Ghost Ship defendant Derick Almena to return to court Friday following mistrial

Bay Area

OAKLAND (KRON) — One of the two defendants in the Ghost Ship Trial will return to court Friday.

Max Harris was acquitted last month, but the judge declared a mistrial in the case of Derick Almena after jurors deadlocked.

The two men were charges with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of three dozen people at a warehouse fire in Oakland.

One Friday, Almena will find out if he’ll receive a new trial date.

Almena’s attorney, Tony Serra, says his client is as strong as ever and they are ready should they have to go back to trial.

“He’s gaining strength, not weakness,” Serra said.

Almena is doing well, Serra said, reading, making art and getting along with his new roommate in the Santa Rita Jail.

“He talks to his wife every night.  And his children. His children are doing great in school,” Serra said.

Earlier this month, the jury reached a verdict in the four-month long Ghost Ship Trial, acquitting Harris, but deadlocked on Almena.

Serra says they’ll find out on Friday if the case will be dropped, retried or if they will be ordered to negotiate — which he says he does not want to do.

“So I fight — it’s all I’ve ever done,” Serra said. “I go to trial. I am not friendly with the opposition. I’m a trial lawyer, so I’m not going to negotiate. All or nothing at all. That’s my proposition.”

Serra says he wanted Harris to be at Friday’s heading but he will not be at the courthouse and doesn’t expect he will testify if Almena goes back to trial.

“He’s out of the area I’m told. He’s not close. He’s engaging in a whole new life in a new environment and he doesn’t want to come back and revisit what gave him so much pain,” Serra said.

Serra has also asked that his client be released from jail.

He cannot afford his $750,000 bond and Serra says Almena is not a flight risk or danger to the community and should not be sitting in jail awaiting trial.

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