James Ray sentencing will be after mid-October
PRESCOTT - James Ray's local attorney was back in court Monday, but Judge Warren Darrow has not yet set a date for sentencing of the motivational speaker and author who was found guilty of negligent manslaughter in June.
Attorney Tom Kelly, still recovering from treatment for a heart condition, appeared alone in court and outlined the defense's difficulties in arranging schedules, both their own and that of the many witnesses they intend to present at a pre-sentence hearing.
Kelly said his doctor has cleared him to defend a client in a jury trial that begins Oct. 19, but emphasized that he was also ordered to be on light duty. He said he needs a second procedure that has not yet been scheduled.
The re-emergence of Kelly prompted Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk to suggest that the proceedings could resume immediately, even offering to forego a scheduled family vacation the week of Oct. 7-15. Saying that the state has made a strong showing, both in arguments and pleadings, of "the need to move this case forward," Polk said she would be fine with the previous scheduling, which would have started the pre-sentence hearings on Wednesday.
Darrow, though, said he would not set the hearings and sentencing, which will require at least six court days, to begin before Oct. 15, adding that perceptions that the delays have been solely caused by defense maneuverings were somewhat inaccurate.
Darrow explained Monday that the originally scheduled date for the pre-sentence hearings, July 25, was delayed because of his own desire to rule properly on a defense motion for a new trial that was filed July 13. Darrow said he "looked long and hard" at that motion, to the point of calling for oral arguments on the issue.
Those arguments took place Aug. 16, and were not affected, Darrow said, by a vacation defense attorney Luis Li took earlier that month.
"Mr. Li's vacation had nothing to do with that setting," said Darrow, who did not issue his ruling denying the motion until Sept. 14.
But attorney Robert Magnanini, who represents the family of Kirby Brown, who was one of three people that died as a result of heat-related injuries they suffered in a Ray-led sweat lodge near Sedona in October 2009, emphasized that any further delay was a blow to the victims' families.
"I've been fairly inundated with requests from families of other victims who are beside themselves with the delays," Magnanini said Monday. "For them, (these proceedings) are the number one thing in their lives."
He said victims had asked him if there was a possibility of taking Ray into custody "if there's a month or two delay in sentencing," but Darrow did not respond to that notion.
As to the makeup of the pre-sentence hearings, Darrow has ruled that the state may present evidence and witnesses in an attempt to prove aggravating factors in addition to the jury-decided factor that Ray's actions in the deaths of Brown, James Shore and Liz Neuman caused severe emotional harm to their families. That prompted Li to suggest that the state present its case first, as it must bear the burden of proof.
Polk objected to that idea, saying that would require her witnesses, which include family members, to remain in Prescott for a longer period in order to be present for the sentencing itself.
Darrow allowed only that he would think closely about that and about the scheduling for the hearings.
"There has been a delay, yes," he said, "but not an unusual delay considering the circumstances. It's time to move the case forward."