Brandy Rainey testified May 26 in the manslaughter trial of self-help author James Arthur Ray how she pushed through headaches, stomach pains and steam scathing the back of her throat in a sweat lodge ceremony in Sedona, Arizona, reported the Associated Press.
The Austin, Texas resident partook in the the October 8, 2009 ceremony that lead to the deaths of three participants under the stewardship of Ray, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Eighteen other followers were injured during the ceremony, reported ABC.
“I told myself I went there to get something, and if the other people could do it, I could do it,” she testified, according to the AP. “I was clear at that point it was fear. And all the anxiety and all the nausea was from my fear.”
Rainey said she imagined she was sitting on a block of ice in the Arctic to lessen the intensity of the heat.
All participants in the so-called “Spiritual Warrior” seminar signed waivers, acknowledging a risk of harm. Rainey said she only skimmed the waiver and during questioning told defense attorney Tom Kelly that she never communicated her physical pain or fears with Ray.
Ray’s attorneys claim such admissions mean Ray had no way of knowing anyone’s health or life was at stake. Other witnesses recounted people collapsing, vomiting, violently shaking and experiencing delusions. They contend Ray heard and ignored the concerns.
According to participant Beverly Bunn’s interview with “Good Morning America” on October 23, 2009, Ray did not physically force people to remain in the tent, but he urged them to stay inside and scolded them to overcome their weakness. Then as his followers laid dying or injured, Ray fled the scene, said Bunn, whose roommate, Kirby Brown, died following the ceremony on October 17, after staying alive in a coma for more than a week.
Many other testimonies will conclude the prosecution’s case. Mark Rock, one of Ray’s volunteers, will take the stand again; he began his testimony late Thursday, May 26. The trial, which began mid-February, is scheduled to end June 21, reported the AP.