James Arthur Ray convicted of negligent homicide

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by Jared Dillingham and Jennifer Thomas

Bio | Email | Follow: @JaredDillingham

azfamily.com

Posted on June 22, 2011 at 3:08 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 22 at 9:17 PM

CAMP VERDE, Ariz. -- A jury reached a verdict Wednesday in the manslaughter trial of self-help leader James Arthur Ray.

After four months of trial and just eight hours of deliberations, a jury found Ray not guilty of manslaughter, but guilty of three counts of negligent homicide, a lesser offense.

Ray was tried for the deaths of three people: Liz Neuman, James Shore, and Kirby Brown.  They died after  a sweat lodge ceremony near Sedona in 2009. The ceremony was part of a spiritual retreat run by Ray.  Dozens more fell ill.

While Ray's defense team argued the deaths were accidental, prosecutors were able to convince the jury Ray was reckless, and at least party responsible for the deaths.

Victims' family members walked out of court, saying they are pleased with the verdict.

"Justice was served here today," said Liz Neuman's ex-husband, Randy, "The prosecutors did an awesome job."

"If you're going to mis-use power and convince people to follow you, you're going to be held accountable. It's about time," said Shawna Bowen, a former Ray follower who was at the sweat lodge ceremony.

Prosecutor Sheila Polk asked the judge to send Ray to jail immediately, but the judge allowed Ray to walk out of court.  He'll report back for sentencing next week, where victims' family members are scheduled to testify.

Ray's potential penalty for the three negligent homicide convictions ranges from probation to 11 years in prison. 

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