Alameda County

Ghost Ship Trial: Jury Wants to Rehear Testimony From Witness Carmen Brito

The jury in the Ghost Ship warehouse trial wrapped up its second week of deliberation Thursday with another request that caught one defense attorney by surprise.

Jurors now want to rehear a part of the testimony from witness named Carmen Brito, who lived at the Oakland warehouse and was there on the night of the deadly fire.

NBC Bay Area sat down with Brito back in January 2017 for a story about donations for people displaced by the fire. Prosecutors brought up Brito to stand back in late May.

The jury is focusing on what she said during cross-examination, specifically when defense attorney Tony Serra asked her about what was discussed during the communal meetings at the Ghost Ship.

Brito testified that the topic of the fire safety was brought up. She said that people did talk about having a fire sprinkler system, but that at the end of the day the art collective did not own the building and they did not have thousands of dollars necessary to install a fire sprinkler system.

Serra said he has mixed feelings about what this request could mean for his client Derick Almena.

"She was a really good witness for us, so I see it as a positive," Serra said. "But they never asked again to hear my client's testimony, and I view that from my perspective as a negative."

Deliberations in the trial started Aug. 1.

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.

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

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.

If convicted, Almena and Harris each face up to 39 years in prison.

The Associated Pres contributed to this report.

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