Opening arguments begin in Ariz. sweat lodge case - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Opening arguments begin in Ariz. sweat lodge case

CAMP VERDE, Ariz. (AP) - Prosecutors say a self-help guru bragged to participants about the heat in one of his Arizona sweat lodge ceremonies before the event turned deadly.

Prosecutor Sheila Polk says James Arthur Ray promised to deliver personal, financial and spiritual growth to dozens of people. Instead, she says he led them in a sweltering October 2009 ceremony that killed three people.

Ray is on trial on three counts of manslaughter in the deaths of Kirby Brown of Westtown, N.Y.; James Shore of Milwaukee; and Liz Neuman of Prior Lake, Minn.

In opening arguments Tuesday, Polk asked jurors to keep in mind the victims' mental state. She says Ray conditioned them over five days to trust him and put aside their beliefs and common sense in what she referred to as a "heat endurance challenge."

Ray's attorneys say the deaths were a tragic accident.

The trial is expected to last four months.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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