Jury selection begins in manslaughter trial of James Arthur Ray - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Jury selection begins in manslaughter trial of local sweat lodge guru

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CAMP VERDE, Ariz. -- Jury selection is under way in the trial of a motivational speaker accused in the deaths of three people in Arizona.

James Arthur Ray has pleaded not guilty to three counts of manslaughter, stemming from a sweat lodge ceremony he led near Sedona in October 2009.

"I started to look around and I saw that there were many people lying around who were not conscious," said one of the survivors, Dr. Beverly Bunn. "I saw eyeballs rolled back into their heads."

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have spent the past few weeks narrowing the list of potential jurors.

Prosecutors contend Ray recklessly crammed more than 50 people inside a sweltering sweat lodge and admonished them for wanting to leave.

"You know, when he came out (of the lodge) the helicopters weren't there," said former James Ray International employee melinda Martin. "But at that time it was still bodies everywhere, passed out. And... he walked out of there looking like a million bucks."

Ray's attorneys say the deaths were a tragic accident and Ray is not to blame.

"Things went horribly wrong," said Robert Brown, brother of one of the three victims. "We talked to many people in the lodge and we found out it was a very confusing scene, because people were passing out coming to, so we knew there very dangerous decisions made by him about when people were allowed to exit."

Opening statements are set for March 1 in Camp Verde.

The judge overseeing the case says he'll see if an impartial jury can be seated before ruling on a change of venue motion.

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