it fair to blame a woman who simply had someone on her talk show for the deaths of his students? I don't think there's an easy answer to that but in the final analysis I have to say, "with great power comes great responsibility."

Oprah is singular in her ability to sell books, ideas, and social trends. This is something the New York Post referred to as the "Oprah Effect."

The “Oprah effect” has shaped our national consciousness in profound ways. “There are a lot of people whose lives are better, thanks to what she’s done,” says Robert Thompson, founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “Her whole message of empowerment is the idea that you can change your circumstances.”

Occasionally, however, that influence has seriously misfired. “Oprah has mainstreamed a lot of very questionable characters in my opinion,” anti-cult therapist Steven Hassan has said, pointing to Oprah acolyte James Arthur Ray whose infamous sweat lodge led to the deaths of three people in 2009.

When I was working in publishing, I was vividly aware of the "Oprah Effect." A booking on her show was the plum for a book publicist and it was not an easy booking to get. I booked a lot of authors on a lot of TV talk shows, Sally Jessy, Maury, even Phil Donahue. But Oprah was a hard nut to crack. For the most part, her producers only dealt with department heads and the bookings were rare but critical. While most talk shows back in those days were eager for the human interest content that came from non-fiction books and celebrity bios, Oprah only promoted books and authors she believed in. Unlike most of those shows, she even promoted fiction. I vividly remember what happened when she took an interest in Waiting to Exhale author Terry McMillan because I was working at Penguin at the time.  Even before she started her book club, Oprah sold books. When a book was featured on her show you could watch the sales figures spike immediately. There was no other media exposure where such a clear correlation between publicity and sales could be drawn -- not another chat show, not the Today Show or GMA, not even a much coveted review in The New York Times.

On the plus side, Oprah is a major force for literacy. She makes people feel good about reading which not a lot of television personalities do. She heightened attention to literary greats like Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. On the negative side, I can never forgive her Dr. Phil and The Secret.

I just can't.

I have little doubt that Oprah believes strongly in both. Her endorsement of the pop psychology of Dr. Phil and the spiritual pornography of The Secret are a tiny, little window into the psyche of this extremely driven woman. Both of these Oprah endorsed cottage industries are a study in control freakdom.

I do an impression of Dr. Phil. It's always a big hit at parties. In my best Texas I just drawl, "You came on this show because you think this, this, and this are wrong with you. I'm here to tell you that's not what's wrong with you.  THIS is what's wrong with you... Now straighten up and fly right."

Stripped down to its essence, that's really all he ever says. And I would be the first to admit that he can be very insightful and good at pointing out the forest when people are lost amongst the trees. But that kind of guidance only goes so far and is rarely if ever transformative. Real transformation only comes from our own shifts in awareness; not from what we're told by others. Emotional healing is an inside out process. And Dr. Phil is all outside in. He's not about helping people make more constructive choices. He just tells people what to do and shames them on national television so they'll be more inclined to do it. And it all just sounds like your dad lecturing you for putting a ding in the family station wagon.

By his own admission, Dr. Phil doesn't have the patience to do actual therapy. He'd rather just criticize, judge, and boss people around.

But from the very beginning, it wasn‘t for me.  I didn‘t have the patience for it.  I mean, people sometimes were very motivated and wanting to do great.  Other times, I think they just want to, like, rent a friend.  Yeah, they‘d want to sit there and talk to you for six months, and not always, but there were a lot of times I can figure this out in the first hour.  I‘ll be sitting there saying, "You know, okay, here‘s the problem.  You are a jerk.  " 

I see a similar impatience and intolerance in The Secret. As I said here, Lisa Nichols really pushed my buttons for that same reason. (The entire show is embedded above.)

In her appearance on "Oprah," Lisa Nichols explained how she addresses people who want to talk about their personal history or "story." Her response is "I don't want to know it, because you've used it to keep yourself where you are." So word to the wise, if you want someone to help you heal and come complete with your painful history, Lisa Nichols is probably not the appropriate facilitator for you.

The implicit hostility of this particular assumption is one I'm all too familiar with in my own field. That is to say, the idea that people are holding on to past trauma because they are "unwilling" to release it. I have even heard colleagues say of their clients, "Well they don't really want to get better." If they're showing up for help, they want help. It just may not be the kind of help that healer is willing or able to provide. And when a healer runs into the limits of his or her own paradigm, it is easier to blame the client than to question the belief system. When a client pushes your buttons, it's easier to dismiss the client than to determine why you have sourced them into your practice.

Implicit in The Secret is that you've been doing everything wrong, which in and of itself is all about submitting to some external judgment and control. Don't think what you've been thinking or feel the feelings you've been feeling. That's why your life is a mess.

Worse, The Secret feeds the control freak in us all. Of course we'd like to think that by just doing things the right way we never have to have problems again. We can just move from joy to joy and success to success. We'll have all the money we want. We'll always find a parking space. We won't get sick. All of our problems The Secret tells us are from our "negative" thoughts and feelings and all of that is in our control.

And James Ray took that illusion of absolute control to such an extreme that three people cooked to death, convinced by him that the power of their minds was enough to combat the inevitable result of being merely mortal in a superheated environment. He didn't need to warn them about the symptoms of heat related illness. Not when the power of their thoughts -- "mind over matter" -- could offset the deadly effects of heatstroke. Sheer force of will as panacea. That's The Secret and, sad to say, that's Oprah.

Whether Oprah will take responsibility at some point for the monsters she's created in The Secret and its spawn is an open question. Perhaps she's just waiting to see how the James Ray trial turns out. If he goes to jail, maybe then he'll get a James Frey style sit-down... via satellite on some Oprah special of the future. (Hey. A girl can dream.)

If he's acquitted we can all go safely back to thinking that everyone who died was a master of their own fate. Oprah will be off the hook, as will every other media organ that promoted these cheap, commercial friendly ideas and personalities. Buying stuff is good! Commercialism is good! It's spiritual! It says so in The Secret! And poor people have only themselves and their bad thoughts to blame. So we don't need to worry about unemployment, corporate criminals, or the growing wealth gap. Now buy some more!

It's not just Oprah. The media has been in love with this stuff from the beginning. All the major networks had a hand in promoting The Secret. The narrative on In Session from the get go was that the charges against James Ray wouldn't stick because Liz Neuman, James Shore, and Kirby Brown, and all those other people who were sickened and injured, had free will. And when it started to look like the motivational speaker and media darling might actually be a sadistic psychopath who brainwashed people into immobility, they dropped this trial like a hot potato. They thought the Brady violation would be their out. When it wasn't, their hostility became increasingly palpable and video of the sweat lodge trial decreasingly visible until it disappeared entirely.

And now CNN has stopped streaming the trial. If the press coverage of the trial overall was decent, I could live with that. There've been a few notable exceptions but most of it is terrible. That's the thing about seeing something occur in front of your eyes in real time. The cheapness and inaccuracy of most media coverage is suddenly very apparent.

So contact CNNLive and let them know you care. There are some hopeful signs that they'll pick it up again. Well... there's been one.  Public pressure is critical. They don't make it easy but here are some links:

Their feedback form.  Their regular advertiser. Or send them a tweet @CNNLive.

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.

May 22, 2011

How to Lie with Statistics for Church Money

I've been following more of the coverage on the John Jay Causes and Contexts study commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. I am definitely not the only one having a huge problem with what reads more like apologia for the Church than a serious study of their sexual abuse problem.

An excellent column by Debra W. Haffner in the Washington Post points to some of the excruciating illogic.

It is nearly silent about the abusing priests’ flagrant disregard for the church’s teachings on sexuality and sexual behaviors, while condemning the culture of the 1960’s and 1970’s for these crimes against children. The extensive sections about other agencies serving youth and other denominations facing similar problems, and the concluding paragraphs that these others should take steps to prevent child sexual abuse seem to obviate at least in part what I wished would have been an urgent call for reform, lamentation, and restitution by the Catholic Church.

I can’t help but wonder if a single sexologist was asked to read and comment on the report before it was published. Although I was pleased to see that the writers directly address the fact that there is no evidence that gay priests are any more likely to abuse children than heterosexual priests, it was odd that they didn’t call then for the Catholic Church to end its proposed ban on gay seminarians. Further, the writers (inaccurately) define pedophilia as sex with children ten and younger--and then criticize the media for talking about “pedophile priests” when 22 percent of the victims--nearly one in four! --were these ages. Using the more accepted definition for pedophilia, their own data reveal that 73 percent of the victims were under the age of 14. These children and early adolescents were not capable of consent, regardless of the ages used.

Haffner's attempt to compile saner, more fairly representative statistical groupings poked at something that has been bothering me. As I said here, there is a murkiness to their age classifications and they're presented inconsistently within the study itself.

For one behavioral analysis they make age twelve the line of demarcation between pedophile and what they term ephebophile. From page 34:

For the purpose of this comparison, a pedophile is defined as a priest who had more than one victim, with all victims being age eleven or younger at the time of the offense. 164 An ephebophile is defined as a priest who abused more than one victim, with all victims being boys above the age of twelve.165

The endnotes do little to clarify these classifications.

164  Pedophilia is a diagnosable disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (discussed at length in Chapter 3). However, these data are based on the behavior exhibited by priests rather than diagnoses. The behaviors are consistent with that which would be exhibited by an individual diagnosed with this disorder.

So endnote 164 cites the DSM but the current edition, the DSM-IV-TR, doesn't make the age cut-off for pedophilia eleven. It says thirteen. It is appallingly poor scholarship and downright disingenuous to make an assertion based on a source and misrepresent what that source actually says:

Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger).

As Haffner points out in her column, that age ballpark of thirteen is also the clinical standard. But it's not just that Karen J. Terry, et al., used a standard different than what the APA and others use. It's that they've simply made up a standard and cite nothing to justify it.

Again, assigning a specific age is always going to be a ballpark because the onset of puberty varies. But the authors seem to be deliberately skewing for the youngest possible cutoff. This is particularly troubling because most of the victims in this case are boys and boys typically hit puberty later than girls  do, so the likelihood that most of the victims were prepubescent is quite high.

The second endnote supporting their classification of ephebophilia is even more confusing; one might even say convoluted.

165  Ephebophilia, also sometimes called hebephilia, has been variously defined as follows: R. Blanchard, A.D. Lykins, D. Wherrett, M.E. Kuban, J.M. Cantor, T. Blak, “Pedophilia,  Hebephilia, and the DSM-V.” Archives of Sexual Behavior (2008): hebephilia is the erotic preference for pubescent   children (roughly, ages eleven or twelve to fourteen) and  ephebophilia is the erotic preference for adolescents (usually fifteen- to sixteen-year-olds); P. Cimbolic and P. Cantor, “Looking at Ephebophilia through the Lens of Cleric Sexual Abuse.” Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 13, 347-359 (2006) (in reference to clergy abuse): Ephebophilia refers to the persistent sexual attraction to pubescent or post-pubescent boys; J. Nunez, “Outpatient Treatment of the Sexually Compulsive Ephebophile.” Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 10:23-51 (2003): Ephebophile refers to adult men attracted to teenage boys; Goldberg (1992): Hebephile is a person who is sexually attracted to adolescents; K.V. Lanning, Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis. Alexandria, VA: Center for Missing and Exploited Children (1992): Hebephile and ephebophile describe an adult that has sexual attraction toward pubertal children; T. Rahman, “Ephebophilia: The Case for the Use of a New Word.” Forum for Modern Language Studies, 24(2), 126-141 (1988): refers to male sexual interest in boys and youths; K. Freund, H. Scher, S. Chan, and M. Ben-Aron, “Experimental Analysis of Pedophilia.” Behavior Research and Therapy, 20(2):105-112 (1982): Hebephilia is the sexual attraction to pubescent girls; ephebophilia is the sexual attraction to pubescent boys. The prevailing definition of ephebophilia today is of adolescent male victims, which is what we use as the definition here.

So that's about as clear as mud and does nothing to explain how they arrived at age twelve, nor does it explain why they later revise the ages.

It is hard for me to take their age specifics seriously when it is so glaringly apparent that their albeit obliquely stated purpose is to refute the public perception that the church has a pedophilia problem. Why else would a "scholarly" research paper repeatedly refer to unspecified "media" reports as counterpoint to their statistics? One such reference is on page 53:

Media reports about Catholic priests who sexually abused minors often mistakenly have referred to priests as pedophiles. According to the DSM IV-TR, pedophilia is characterized by fantasies, urges, or behaviors about sexual activity with a prepubescent child that occurs for a significant period of time. Yet, the Nature and Scope data indicated that nearly four out of five minors abused were at least eleven years old at the time of the abuse. Though development happens at varying ages for children, the literature generally refers to eleven and older as an age of pubescence or postpubescence.

What literature it is that places the onset of puberty at eleven, the authors do not say. There is no endnote or other citation for that statement. But, as quoted above, the DSM-IV-TR they specifically do cite in that passage states a ballpark age of thirteen to define pedophiliac attraction.

Further, I would defy the authors to find a source that puts postpubescence at age eleven. Postpubescence is when the changes of puberty are complete, generally in the mid to late teens.

Wikipedia offers a fairly good overview:

Although there is a wide range of normal ages, girls typically begin the process of puberty at age 10 or 11; boys at age 12 or 13.[1][2] Girls usually complete puberty by ages 15–17,[2][3][4] while boys usually complete puberty by ages 16–18.[2][3][5] Any increase in height beyond the post-pubertal age is uncommon. Girls attain reproductive maturity about 4 years after the first physical changes of puberty appear.[4] In contrast, boys accelerate more slowly but continue to grow for about 6 years after the first visible pubertal changes.[6]

The onset of puberty, particularly in girls, has been rolling forward for decades.

For example, the average age of the onset of menstrual periods in girls was 15 in 1900. By the 1990s, this average had dropped to 12 and a half years of age.

It can be younger still. Some have tied this to growth hormones in meat and milk and to phytoestrogens in soy. Whatever the reasons, precocious puberty can start alarmingly young.

In girls, puberty usually starts around 11 years of age, but it may start as early as 6 or 7 years of age. In boys, puberty begins around 12 years as age, but may start as early as 9 years of age.

So is sex with a six year old girl pedophilia, you know, if she's started puberty? I'll look forward to later editions of Causes and Contexts for the answer to that.

So why did the authors move the goalpost mid paper? Was it just some of the general sloppiness that characterizes much of this work? That argument could definitely be made. Or was it a deliberate attempt to minimize the impact of disturbing statistics? I did a little more digging to see if I could find a different breakdown of age groups. They cite no source other than their previous paper for the statistical breakdown in the graph I posted previously.

Most sexual abuse victims of priests (51 percent) were between the ages of eleven and fourteen, while 27 percent were fifteen to seventeen, 16 percent were eight to ten, and nearly 6 percent were under age seven. Over 40 percent of all victims were males between the ages of eleven and fourteen. It is worth noting that while the media has consistently referred to priest-abusers as “pedophile priests,” pedophilia is defined as the sexual attraction to prepubescent children. Yet, the data on priests show that 22 percent of victims were age ten and under, while the majority of victims were pubescent or postpubescent. Figure 1.4 shows the overall gender and age distribution of the victims from the Nature and Scope data.

I had to do a bit of digging through the earlier research paper to find where they had represented that data because of the way the material is presented. I found two presentations of those age statistics both of which are slightly different. But I would invite anyone to download all of it, see if they can make heads or tales of it, and find the exact statistics referred to above. This is from the executive summary:

The largest group of alleged victims (50.9%) was between the ages of 11 and 14, 27.3% were 15-17, 16% were 8-10 and nearly 6% were under age 7. Overall, 81% of victims were male and 19% female. Male victims tended to be older than female victims. Over 40% of all victims were males between the ages of 11 and 14.

And this is the chart that breaks down individual ages from the section entitled Characteristics of children who alleged sexual abuse by Catholic priests:

Click to Enlarge

The numbers in all three sets of statistics are slightly different but very close. If I add them up based on the authors' breakdown in that chart, I come up with: 1-10 (22.6%), 11-14 (50.7%), and 15-17 (26.7%). But if I move eleven year olds back into the prepubescent category, as the authors suggest in their earlier classification, the picture and implication change dramatically: 1-11 (32.6%), 12-14 (40.7%), and 15-17 (26.7%). By that standard, the prepubuscent grouping is nearly one third of the overall number and is larger than the only age grouping that could arguably be considered postpubescent. But where it gets most interesting is when I tally the percentages based on that clinical standard of age thirteen: 1-13 (60.1%), 14 (13.2%), and 15-17 (26.7%).

So if we use the clinical standard, as defined by the DSM-IV-TR, a substantial majority of sex abuse victims is prepubescent. It gets much harder to argue that the "media" is wrong and this isn't a pedophilia scandal based on that statistical breakdown. Using their original classification of prebuscent children as eleven and under doesn't look so hot either. I would have an easier time believing that this was anything other than an attempt to obfuscate if they had cited any source at all to justify their use of ages 1-10 as their prepubescent grouping... but they don't.

Their poor scholarship only gives fodder to exactly the kinds of myths they claim to debunk elsewhere. Specifically, they argue that homosexuality is not the issue but the odious Bill Donohue of the Catholic League looked at the numbers and analysis provided in the paper and found otherwise.

Finally, the report says that 81 percent of the victims were male and 78 percent were postpubescent. Since 100 percent of the abusers were male, that's called homosexuality, not pedophilia or heterosexuality.

Donohue is incorrect about the percentage of postpubescent victims. The largest grouping of 11-14 is, at most, pubescent, but it's the authors themselves who conflate pubescent and postpubescent as I quoted above.

Haffner also makes the point that the authors contend this wasn't a pedophilia scandal because many of the abusive priests weren't strictly pedophilic in their attractions.

I wonder if anyone will be comforted that the John Jay writers say that priests who sexually abuse children are more accurately labeled “indiscriminate offenders” than pedophiles...

I'd be willing to bet that the abused children would not be comforted. In fact, I suspect they'd consider that distinction meaningless.

They break abusers down into "specialists" and "generalists" and, once again, blame society for this compulsive behavior. From page 119:

Priest-abusers were not “pedophile priests.” The majority of priests who abused were not driven by particular pathologies, and most did not “specialize” in abuse of particular types of victims. The pathologically driven priests were not influenced by social factors as were the majority of abusers (for example, their behavior was consistent across the time period and did not peak from the mid-1960s to 1980s). “Generalists,” or indiscriminate offenders, constituted the majority of abusers and were influenced by social factors.

Wow. You know, I think it can be fairly stated that promiscuity became more common and accepted in the '60s and '70s, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find a lot of aging hippies who'd tell you that it's perfectly normal to fuck prepubsescent children as long as you also fuck older kids and adults. Think about what the authors are saying here; that it is not pathological to molest prepubescent children as long as you also have an attraction to more age appropriate partners. That is literally what they're saying.

There's a bit more in their breakdown of "specialists" and "generalists," but frankly, it just made my head spin around like Linda Blair.

Click to Enlarge

As you can see, pedophilia is solidly ten and below in their new calculus. Ephebophilia is now boys of thirteen to seventeen. And we must assume that no "specialist" has any interest in children aged eleven or twelve. I'm sure all the eleven and twelve year olds who've been molested will be very relieved.

As I mentioned here, there is an ongoing debate over adding hebephilia to the DSM-V. It seems obvious to me that there is a difference between attraction to children who are in the midst of the hormonal, physical, and emotional changes of puberty and those who are genuinely postpubescent. If we're going to genuinely look at the biological changes associated with puberty, perhaps we should acknowledge that those changes go on for years. (In contrast, the authors of the John Jay study contend that children become sexually viable as soon as they've conceivably begun the changes of puberty.) In that sense, making the cut-off for pedohebephilia fourteen doesn't even begin to cover changes that make kids extremely vulnerable into their upper teens. In practice, it would add one year to the age range of pathological attraction.

A column in Psychology Today explores some of the controversy over acknowledging attraction to the pubescent as a pathology.

Hebephiles are not sexually typical men who just happen to go for easy-pickin's because they can't get them a real man or woman. Don't get me wrong: there are some otherwise-sexually typical men, primarily attracted to adults, who will sexually abuse pubescent children (including their own children and step-children) because they can't get enough of what they really want. But hebephiles are different. They show offense histories and laboratory arousal patterns indicating that their peak sexual arousal is to pubescent body types. In this way, they are discernable, as a group, from men who show offense histories and laboratory arousal patterns indicating peak sexual arousal patterns to prepubescent children or to adults.

A good deal of this research has been conducted by my colleague (and friend) Ray Blanchard of Canada's Center for Addiction and Mental Health and the University of Toronto. Using an extraordinary compilation of data from thousands of men, Blanchard has convincingly shown that hebephiles consist of a sort of "missing link" between pedophiles (those attracted to pre-pubescent children) and teleiophiles (those of us attracted to sexually mature people). Blanchard's data clearly indicate that the sexual orientation of males (at least) isn't just composed of the sex of their partners, it's also composed of the age of their partners.

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.

May 19, 2011

Lies, Damned Lies, and the Catholic Church

There is nothing new about the Catholic Church blaming society for its sex abuse problem. What is new is a study from John Jay College that seems to support that tiresome excuse.

Released yesterday was a $1.8 million study prepared by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on the subject of sexual abuse by Catholic priests. The report “Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010,” was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and seemingly makes attempts to blame society for criminal acts of sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests.

The report makes gross attempts to blame the “liberal” society of the 1960’s. Researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice state that the peak incidence of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the 1960’s and 70’s reflected the increased level of other “deviant behaviors” in American society including drug use, crime, an increase in premarital sex, and divorce. The sexually abusive priests were ordained in the 1940’s and 50’s and therefore were not properly trained to confront the social upheavals of the 1960’s.

When I read early reports and outrage over the scapegoating of the '60s counter-culture, I thought it was the kind of leap so often made by soundbite seeking reporters, probably based on an equally sensational press release, and that the paper itself would be more cautious and even-handed.

Kathleen McChesney of the Office for Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops correctly notes that it would be dangerous to misinterpret as causative the study's statistical correlation between the increase in other "deviant" behaviors that began in the '60s and the spiking of priestly sexual abuse.

The study found that the increase of abuse incidents during 1960s and 1970s was consistent with "the rise of other types of 'deviant' behavior such as drug use, crime and changes in social behavior such as the increase in premarital sexual behavior and divorce." This finding may be dangerously misinterpreted by some as a "cause" of the abuse.  [emphasis added] While the sexual activities of clergy members with consenting adults during this time may reflect a sexually liberated society, at no time was the sexual abuse of minors legal, moral or justified. Notwithstanding breaking their vows of celibacy, as adult followers of the Catholic faith these offenders knew, or should have known, that their behaviors violated and injured the young.

As any good scholar knows, correlation does not prove causation. So it would be dangerous indeed to draw such an inference. The problem is that it's the authors of the study who do exactly that. 

Ms Terry said the 1960s and 70s were a period that saw "patterns of increased deviance of society", and the church sex abuse scandal developed in parallel. "The social influences intersected with vulnerabilities of some individual priests whose preparation for a life of celibacy was inadequate," she said.

I decided to look to the source material for myself and see how the researchers of this prestigious institution -- my father's alma mater, by the way -- had arrived at this conclusion. Surely there would be substantial qualitative analysis demonstrating how celibate priests felt so undermined by rising divorce rates that they suddenly felt the overwhelming need to bugger children.

Instead, I was treated to specious logic like this:

The economic and social optimism of the 1960s came with a rise in social activism, intergenerational conflict, illegal drug use, crime, and disorder. The 1970s continued the pursuit of individualist projects and values as the economy faltered and a conservative reaction to openness and experimentation became more apparent. Further caution about sexual behaviors arose when AIDS developed into a national issue in the early 1980s. As general public attitudes about sex and sexuality changed, the statutes that defined sex acts as criminal changed as well. The General Social Survey (GSS), a regularly conducted public opinion poll, showed a marked change in the proportion of the respondents who felt that premarital sex was “not wrong at all”—the figure was 26 percent in 1972, the first year the survey was done, and rose to 42 percent in 1985.179 By 1985, twenty-seven states in the United States had passed legislation to decriminalize sex among adolescents (“age-span provisions”), and forty states had amended their statutory rape laws so that women could be prosecuted.180 In the mid-1980s, a majority of states modified their rape laws to expand the definitions of criminal sexual behavior, and almost all had passed legislation for mandatory reporting of sexual abuse of a child by 1990.

For the Causes and Context study, the social indicators found to be most relevant to the modeling of the change in incidence of sexual abuse are divorce, use of illegal drugs, and crime. Sexual abuse of a minor by a Catholic priest is an individual deviant act—an act by a priest that serves individual purposes and that is completely at odds or opposed to the principles of the institution. Divorce is an act also made for personal reasons that negates the institution of marriage. Illegal drug use and criminal acts violate social and legal norms of conduct, presumably at the will of the offender. The recorded or reported incidence of each of these factors increased by 50 percent between 1960 and 1980.181 If the data for the annual divorce rate are compared to data for the annual rate of homicide and robbery, the time-series lines move in tandem. From stable levels in 1965, the rates increase sharply to a peak at or soon after 1980 and then begin to fall.182 This pattern is indicative of the period effects that can be seen in the Nature and Scope data on the incidence of sexual abuse by priests.

Get it? Divorce, premarital sex, drug abuse, and crime are "deviant." Raping children is "deviant." Therefore, ipso facto, it's all part of the same pattern of social degeneration. Some might call that a false equivalency, but they wouldn't have the backing of John Jay College.

Their contention is that there is a statistical correlation between all these forms of deviance that came to prominence in the 1960s and the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, which they claim spiked in that era and then dramatically dropped by the mid 1980s, when the Church took matters in hand.

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But they provide no statistics of any of those other social phenomena; only endnotes with sources that presumably provide them. There are no graphs showing how these social trends moved in tandem. I mean, for a contention that inevitably controversial, you'd think they'd at least whip up some lovely visual aids. Not having access to their cited material, I did a little googling and verified pretty much what I'd assumed. Those other social trends did rise in the '60s and '70s but they did not fall; at least not at remotely the same rate demonstrated in the chart above. There are very slight declines in divorce, for instance, but marriages have also decreased. Divorce and premarital sex may have been deviant behavior in the '60s, in the sense of deviating from societal norms, but they have since become normal. Premarital sex, for instance, is nearly universal in the US. I certainly wouldn't characterize crime as normal behavior but crime rates rose steadily into the early '90s and then backed off their highs in more recent years. Those rates are still substantially higher than they were in 1960. The drug picture is more complicated and varies based on the type of drug. Alcohol is also a drug, btw, and an ever-popular one at that.

And if you're thinking that the causal relationship between all these societal factors and the surge in priestly sex abuse is spelled out more fully in their earlier paper Nature and Scope, please do have at it. For what it's worth, I ran searches on divorce, premarital, crime, drugs, 60s, 70s... Most of those words aren't even in the report and the ones that are are in a completely different context.

Another pointed criticism of the new report is that it defines pedophilia narrowly and makes the claim that the pedophile problem is only 5% of the overall issue.

The study is also likely to provoke controversy for its determination that priests who abused children over the age of 10 are not to be considered "pedophiles," because the victims -- by the authors' broad definition -- had already reached puberty.

"Most of the priests who had allegations of abuse abused pubescent and post-pubescent minors, not prepubescent children, and as such, the phrase 'pedophile priest' is a misnomer," Terry said, asserting that fewer than 5 percent of priests accused of abusing children could be described as pedophiles.

The American Psychiatric Association defines prepubescent children as those under the age of 13.

The classification in the paper itself is quite murky and a little inconsistent. While it shows the age range of pedophile attraction as going to 11, it charts the age grouping of victims differently.

Most sexual abuse victims of priests (51 percent) were between the ages of eleven and fourteen, while 27 percent were fifteen to seventeen, 16 percent were eight to ten, and nearly 6 percent were under age seven. Over 40 percent of all victims were males between the ages of eleven and fourteen. It is worth noting that while the media has consistently referred to priest-abusers as “pedophile priests,” pedophilia is defined as the sexual attraction to prepubescent children. Yet, the data on priests show that 22 percent of victims were age ten and under, while the majority of victims were pubescent or postpubescent.

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So prepubescent children, 22%, are indeed broken down as below age 10. But earlier in the paper, the authors define pedophiles as having singular attraction to children under 11.

For the purpose of this comparison, a pedophile is defined as a priest who had more than one victim, with all victims being age eleven or younger at the time of the offense.164 An ephebophile is defined as a priest who abused more than one victim, with all victims being boys above the age of twelve.165 Single offenders are those who had only one victim, and the multiples group includes all other accused priests who had more than one victim but were not defined by the other groups.

They also conflate the term ephebophile with the term hebephile, which only appears in the endnotes and glossary. The term ephebophile is generally used to connote attraction to mid to late adolescents, aged 15-19. The DSM doesn't list it, in and of itself, as a pathology. Whereas pedophilia, an attraction to prepubescent children, and hebephilia, an attraction to pubescent children, are considered pathological. And the age ranges don't break down nearly as neatly as they would seem to in this study because the onset of puberty varies. It is hebephilia that designates an attraction to roughly that 11-14 age range. But onset of puberty is generally 10-11 in girls and 12-13 in boys. Considering that far more boys have been the victims of priestly abuse, that makes that 11-14 even more suspicious. You can't say these priests were attracted to pubescent children based on age alone because of that variance. You'd have to look at each individual child and consider when that child had entered puberty. For what it's worth, one of the proposed changes for the DSM-V is a combined diagnosis of pedohebephiliac disorder.

If that hebephilic age range, 11-14, is the single largest group effected -- over half of all children molested -- how many of those abused children may have been prepubescent or barely pubescent? Suddenly the apologia of a 5% pedophilia problem seems risible.

The larger problem with this study is that the funding and data pool throw its credibility into further doubt. Over half of all funding came from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and still more of the funding came from other Catholic organizations like the Knights of Columbus. Much of the data was also self-reported by bishops. Victims groups and attorneys were not consulted.

Jason Berry, a Catholic journalist who has written several books on the subject, said the study was important but "deeply flawed" because authors didn't include sources such as the largest victims' attorneys' firms.

. . .

"It's 'garbage in, garbage out.' Two academics, paid by bishops and using information from bishops, reach the conclusions bishops desperately want to reach themselves," said a statement Wednesday by Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the survivors' advocacy group.

If you think self-reporting by church hierarchy is reliable, look no further than the disastrous case of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which gave its review board pre-filtered information, didn't tell them they were withholding case files, and then threw them under the bus when a grand jury found far more abuse than had been reported.

So every contention in this paper is highly questionable, from the heartening finding that homosexuality among priests was irrelevant to the highly suspect contention that abuse cases dropped into the basement when the Church cracked down in the '80s. There's something for everybody to love or hate in this study, but little to trust.

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May 18, 2011

Vatican Continues to Disappoint on Abusive Priests

Cardinal William Levada

A Vatican directive for bishops to set national policies for dealing with abusive priests has been characterized as dangerously flawed and toothless by victim advocates.

The world’s Catholic bishops have one year to set national policies on clerical sex abuse of minors, the Vatican said on Monday (May 16), but such policies may vary significantly in each country, and will not be binding on individual bishops.

All national bishops’ conferences are to prepare “guidelines” on preventing abuse, caring for victims, disciplining abusive priests, and reporting suspected abuse to local police, according to a letter from Cardinal William Levada, head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office.

. . .

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi called the May 2012 deadline a “very strong and eloquent statement” on the need to address sex abuse “promptly and effectively” around the world.

The Vatican's definition of "prompt" is to allow another year to address a problem that's been known for decades. It's definition of "effective" is a plan that is not universal, does not include a zero-tolerance policy, and does not penalize bishops who drop the ball.

One very small step forward in this directive is that it spells out that bishops must comply with legal requirements to report where those laws exist.

“One must collaborate with the situation that applies in each country,” Lombardi said. “If there are laws, then the laws should be observed. If there are no laws, it is not for us to make them.”

Ideally that should put an end to the mixed messages from the Vatican that allowed horrible incidents like the Vatican endorsed obstruction of justice, which glorified Bishop Pierre Pican for refusing to turn an abusive priest over to the French authorities. That warped sense of priorities apparently went all the way to the top; the recently beatified Pope John Paul II.

But where there are no such laws, bishops are not required to take the initiative of seeking justice for victims. So there appears to be no break from the policy articulated last year by Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna, the Vatican's DA.

A frequent accusation directed at the ecclesiastical hierarchy is that of not denouncing the crimes of pedophilia of which they were aware to the civil authorities.

In some countries with an Anglo-Saxon legal culture, but also in France, the bishops – if they become aware of crimes committed by their priests outside of the seal of the sacrament of confession – are required to report them to the civil authorities. That’s a very grave matter, because these bishops are being forced to take a step comparable to a parent who denounces his or her own child. That notwithstanding, our position in these cases is to respect the law.

So the model for the Church is that of the deeply dysfunctional family, in which abuse is swept under the carpet, binding generations in shame. Sick as our secrets, people. Sick as our secrets.

What about situations in which bishops aren’t legally required to do it?

In these cases, we do not impose an obligation on bishops to denounce their own priests, but we encourage them to contact the victims to invite them to report the priests who victimized them. Beyond that, we invite them to give every kind of spiritual assistance, and not just spiritual, to these victims. In a recent case regarding a priest condemned by an Italian court, it was precisely this congregation that suggested to the accusers, who came to us for a canonical process, to also take it to the civil authorities, in the interests of the victims and also to avoid further crimes.

So unless church officials are legally compelled to report, vulnerable, traumatized victims are on their own. They'll protect their own "sons" but the children they failed to protect from those "sons" will have to deal with the legal system themselves. They'll offer moral support, though. They'll definitely offer moral support. So they're still giving their obligation to priests priority over their obligation to the membership that puts its faith in the Church and puts money in its coffers.

And they'll comply with the law when they have to but grudgingly; very grudgingly.

This process is being overseen by Cardinal William Levada, which could explain a few things. If the name sounds familiar, it should. This is the genius cited previously whose explanation for the rampant sexual abuse in the Catholic Church was to blame society.

As I have been cataloging now for over a year, sexually abusive priests have been enabled by a system that simply does not seem capable of recognizing the gravity of the crime. To understand the level of denial in the highest echelons of the Church, look no further than this elucidation from Monsignor Charles Scicluna.


“This is a long-term planning procedure. It has taken some time for the Church to recognise that there have to be clear guidelines. [emphasis added] It is a good day for people who expect that the Church gives the good example, even when it comes to the protection of minors.”

It's taken, at the very least, decades for the Church to recognize the need for "guidelines" to protect children from being raped. Not hard-fast rules, mind you. Guidelines. How much longer will it take for Vatican officials to realize that perpetrators of the most horrible, debilitating, life-destroying forms of abuse, need to be unequivocally and aggressively consequenced. And that they must be removed from positions that grant them access to, and authority over, minors.

Even here, in the United States, where the most stringent Church rules have been mandated since 2002, the recently revealed failure of the Philadelphia archdioceses to protect children from predatory priests, raises serious questions about the Church's ability to deal with the problem. How much worse can it be where no such rules exist? I shudder to think.

Faced with this continuing crisis, the Vatican's response is to ask bishops nicely to come up with some guidelines for themselves that they don't really have to follow if they don't want to. History has shown us that they don't want to.

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May 15, 2011

James Ray and the "Bruenett Asian"

Truc Do

Well, I've been waiting for this particular penny to drop for a while. I've thought since fairly early in the trial that there was some weird metacommunication between James Ray and Truc Do. What exactly is going on there is something I've discussed privately and speculated about. But James Ray's recent and quickly deleted tweet is the first tangible demonstration that something might be up between Ray and Do.

The tweet was noted by Jean D on the Salty Droid:

Cannot believe this. This tweet was just sent from JamesARayJames Arthur Ray’s phone. Seriously?

“I am friggin in love w/the bruenett asian.”

By the time I saw her post a few hours later, the tweet in question had been deleted, but Jean's not the only one who saw it. One of the people who noted and retweeted it is ABC reporter Dan Harris, who has been following the James Ray sweat lodge story for a while. He's done some of the better reportage on this fiasco. He caught Ray's very risky tweet as did someone named Kimberly Ratliff.


So that's three people who witnessed Ray's bizarre Twitter activity.

Let's lay aside for the moment the misspelling of the word brunette and the rarity of Asians who are not at least natural brunettes, and cut to the heart of the matter. Whatever it is that's had my spidey senses tingling, my concern is for Truc Do. My hunch way back in March was that he was playing her -- maybe added insurance that she'd "play full on" in the courtroom. James Ray is a dangerous manipulator and Do is particularly vulnerable right now, being a prideful woman who just had her ass handed to her by a State witness. I mean, dear god, she didn't even show up in court on Thursday. It's exactly the time that a charmer like Ray would try to console her with a risky expression of affection. Exploiting vulnerabilities and fostering dependencies is his bread and butter.

It's certainly possible that he was tweeting about some other dark-haired Asian woman but my money's on Do. And if there is something going on, she's flirting with an ethical violation. How many ways can a rising legal star self-destruct in the course of defending James Ray?

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May 12, 2011

James Arthur Ray Sweat Lodge Trial: Day 42

Tom Kelly Argues Against Ginny Brown's Testimony

Legal arguments this morning revolved around the State's intent to call Ginny Brown, mother of the late Kirby Brown, as a witness. Victim testimony has been excluded from this case in an earlier ruling -- one Kelly described as "well-written," in a moment of transparent sycophancy. But there are a handful of exceptions Sheila Polk invoked in her argument to allow Mrs. Brown to testify. Brown was in town and available this week observing the trial. Much of it revolved around getting her to verify signatures on documents that the prosecutors want to get into evidence. Ultimately, they did not call her, and in listening to argument throughout the day, I tend to think that those signatures were the primary issue, and the State was able to get the defense to stipulate to some of them. Much of it revolves around money and the fact that a lot of the prejudicial information about JRI's sales practices has been excluded. One thing brought out in legal arguments this morning that the jury will definitely not hear, is that Ginny Brown is suing James Ray to recover Kirby Brown's prepayment for the canceled Quantum Leap conference.

I posted on this issue some time ago. James Ray never refunded the prepayments for events that were canceled after the sweat lodge fiasco. He even put out this comical statement regarding the issue of these "investments." A lot of self-help personalities describe payment for events as investments, the idea being that you are investing in yourself and your future. In James Ray's case, I guess it's more like investing in a risky stock. You could win big, or you could lose it all… including your life, it would seem.

Later, Ray offered a series of teleconferences to people who were willing to drop their law suits and stop trying to get their money back.

Keeping payments for services never delivered is absurdly bad business practice but withholding those funds from a dead woman's family is beyond the pale. How exactly is Kirby Brown supposed to collect on her "investment" even conceptually. Where's her teleconference? Valhalla?

In looking at the defense table this morning, it occurred to me that it looked to be a little light. Conspicuous by her absence was Truc Do. My first thought, obviously, was that she was too humiliated over her disastrous cross examination of Dr. Dickson to face the courtroom today. But, frankly, I hate to think that her ego is that fragile. When I pointed this out to my husband he told me he would have been surprised if she had shown up. He had fully expected her to be off licking her wounds somewhere.

For all I know Truc Do is legitimately ill. Even so, I have to say that were it me, unless I was completely incapable of functioning, I would have forced my aching limbs into some pantyhose and made my way to court. Not showing up after taking a pasting like that looks worse than that pasting. I'm left wondering how many ways she can compound a problem. For someone so obviously terrified of ever showing weakness, it seems strange to me that she would make herself look weaker still by not showing up in court.

Do got clobbered by Dr. Dickson because she put foolish pride above everything, including the defense's case. She couldn't let go of the small stuff. Ultimately, she sacrificed a knight, both bishops, and the queen, to protect her pawns.

She was visibly shaken yesterday and not showing up today sends the message that she's even more upset than she appeared. I can't help wondering if her upset is over a poor strategy that actually enabled the good doctor in his destruction of her organophosphate poisoning theory. Is she even aware of that? Or is she upset that she failed to get the witness to concede some of these small but useful points she's so fond of racking up on her somewhat mysterious, internal checklist. From what I've observed in her courtroom performance, I'd be seriously concerned that it's the latter. That would make this entirely about ego. I'm sure Do would say I'm just "Monday quarterbacking" but that, for what it's worth, is my opinion.

Luis Li Cross Examines Sgt. Barbaro

Luis Li completed his cross examination of Sgt. Barbaro today without managing to discredit what is arguably the most damaging testimony yet. As I said yesterday, what Sgt. Barbaro revealed was Ray's consciousness of guilt. Li did about the only thing a defense attorney could do in his situation; try to prove that this extremely likable police officer was mistaken.

This is clearly why Li spent so much time trying to underscore Barbaro's imperfect recollection of who was receiving CPR and where. Personally, I think he wasted a lot of energy on a point that Barbaro conceded without issue. Sgt. Barbaro conveyed quite well that this was not an essential issue that required his full attention. He's not claiming a photographic memory of the scene.

What Sgt. Barbaro testified to regarding Ray's assertion that there were 40 people in the sweat lodge and that it was run by Ted Mercer, was the result of a police interview, not an observation of the overall scene. Taking witness and suspect testimony is a major part of his job. It's something he's had both on the job and special training in. These are things he documented in his report; not just recollections of numerous things he observed in the midst of a very chaotic scene.

Li's strongest points had to do with an equipment failure that caused recorded testimony to be lost and that he misreported the name of James Ray's assistant Josh Fredrickson, taking it down as Jason.

But Li's assertion that Sgt. Barbaro confused the answers he got from James Ray with answers that a Lt. Parkinson got to his questions did not pass the smell test. Confusion was possible Li said because it was such a chaotic scene. But when Sgt. Barbaro pointed out that the interview took place a good while later after the scene had calmed down, Li kept moving the goalpost. He tried to obscure the times in question, the conversations in question, and just who it was who was so confused. Sure Sgt. Barbaro, with all his SWAT experience, wasn't confused, but others might be, and Sgt. Barbaro might be an adrenalin junky just like Li himself. (???) So, he could have been confused…

I don't know, maybe Li was just trying to demonstrate what confusion is by turning his own questions into one of those muddled wordscapes of which he seems so fond. If so, he failed, because Sgt. Barbaro maintained his clarity about what interviews took place when and where and what was said to whom during his interview with Ray. He was willing to concede that Ray might have been confused. He was quite sure of what was said, however.

From there Li moved on to the possibility of toxic exposure. Sgt. Barbaro had ruled out carbon monoxide to his own satisfaction because no one presented as bright red. He had described that air was collected. But he conceded that he really wouldn't know if there were other chemicals present. Fairly irrelevant testimony in this case because he was not involved in the case after that night and would have no idea what results came back. I think Li was trying to establish that it would be procedure to sample blood and soil. Li compared all of this to samples of chemicals in meth labs. Sgt. Barbaro explained that charges, even of meth dealers, weren't filed based on lab reports but said that those reports would be evaluated when they came back. Obviously Li was trying to make the point that the lab reports in the Ray case were not much considered. Of course, the fact that those lab reports didn't show anything concerning in this case is already clear and will, no doubt, be clearer when criminalist Dawn Sy testifies.

Much of Li's cross was about that meandering. He spoke almost entirely in vague generalities and didn't really connect any dots. Whatever points he made were through implication. To his credit, he didn't try to force the Sgt. Barbaro to make full-throated concessions to being "wrong" or even an "outlier."

Sheila Polk Redirects Sgt. Barbaro

When Sheila Polk started her redirect, she pointed out that Sidney Spencer was in the area where Sgt. Barbaro thought he'd seen a woman receiving CPR. She was intubated and received extensive treatment, if not CPR. So his memory for random detail is not so bad, even amidst chaos.

Polk also asked Sgt. Barbaro to clarify the role of lab reports in arrests. He explained that the labs are always backlogged and that they don't arrest based on lab reports. It has more to do with detective work.

And as for that Jason person, was it possible he gave Barbaro a false name? "It's possible," said Sgt. Barbaro.

Polk also clarified that Sgt. Barbaro's questions were very clear and straightforward. "Where do you live?" "How many people were in the sweat lodge?" The answers were equally clear: Las Vegas and 40.

Barbaro did not think there was any confusion between his questions and Lt. Parkinson's, nor the answers they elicited from Ray. Lt. Parkinson wanted to know who was running the event and it was James Ray. Sgt. Barbaro had very clearly asked who was running the sweat lodge itself -- and he has does done sweat lodge ceremony so he has no confusion about what is entailed in that -- and Ray's answer was "Ted."

Ray, he said, could have been confused, but he described him as appearing calm and their conversation as "normal."

Sgt. Barbaro's entire manner is clear and decisive. He answers questions in brief, succinct terms. He certainly did not come across as a confused or vague person. He's a highly credible witness giving very damning testimony.

Sgt. Barbaro was excused subject to recall.

Sara Marie Mercer

The firekeeper's daughter Sara Mercer gave tearful testimony today as she recalled the horror of the deadly sweat lodge scene. As described in her mother Debbie Mercer's testimony, it was Sara who helped her pull the unconscious victims out of the sweat lodge at the end of the ceremony.

Sara reiterated a lot of what has been testified to by her mother and by Fawn Foster and she corroborated a lot of those details. There were some new pieces of information that emerged however. She had assisted her mother as doorkeeper and had been by that entrance a good bit of the time. She described having actually seen Lou Caci as he attempted to crawl out of the sweat lodge and she saw him put his arm down into the heated rocks. She described his badly burned arm as "really gross."

She saw and heard a lot of what went on inside. She described James Ray as keeping his head near the door, as close to the door as possible, which she knew vividly because she had periodically stroked his head in an attempt to lend "support." He described her as "beautiful" and an "angel."

She seemed to embrace that support role throughout, helping people as the left the lodge throughout the ceremony. No one really just "came out" of the sweat lodge, she said. They had to be helped or dragged. She would help them get to the tarps, hose them down, and give them water to drink.

She also helped move the buckets of water and rocks into the sweat lodge and brushed the ashes off the heated rocks.

Ray gave people a little bit of "crap" if they tried to leave, she said. He would remind them that this was what they were there for and that they were more than their bodies.

Most alarmingly, she heard people expressing concern about unconscious people, and heard Ray say it was "a good thing." She was "confused" that he directed people to leave people there for the last round, but she didn't feel it was her place to do anything about it.

Sara broke down completely as described the end of the sweat lodge and finding the three unconscious people inside, including the man and woman holding hands, their faces "all funny colors."

She described her father doing starting CPR as the Dream Team nurse asked, "What do I do?"

Sara had been directed to take a woman back to her room in a golf cart. The woman's eyes, she noticed, were rolling up in her head. On her way back, she ran into "family friend" Shawna Bowen, who looked at the woman and said she needed to be returned to the scene for medical attention. On the way back, the woman's foot slipped out of the golf cart and even when it was accidentally run over, she didn't react. But Sara was very unclear about who was making decisions to clear people in such obviously bad shape from the scene.

Sara Mercer said she'd cried throughout the night, afterward, and she cried throughout her testimony about the aftermath of the sweat lodge.

Polk requested a sidebar which went on for about fifteen minutes, and through it all the camera was trained on the pretty, young Sara. She continued to dab at her tearing eyes with a crumpled tissue. She rocked the chair from side to side; a childlike, self-comforting behavior.

The sidebar and some ensuing legal discussion had to do with Sheila Polk's plan to ask Sara Mercer about the 2008 sweat lodge, which Judge Darrow decided to allow. 

Sara did see people in 2008 who were not feeling too well. She described the woman who scraped up her face, when she collapsed into the gravel as she was trying to leave the sweat lodge. She also described a woman who was lying on the ground and shaking violently. She'd heard a man who kept yelling that he didn't want to die. She described people who looked exhausted, throwing up, and with their eyes rolling back in their heads. "There were some that were okay, though, too," she said.

Tom Kelly Cross Examines Sara Mercer

Tom Kelly would like to know why Sara Mercer isn't more like a teenager in one of those '50s sitcoms. He finds it strange that a girl who witnessed a horrific tragedy at 17 wouldn't want to talk about all of it with her parents. Because all traumatized kids love to talk about their feelings, especially with adults. Don't they? They also love to watch all the news coverage about those traumatic events and repeatedly re-traumatize themselves. Don't they?

Kelly tried to be sympathetic and grandfatherly towards the shaken and teary-eyed Mercer as he addressed her on the witness stand. He tried hard not to look like a creepy, old dude preying on a vulnerable, 19 year old girl. He was only partially successful.

Kelly started out chatty and warm, talking to her about her life and her plans. She responded to him openly about her current living situation on a houseboat at the boat rental company where she works. As the cross examination went on, Sara's demeanor changed just a little to that of a sullen, resentful teenager. She remained cooperative but seemed to shut down, answering questions tersely, and a little defensively. She doesn't strike me as a stupid girl and it was probably increasingly obvious to her that Kelly was being manipulative and deceptive. And that he was trying to use her testimony to impugn her parents. Did she she know her father built the sweat lodge and that her mother researched how to do it, he asked, twisting the facts like it was cool.

Mostly Kelly prodded Sara about whom she'd spoken to and what television and newspaper coverage of the tragedy she'd taken in. What about the kids at school? They'd had some questions, but she said repeatedly that she just hadn't wanted to talk about it. She'd also moved "back to Wickenburg" and changed schools right after the event. Kelly, of course, wouldn't let any of this go, coming at the same questions from a variety of angles.

Kelly tried hard to prove that her testimony had been influenced by her family, the media, and Fawn Foster. Why, for instance, did she say in a police interview that she first felt concerned when she described the unconscious, not breathing people? Pretty much the thing that would predominate in anyone's mind after experiencing a trauma like that, I'd think.

One interesting detail that popped out during this testimony was that Sara described the pumphouse where the sweat lodge coverings were kept as being full of spider webs. I don't think this had anything to do with any "black widow colony" that Luis Li had been so concerned about… since no such thing exists. But it does make the use of all those mysterious insecticides a lot less likely. Some of those kill spiders but, more to the point, spiders to don't spin webs where there is no food supply.

Kelly also had put up photos of that 2008 sweat lodge. You know, the ones with all those shiny, happy people. Those photos really cut both ways. I don't know why the defense keeps dragging those out. But he tried to make his usual points about how nothing so concerning going on there, else why would she have come back in 2009? Surely, she hadn't expected anyone to die. No, she conceded, she had not.

Sheila Polk Redirects Sara Mercer

Sheila Polk's redirect was pretty straightforward. She asked Sara to describe what her father had done during the ceremony and she explained that tending the fire was really a full time job. Kelly had tried to impugn her parents in a number of subtle ways, including implying that her first responder father should have helped throughout. She did, of course, see her father doing CPR at the end when it was obvious that lives were imperiled.

And did Sara see James Ray then? No. No she hadn't. So the underpaid firekeeper tried to save lives. The man who was paid tens of thousands of dollars to be a leader; not so much. It's a point that's made a lot but it's always worth restating it when the defense opens the door like that.

Sara also answered more questions about the 2008 event and those lovely photographs of people on the ground. She explained in more detail that there were people who "couldn't make sentences," whose faces were red, and that woman was all tensed up and shaking. And, yes, she did hear someone shouting that he didn't want to die in both years.

Sara reiterated that she did not enjoy talking about this event and did not watch or read news about it. "It's my choice to talk about it or not," she said.

Sara Mercer 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.

May 11, 2011

James Arthur Ray Sweat Lodge Trial: Day 41

Judge Darrow Discusses Trial Schedule

Time is becoming a key issue for this trial. The State filed a motion to defend its current witness list and poll the jury about extending the trial if necessary. Judge Darrow stated in legal arguments this morning that he can't constrain one or the other of the parties to time limitations. It would have to be both. But it's very obvious which side is wasting the most time. Truc Do and Luis Li have the longest, most laborious, and most confusing cross examinations imaginable. It's obvious their objective is to confuse the State's witnesses until they get a "gotcha" moment. This has never been more nakedly apparently than during Do's cross examination of the unshakable Dr. Dickson, but more on that further down.

Today there was a lot of discussion of the calendar and of whether they could bring this trial in on time. It turns out that the trial is actually scheduled to run until June 21; not that June 10 date that has been much discussed. It had been adjusted to accommodate Luis Li's scheduled break, which runs from this Friday, through next week and the following Tuesday. This creates a conflict, however, with juror 10's request for a two day vacation, which was mentioned in his initial voir dire. Judge Darrow apprised the parties that he needed to address the juror's concerns and find out whether or not he could remain undistracted even if his request remained up in the air for a while. Sheila Polk recommended giving him his time and using those two days for other legal matters. But Judge Darrow was not comfortable committing to anything.

Luis Li's suggestion? Excuse the juror. His motivations seem fairly transparent. There are only two remaining alternates. Winnow them down to nothing and maybe Ray will get his mistrial. For Li to whine about anybody needing breaks or extensions is about the height of hubris, but to hear him tell it, a two day break is unacceptable. His own scheduled break is costing the trial a week and a half. But he was unrepentant, reminding Judge Darrow that he had deferred to the court on that. He had only pressed the issue because he needed to decide about the potential financial outlay.

Darrow: Mr. Li, you advocated quite strongly for that time for yourself. I'm not, I'm not blaming you, but it was not just presented as, you know, make the call, Judge. It was uh --

Li: Your honor I mean, I, I, --

Darrow: You stressed the importance to you --

Li: It is, it is --

Darrow: And, uh, the State respected that. I respected that so --

Li: And I appreciate that your honor, but, but, but, for, I sincerely do appreciate that, but, but, the posture that it came up in is that I was at a decision point where I had to tell my, the board whether I was going or not and that there was a decision about paying or not paying. And I, and I made the record that your honor, it's clearly the court's, and I, listen, I respect --

Darrow: Oh I know it, I know it is and you don't need to say anymore on that. Absolutely, but the judge makes the call on that.

Li: I think we all, just, for whatever it's worth, I think we all thought this case would end sooner.

Is it me or is there some subtext in that last statement about the expectation of a mistrial. I'm starting to think that's been their legal strategy from the outset. I have little doubt that there will be more calls for mistrial because the defense's case is collapsing.

Increasingly, I think the defense is waging a war of attrition -- attrition of jurors, attrition of available time, and in Truc Do's case, attrition of the jury's brain cells.

On the plus side, juror 10 was interviewed by Judge Darrow and he seems comfortable with whatever happens. He said repeatedly that he is "committed" to the trial and that he'd join his family over the weekend if it came to that. So that problem, at least, appears to be solved.

Truc Do Cross Examines Dr. Dickson

Truc Do continued her siege against the steadfast edifice that is Dr. Matthew Dickson. Yesterday's cross was over three hours long. Today brought another two hours of questioning. In all that time, he simply would not concede a meaningful point and watching Do pull out all the stops to try to confuse and discredit him was exhausting to everyone but him.

Judge Darrow had to interrupt Do again today to remind her of the morning recess. He also wearily asked her how much longer she would be. Normally she stops and calls for a recess, sometimes very abruptly, but clearly because she thinks she's going out on top and leaving a favorable impression with the jury. Sometimes what point she thinks she's won is apparent to no one but her. With Dr. Dickson, though, there was no favorable time to break because every time it began to look like maybe she'd gotten him on some small technical point, he turned it around and handed her her ass. He remained cheerful, diplomatic, and non-confrontational, but he repeatedly made her look like a fool. She's clearly crammed on these medical subjects but she's still way out of her depth and it's never been more apparent that she doesn't actually know what she's talking about. She could not confuse this guy. What it comes down to, is that she could not get Dickson to say it could be organophosphates.

Do has tortured out of every medical expert who's testified the concession that they can't rule out organophosphates with certainty. Whether or not she's aware that this is a far cry from an endorsement of the organophosphate theory is unclear. She's gotten the trophy she's wanted and has used that bit of notional brick-brack to club the next doctor on the head. Yesterday was the first time I've seen her stoop so low as to try to extort that concession using juvenile peer pressure tactics, but I can't exactly say I was surprised. As I've said, I'm half convinced she's really a teenager posing as a high-powered attorney. And Dickson made her cross examination look like amateur hour.

Do's most obvious rookie mistake was that by endlessly challenging Dickson's opinions and medical knowledge, she actually gave him numerous opportunities to lecture the jury. He was arguably even more informative during cross examination than he was during his direct testimony. And because Do kept questioning his certainty on the organophosphate question, he was able to instruct the jury on the reasons this could not possibly have been a case of organophosphate poisoning.

How could he be so sure that organophosphates were not the cause of the symptoms experienced by sweat lodge participants? Organophosphates are lethal when they cause people to aspirate their own excessive saliva and drown in it. If that had been happening, the treatment they received from paramedics would have killed them. You don't put someone whose lungs are filling with fluid on his back and cover his face with an oxygen mask. And many of the most seriously ill people were secured on spine boards and given oxygen.

Do raised the issue of Stephen Ray who was described by paramedics as drooling and having pinpoint pupils. But Dickson pointed out that, as detailed in those records, the drool turned out to be vomit and his pupils at another point were described as dilated. He also pointed out that if the paramedics had suspected organophosphates they would have noted it and washed themselves to avoid contact poisoning.

Dickson also observed that Kirby Brown and James Shore were treated with CCR, a new form of CPR that applies sustained pressure to the chest. If they had been poisoned with organophosphates, fluid would have gushed from their lungs. Nothing like that was noted and they were, again, described as being kept on their backs. That would have been totally against the protocol for treating organophosphate poisoning.

In trying to shake Dickson on his contention that organophosphate poisoning is a clinical diagnosis rather than a lab test, she accidentally let him teach the jury on why that is, using the giant easel for his visual aids. He read from a current article on eMedicine which says clearly that it's a clinical diagnosis and described how the available tests work. This gave him a sterling opportunity to show the jury how lucidly he can describe the bodily processes and how to test them.

Dr. Dickson Instructs the Jury

But as Dickson went along in his explanation, Do became irritated. Where in that text did it say that such a test was a "flip of a coin?" Dickson explained that it would never say anything like that in a scholarly source. That was his own characterization of the described testing's effectiveness. Do provided him with a different text and demanded that he read it. She gave him a passage from Goldfrank's Toxicologic Emergencies. He pointed out that the edition she'd handed him was revised in 2006, whereas his eMedicine article was from 2010. A testy Do just insisted that he start reading.

Dickson: "The most reliable and appropriate laboratory test for confirming cholinesterase inhibition by insecticide is a test that measures specific insecticides and active metabolites in biologic tissue."

Do: And then it goes on to say that such testing is rarely obtainable within a few minutes or in hours, correct?

Dickson: Unfortunately, urine -- "Although urine and serum assays for organophosphorous compounds and their metabolites are being investigated such testing is rarely" -- so this is investigational is that what it's saying?

Do: "Rarely attainable."

Dickson: "Such a test is rarely attainable in a few minutes or hours."

Do: Let me stop you there.

Hughes: Objection your honor. Pursuant to 106, I think the next sentence is very important to context for that.

Darrow: You may read the next sentence.

Dickson: "Moreover normal ranges and toxic levels are not established for most compounds."

Do: Go ahead and continue reading.

Dickson: "Another useful research tool" -- so we're talkin' about research tools -- "is the measurement of acetylcholine esterase activity in neuronal tissue but this requires central nervous system or neuronal tissue biopsy" -- so we gotta take a chunk of their brain to get that test, um -- "Even this test is not very helpful unless the baseline activity is noted." -- So what that means is--

Do: Known

Dickson: What?

Do: It says "known."

Dickson: "Known," sorry.

Do: Just read the last paragraph and then we'll talk about it; the last sentence in the paragraph.

Dickson: "Currently, the only practical diagnostic study for verifying cholinesterase inhibitory poisoning is a measurement of cholinesterase activity in readily accessible tissue such as plasma and erythrocytes" -- which are the red blood cells. That's what we were just reading. [All emphases added]

Do's point? She wouldn't want the jury to think that a coin toss represents 50% to the jury and that they might interpret that as an actual statistic. Seriously. So she forced the doctor to read a passage that, apparently unbeknownst to her, confirmed much of what he'd been saying. Even if you take a chunk of brain, unless a baseline is known, the testing is not terribly informative.

Dr. Dickson took the opportunity to expound on how he came to his finding of coin toss and read from eMedicine that the cholinase base levels vary based on population, age, medications, other health conditions, diet, allergies, pregnancy, and genetics. He explained that the only utility of such a test is to monitor the progress of a patient by showing whether their individual cholinase levels increase. As he put it, "There's a lot of things that can mess up this test. So, as your physician, do you want me to hang my hat on the diagnosis based on this test?"

Well. I wouldn't. But I'm not Truc Do.

Do's worst logical failure came when she tried to demonstrate the serious lethality of organophosphates. Unable to accept that organophosphate poisoning is rare, she asked Dickson to address the problem of mass poisoning incidents. He explained that most of these incidents were in third world countries, where there is less regulation of toxic concentrations in products, and in terrorist attacks. (Think sarin.) But Do explained that Dickson's beloved medical literature -- that she openly derided him for depending on -- shows the seriousness of the problem.

Well, in that eMedicine article, Dr. Dickson, didn't it state that in the United States the American Association of Poison Control Centers receive 96,307 calls related to pesticide exposures, many of which involved organophosphate agents in 80 uses of 2 pound?... In that article that I gave you, the Goldfrank article, if you would look at page 1498... "During the five year period of 1998 to 2002, the American Association of Poison Control Centers recorded more than 55,000 exposures to organic phosporous compounds and more than 25,000 exposures to carbonates. The number of fatalities averaged about 8 per year. These insecticides still range as the most lethal insecticides in use in the United States and among the most lethal poisonings," correct?

So that's roughly 40 deaths, in five years, out of tens of thousands of exposures... Will someone please take the shovel away from Ms. Do? 

But Do was not going to give up until she scored some victory, however small, over Dr. Dickson. It has never been more clear that Do's objective in cross-examining witnesses isn't to reveal some obscured truth or even to make a meaningful point. She's just trying to score points in a contest of wills with the State's witnesses. If she makes a witness appear wrong on anything, no matter how trivial, she can, to some degree, discredit that witness, and leverage their concessional statements with other witnesses to confuse them. I can't help thinking that her metric might be out of step with the jury. And it is definitely out of step with a general public that is disinclined to trust defense attorneys because of just that kind of trickery... and the whole getting criminals out on technicalities thing.

As Do closed in on the end of five hours of testimony she tried desperately to get the drop on Dr. Dickson.

Do: So looking at the same records, four doctors reached a different conclusion than yours.

Dickson: Well, not in the medical record, they didn't.

Do: I understand but you know now that they testified, right?

Dickson: Well, you told me hypothetically yesterday.

Do: Correct.

Dickson: Okay.

Do: Okay, so no reason to dispute that, right?

Dickson: A hypothetical?!

Do: Right.

Dickson: Okay, no.

Do: Okay, so if this jury has heard from three doctors and will hear from a fourth, and four doctors have said they can't rule out organophosphates and the signs and symptoms are consistent with organophosphates, that would be an opinion very different from what you've offered on the stand, right?

Dickson: Hypothetically yeah, but so we're goin' back to, you're telling me that all these doctors said that all these signs and symptoms are consistent with organophosphate, not consistent with heatstroke. That's completely opposite to they said in the medical record.

. . .

And it's completely opposite to their medical exam findings.

Do: You're saying the doctors testimony in this case to this jury is all wrong compared to the medical record. Is that what you're saying?

Dickson: Yes.

Hughes: Objection. Misstates the doctors' total testimony to the jury.

Darrow: Sustained.

So Do finally went so far in stretching the other doctors' testimony that the piece of taffy broke. They continued. And no matter how she tried to twist the facts she could only confuse him enough that he asked for clarifying questions until she became frustrated and confused. And she only provided him with more opportunities to make himself incredibly clear to the jury about the differences between heat illness and organophosphates and how even though some symptoms overlap, there is no mistaking one for the other.

Dickson: The thing we have to look at you've got overlapping symptoms that are in tons of things. Um, and so we need to look down at the big picture. What can you look at clinically that's gonna say this is organophosphate, this is something else, like heat illness. Um, and these guys did a great job. They even called the toxicologist. The toxicologist went with, well, doesn't sound like organophosphates, 'cause they're not --

Do: I'm sorry. Let me stop you there... Where in the evidence do you see somebody calling a toxicologist who said not consistent with organophosphates?

Dickson: Well, they said, actually, they said well, it still could be carbon monoxide poisoning.

Do: Dr. Dickson, you just told the jury... You just told the jury that you looked in the records and you saw that they were thoughtful and did a great job and they also called the toxicologist who said not consistent with organophosphates. Show me where in the evidence that appears.

Dickson: No, well if I said that, what they went with was the differential diagnosis. They looked at anticholinergic. The looked at toxidromes. And they called, this is what I would do, is call the specialist. I'd look in the book and say, what do you think. We've got these constellation of symptoms and we're tryin' to put 'em into a box. What could it be?

Do: So when you just told the jury, less than a minute ago, that you looked at the records and you saw evidence that they called the toxicologist who said not organophosphates that was wrong. Correct?

Dickson: Well, they said, consider carbon monoxide and so they --

Do: Please answer my question... and then we can go to lunch.

Dickson: Okay... That was "wrong." (sarcastically) I misspoke.

Do: It was wrong. Right?

Dickson: I misspoke.

Do: It was wrong. It's not anywhere in the evidence. Is that right?

Dickson: Do you want me to read it to you?

Do: Dr. Dickson if you believe it's in the evidence where somebody called a toxicologist who said it's not organophosphates --

Dickson: That's not, that's not in the evidence. It says they called and they said well, probably, it sounds like carbon monoxide poisoning.

Do, gleeful that she caught the doctor in a misstatement seemed completely incapable of grasping his point, which was really fairly simple. To get to carbon monoxide they would have already excluded a number of things, including organophosphates.

Do: Okay, now that we've corrected that piece of testimony that was wrong, my question to you is this, okay, you've reviewed hypothetically everything that Dr. Mosley, Dr. Lyon, had at the time they reached their autopsy conclusions, right?.... They say that they cannot rule out organophosphates conclusively and that there are signs and symptoms consistent with organophosphates. When you say somebody is Monday quarterbacking isn't it you that's Monday quarterbacking?

Of course, what he'd actually said was Monday morning quarterbacking and his entire point was that he was in a position to do that, whereas ER doctors had to act in the moment and act on the best information they had.

Do continued to beat him with how at odds he was with the other medical experts.

Do: So can you concede the possibility that one doctor against four, that one doctor is wrong?

Dickson: I still don't see how it's one versus four.

Do: Hypothetically.

Dickson: Hypothetically. Hypothetically what?

Do: Hypothetically, you're the only one with this conclusion that is different from Dr. Cutshall, Lyon, and Mosley.

Dickson: Hypothetically, pigs can fly but I'm not gonna concede that.

. . .

Do: Final question, doctor, isn't it possible since you're Monday quarterbacking, don't have the personal hands on experience in the case investigation, that you're the one who's wrong.

Dickson: Again, I don't think we're on different pages. All their evidence that I have here says we're on the same page.

Do: So it's possible that you're wrong.

Dickson: I'm not saying it's possible I'm wrong.

Do: Okay, so we're back to you being the outlier. Right?

Dickson: No, I don't see that.

Do: You don't see that up on that easel.

Dickson: Are we gonna do this all day long?

Do: No.

Dickson: [Laughs]

Do: Right? Looking at the easel, you are the outlier.

Dickson: I, I disagree with ya.

Do: Alright thank you, doctor.

If you find that dialog painful to read, consider what it was like to transcribe it. Oy. And there is no capturing the snottiness of her tone on words like wrong and outlier. But she got nothing except for an admission that he misspoke by inferring a piece of information, rather than having an exact quote to refer to. So, perhaps, a juror who is as confused as she -- or hopelessly confused by her -- will find reasonable doubt.

Personally, I think she came across so badly and as so remarkably childish and petty in this cross that she may have really turned off anyone in the jury who wasn't already hopelessly turned off by her. But there's no accounting for taste. They might think she's brilliant. There are plenty of people who do based on her record as a prosecutor. All I can think is, how the mighty have fallen.

Bill Hughes Redirects Dr. Dickson

Bill Hughes did a fine redirect but there was little in it that Dr. Dickson wasn't able to make abundantly clear during the cross examination. Notably, he did provide Dr. Dickson with an opportunity to explain how he deduced that organophosphates had been ruled out by the toxicologist. He explained that the procedure was to go over the symptoms with a toxicologist and rule out everything that did not fit, like cholingergics and anticholignergics. Those things that were ruled out would not generally be included in the report; only the differential diagnosis that resulted from that conversation. In this case, that was carbon monoxide.

Hughes also gave Dickson the opportunity to explain that eMedicine has a different portal for doctors than for the general public and that he used the doctor portal as do doctors all over the country -- including the defense expert Dr. Paul.

The jury question for Dr. Dickson was excellent and bodes ill for James Ray.

From a physician's perspective, what survival advice would you give a patient of yours to help prepare her for a forthcoming event in which she will be exposed to an enclosed, extreme heat environment for over two hours?

Dr. Dickson recommended taking time to acclimate to high heat; preferably a couple of weeks. He also recommended keeping well hydrated -- continuously. That would alleviate some of the symptoms. Mostly, he would recommend education on the signs and symptoms of heat related illness, such as nausea and cramping, so that they knew to get out before the mental changes of heatstroke impaired their ability to make life-saving choices. He would tell them to get out and cool off when they started to experience any of the early symptoms.

Bill Hughes followed up by asking if he would advise against fasting the day before and Dr. Dickson said that he would most definitely advise against that. He also recommended getting plenty of sleep.

A very tired looking Truc Do attempted to salvage something by asking if "hydrate, hydrate, hydrate" would be good advice and if providing water, electrolyte beverages and fruit would help. She also pointed out that Liz Neuman did not fast the day before. (From which we're supposed to deduce what? That fasting beforehand was actually a good idea?)

Dr. Dickson was excused subject to recall.

Sgt. Frank Barbaro

In the final hour today, the State introduced new witness Sgt. Frank Barbaro. He oversaw the crime scene the night of the sweat lodge disaster, until it was taken over by a Lt. Parkinson. Sgt. Barbaro has an impressive background, including SWAT experience and the narcotics canine unit. For all that, he seems like a very jovial, mellow, and likable fellow.

Attentive jurors would notice that he corroborated Melinda Martin's "exaggerated" testimony by mentioning that, like those first responders she'd mentioned, Sgt. Barbaro had wondered if it was some weird cult thing or mass suicide.

There was really only one really major revelation in his brief, direct testimony. He explained what information James Ray had given him when he was brought back to the scene by deputies. Asked how many people had been in the sweat lodge ceremony, he'd said around 40. Asked where he lived, he said Las Vegas. (He owned a home there but his primary residence and business offices were and are in California.) And when he was asked who had run the sweat lodge, he said Ted, meaning poor, hapless Ted Mercer.

With those few simple details, that prosecutor Sheila Polk elicited from Sgt. Barbaro, we now know that Ray was conscious of his own culpability. He knew there was something wrong with the way he ran his sweat lodge and with the number of people he crammed into it. It means the State has now established mens rea.

When police tried to question him a little later, he declined to answer under the advice of his counsel.

There were other stunning elements to Barbaro's observations that night, but the jury didn't hear them because they were too prejudicial and couldn't be directly tied to Ray. Among them, he almost arrested a Dream Team member for obstruction because she was trying to send witnesses back to the rooms and interfering with police questioning. Also, someone believed to be Josh Fredrickson followed him around and also tried to interfere with questioning. Much of this can be found in his official interview which can be found here.

Luis Li began his cross but I'll be darned if I know what to make of it. He spent a lot of time and energy on Sgt. Barbaro's imperfect recollection of where he'd seen CPR taking place, to what point I can't imagine. There were a lot of other logistical questions and I believe I heard something about organophosphates, God help me, but I'll wait until Li gets farther along to draw any real conclusions.

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.