Ghost Ship Trial: No Verdict Yet; Deliberations Resume Tuesday - NBC Bay Area
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Ghost Ship Trial: No Verdict Yet; Deliberations Resume Tuesday

Derick Almena and Max Harris have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of 36 people at a December 2016 party at the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Ghost Ship Trial: No Verdict; Deliberations Resume Tuesday

    In its first full day of deliberations, Thursday the jury charged with deciding the fate of two men charged in a deadly fire at an Oakland warehouse in December 2016 did not reach a verdict. Melissa Colorado reports. (Published Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019)

    In its first full day of deliberations, Thursday the jury charged with deciding the fate of two men charged in a deadly fire at an Oakland warehouse two years ago did not reach a verdict.

    Deliberations are not expected to resume until 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, as one of the jurors has an obligation Monday, according to the judge.

    Derick Almena and Max Harris were charged with involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of 36 people at a December 2016 party at the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse.

    Alameda County prosecutors say the men acted with criminal negligence when they illegally converted the industrial building into a residence for artists and held unpermitted events inside.

    During closing arguments after a four-month trial, prosecutors told jurors that 35 of the victims died on the upper level of the warehouse because they received no warning and had little chance to escape down a narrow, ramshackle staircase.

    Deputy District Attorney Autrey James said Almena failed to install smoke alarms, sprinklers and other safety devices and ignored repeated requests to obtain proper permits because he wanted to avoid inspections.

    The prosecutor said Harris was "no innocent bystander" because he acted like a manager by collecting rent and coordinating events at the warehouse.

    The defense countered that the men were being used as scapegoats and said city workers share the blame for not raising concerns about fire hazards. They also argued that the fire was set deliberately by outsiders. No official cause was ever determined by investigators, so arson could not be ruled out.

    Almena's attorney rejected prosecutors' characterization that the warehouse was a "death trap" and said he wouldn't have risked the lives of his three children by having them live inside the warehouse.

    Almena and Harris have also been named in lawsuits from victims' families saying that Oakland's fire and building departments failed to inspect the warehouse annually as required. The lawsuits say inspectors would have discovered the illegal conversions.

    The owners of the building were also named in lawsuits. They have not been charged and have not spoken about the fire.

    Almena and Harris were set to be sentenced to nine and six years in prison, respectively, after pleading no contest to manslaughter last year. But a judge threw out their pleas after many of the victims' families objected, saying their proposed sentences were too lenient.

    They each face up to 39 years in prison.

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