Jury begins deliberating Ariz. sweat lodge case

June 21, 2011 - 3:45 PM

CAMP VERDE, Ariz. (AP) — Jurors have begun deliberating the fate of a self-help author facing manslaughter charges in the deaths of three people at an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony.

Prosecutor Sheila Polk on Tuesday wrapped up her rebuttal to closing arguments made by the defense last week before the case went to the jury.

Jurors are considering whether James Arthur Ray was aware of, and consciously disregarded, a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death at the October 2009 ceremony.

A conviction on all three manslaughter counts could send Ray to prison for more than 37 years. A lesser charge of negligent homicide would cut the maximum sentence to about 11 years. Both crimes are probation-eligible.

Jurors will have to pore over hundreds of exhibits and countless hours of testimony that began March 1 in their discussion.