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Lawyers want sweat lodge trial moved

PRESCOTT, Ariz., Aug. 11 (UPI) -- Prosecutors are fighting self-help guru James Arthur Ray's bid to move his trial in the Arizona sweat lodge deaths because of publicity.

Ray has pleaded not guilty to three counts of manslaughter in the deaths of three participants in a sweat-lodge ceremony at his retreat near Sedona.

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In court filings, The (Phoenix) Arizona Republic reported, Ray's lawyers claim media coverage rife with "sensational accusations" and improper statements from investigators has tainted the pool of prospective jurors in Yavapai County.

The case had been scheduled for trial but has been postponed because the judge was called to substitute for another judge who collapsed during a murder trial. No new date has been set.

Ray's "Spiritual Retreat" drew worldwide media attention after two people died and 20 were hospitalized following a sweat-lodge event in October. A third participant died in a hospital days later.

Attorneys for Ray argue in the filings a jury about 130 miles south in Maricopa County, Ariz., would be more impartial. Prosecutors retort in court in papers there's been more coverage in the Phoenix area than in Yavapai County, and say bias can be eliminated more through jury selection than change of venue.

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Neither Ray's attorneys nor prosecutors would comment, the Republic said.

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