Posted by: Donna Cunningham | June 22, 2011

James Ray found guilty of negligent homicide in sweat lodge case

 By the CNN Wire Staff
June 22, 2011 6:29 p.m. EDT
  • Self-help guru found guilty of negligent homicide in deaths of three people
  • The jury finds Ray not guilty of manslaughter charges
  • Three people died in 2009 after participating in ceremony led by Ray
  • Participants had paid up to $10,000 to join Ray’s “retreat”

(CNN) — Self-help guru James
Ray has been convicted of negligent homicide in the deaths of three
participants in an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony, but he was found not
guilty of manslaughter charges.

The case will continue on June 28, when the jury will convene to make a
decision regarding aggravating circumstances in the case.

Prosecutors claimed Ray’s recklessness in operating the sweat lodge
caused the deaths of Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, New York; James
Shore, 40, of Milwaukee; and Lizbeth Marie Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake,


  1. It sounds like a just verdict. I am sure the guy did not mean for the people to die but his actions sure as heck were negligent and reckless and greedy. Another example of New-Age guru hubris.

  2. It boggles my mind that adult participants did not leave the lodge. Was it a matter of pushing the limits versus listening to the body? Personally I don’t like to be forced, not by others and not by myself. I am all for exploring our boundaries and going to the edge, but not at such costs and never by following another. Having participated in various sweat lodges, for that event to have turned so tragic was so very unfortunate, but hopefully will not discourage the continued use of properly held traditional sweat lodges. The leader showed serious impaired judgment. The presence of some toxic elements might make more sense here. My heart goes out to all affect by this tragedy.

    • “not leaving the lodge” might just replace pseudospeak for “drinking the Kool-Aid”…or for (P. T. Barnum’s) “there’s a sucker born every minute…”
      or for [insert pithy qoutes over last 5,000 years]…
      The more things change, the more they stay the same–from a human perspective, –which is exceeding small…and subject to entropy.
      Yikes, B

    • covering sweat lodges with tarps keeps ALL the gases in. There didn’t have to be any toxins in the wood for dangerously low oxygen levels and dangerously high carbon dioxide to occur.

      I’ve been in a sweat lodge and I know how reluctant I was to decide to leave on my own; but the person conducting our ceremony made it a safe and comfortable enough environment that I could move towards the edge where there was cool air coming in.
      Imagine the personal stakes for people who paid THAT much for an uplifting experience. ( (gag))

  3. Sad but Just.
    The Sweat Lodge is NOT for Sale!

    • Jeezo, peezo, Barehand! ….Now we’re posting synchro? and to the minute?? What were the chances of that?
      Must be the motion of Gitchee Gummee…the Big Lake…our Mother…… Native or Scandinavian –our aim is true.
      (Sidebar–it appears that Barehand and Berta share a common background…go figure…)……

  4. I’m no attorney, but I bet that the large fee for participation had something to do with it in terms of legal statutes. Also, I wonder how much of a hit he took due to bias against New Age types and the high fee, by members of the jury??

    I doubt he had any bad intentions–just ignorance. Should have been manslaughter, in my humble opinion.

    Of course, I wasn’t in the courtroom, didn’t see all the evidence, etc, etc.

  5. P.S. On a gut-level, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was something else nefarious going on–something the retreat leader didn’t know about. No evidence–just intuition.

    Anyone else get that feeling???

  6. I do think it is a just verdict–“negligent homicide”…but he looked like he was going to cry-or lose it-so where is LOA for him? Did he maybe lost it in the $$$? The “flow” is so easy to lose..if in an instant the motive is wrongly placed…
    I did not follow the trial. Was he aware of the distress of some of the people? Do they have “aids or guides” watching over? If so should they have been indicted? Or was he just conducting biz as he had done many times before? Mainstream law, and medicine, “looks” for reason to clamp down on what they do not think is “normal”.

    I do hope justice is done for him, because as was commented above, these people were adults..they could have left… some of the fault has to be with them. Even though it was a tragic occurrence…And the loss of anyone is a loss to all…
    Maybe I am glad these things cost so much I can’t do them…who knows..

  7. Doesn’t anyone have common sense anymore? Too hot is too hot.

  8. I would love to hear you comments on the astrology of this event and this man. Anyone have the data?

  9. as per the event itself….I have seen men go to battle and crowds froth up into rabble for less. This was just another case of idealism trumping common sense. A leader can lead by fear, humiliation, compassion, love, terror, generosity or any number of tools. We don’t know what this guy had on his tool belt…I would love to see his chart and a chart of the event!

  10. For what it’s worth, court/prison docs show James Ray’s birth date to be 11/22/57… and James Ray personally claimed to be a Scorpio. If true, then he would have had to be born between midnight and 3:00 a.m. (in Honolulu) in order to be have a Scorpio sun. And his sun would be at the critical degree of 29 degrees.

    Like most Scorpios, and many in the virtually unregulated selfish-help industry, James Ray was all about power and control over others for his own self-serving purposes. James Ray used a combination of techniques to compromise and manipulate his customer’s thought processes and free will — including hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming, sensory deprivation and sensory overload, peer pressure, human isolation, etc. It seems some people are more susceptible than others, for many reasons, but we’re all susceptible at certain times and in certain ways.

    Testimony in court from people both in and outside the death lodge was clear that James Ray knew people were in trouble and that James Ray denied, hampered and delayed the life-saving medical help they needed, leaving people to suffer and die in the death lodge. Most of the people in the death lodge were barely able to take care of themselves, much less someone else. (James Ray, however, was by the opening, getting fresh, cool air every time the flap opened, and was frequently splashed with cold water.) And as several medical doctors testified, losing the ability to think and reason is a hallmark symptom of heat stroke — one step before death. At some point, even before losing consciousness, they lost their ability to save themselves.

    Whatever mistakes the victims made, they were never a threat to anyone else, and paid for their mistakes with their lives. And now James Ray is paying for his crimes in an Arizona prison — as he should be.

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