Crime Old - DO NOT USE - The Coast News Rancho Santa Fe

Jury selection begins in sweat lodge deaths case

CAMP VERDE, Ariz. — A jury selection began Feb. 16 for the trial of a Carlsbad motivational speaker who is accused of causing the deaths of three people who died after participating in a sweat lodge ceremony.
James Arthur Ray, 53, pleaded not guilty to three counts of manslaughter, which stem from a spiritual retreat he hosted near Sedona in October 2009.
Prosecutors contend that more than 50 people were crammed inside a sweltering sweat lodge and Ray admonished them if they wanted to leave, according to reports.
Ray’s attorneys say that the defendant is not to blame and that the deaths were a tragic accident.
His attorneys have requested a change of venue and asked that his case be moved from Yavapai County to Maricopa County, due to what they feel is unfavorable and excessive media coverage.
The judge overseeing the case, Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow, said he’ll see if an impartial jury can be seated before he rules on a change of venue motion, said a report from the Associated Press.
Opening statements are scheduled for March 1 in Camp Verde.