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Fri, Feb. 21

Judge settles final local issue in James Arthur Ray case

PRESCOTT - Due to retire next week, Judge Warren Darrow closed the book on the local legal issues surrounding the James Arthur Ray homicide case by ordering - and then staying - a $4,000 sanction against the Yavapai County Attorney's Office.

Ray, a self-help speaker and author, was convicted of three counts of negligent homicide in June 2011 for causing the October 2009 deaths of Kirby Brown, James Shore and Liz Neuman during a sweat lodge ceremony that was part of a workshop at a retreat center near Sedona. He is currently serving a two-year prison sentence.

But even before Ray's trial began in March 2011, defense attorneys contended that the state, led by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, had violated disclosure rules by withholding information about a meeting of medical examiners in December 2009. During that meeting, prosecutors and the medical examiners watched a detective's Powerpoint presentation that the state at first refused to disclose, citing it as exempt work product. They also discouraged the medical examiners from cooperating with defense interviews about the meeting, which Darrow ruled was "the context in which they received the information that was used to formulate their opinions" and should have been shared with the defense.

Darrow ruled on the disclosure violations before the trial began, declaring that the defense was indeed owed monetary restitution, but balked when the defense submitted a request for more than $27,000 they said they spent in righting the situation.

In his Monday ruling, Darrow chided the state for its initial failure to disclose, saying "the state should have known the restriction was improper," but rules as "unreasonable" the defense's attempt to bill $350 per hour while researching and drafting its motion to compel, as well as the reasonableness of "having multiple attorneys duplicate work or appearances."

Choosing an amount he felt appropriate, Darrow levied the $4,000 sanction, then further ordered the sanction stayed, as the state has indicated it will cross-appeal Ray's appeal of his conviction, which his attorneys have not yet filed.

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