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"I'd like a fair trial too," asks Arizona's sweat lodge author

Posted by attorney Howard Snader

On behalf of The Law Offices of Howard A. Snader, LLC posted in Criminal Defense on Thursday, August 18, 2011

The right to a fair trial is one that all Americans have. A fair trial does not require that prosecutors, who are human, act like robots, free from the possibility of error. It does require that those errors do not rise to such a level that they could or did actually affect the outcome of a verdict, a claim that one Arizona author has made.

The Arizona man was convicted of criminal charges related to a kind of self-help, spiritual enlightenment book that he wrote. According to the jury, his written promise of a breakthrough during a sweat lodge ceremony caused the death of three readers. That conviction, he says, was based on prosecutorial misconduct that rose to such a level it actually swayed the jury's verdict.

The judge presiding over the case heard both the defense and prosecutions arguments concerning a motion for a new trial. While the hearing came to a close on Tuesday, August 16, 2011, the judge did not immediately make a decision.

According to the motion made by the defense, there were at least 10 categories of misconduct. Those categories included allegations of bad-faith arguments made by prosecutors during the initial jury selection, that the prosecution failed to disclose vital evidence, prosecutorial questioning that resulted in inadmissible hearsay and general impermissible statements that were made during the course of trial.

While prosecutors have admitted to at least three of the alleged errors, they say that the misconduct was harmless and denied at least 28 other allegations. Prosecutors may get to walk away from their mistakes, but the defendant facing nine years in prison takes them very seriously.

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Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Judge weighs new trial bid in AZ sweat lodge case," Aug. 16, 2011

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