‘I would often be in tears’: Ghost Ship juror opens up about trial

Bay Area

(KRON) — “I would often be in tears because we would hear horrible things from autopsy reports and it turned out once we got to the room — we were not allowed to talk about anything,” Ghost Ship trial juror Millard Billings said.

We are digging deeper into the experience of Ghost Ship trial alternate juror, number 17 Millard Billings.

It has been several days since he and his fellow jurors acquitted Max Harris and deadlocked on the charges against co-defendant Derick Almena.

Both were facing 36-counts of involuntary manslaughter for the people who died in the warehouse while attending a music event back on Dec. 2, 2016. 

In a phone conversation with KRON4, Billings said he was surprised that he was called to the courthouse to take the place of juror number four who was among the three jurors removed for alleged misconduct after 10-days of deliberating.

“Not only was I surprised, but by some crazy thing they were the three jurors I was closest to,” he said. “So I was shocked. Of course I had no communication with them so I really didn’t know what exactly they had done.”

Nonetheless the retired American History teacher from Castro Valley took his role as an alternate juror very seriously and said he and the other two alternates were prepared to begin deliberating anew.

“It was horrible. It looked liked they had all been crying,” he said. “The jury that remained I think they were devastated because not only were they shocked, they knew that they had to start over again.”

When it came to Derick Almena, the jury split their votes 10 in favor of guilt, two for not guilty.

One of the no votes was from a female juror who he says refused to change her mind.

“She was holding fast and she would never ever budge,” Billings said. “We knew that it was hopeless with her.”

However he was one of the 10 who did arrive at a guilty verdict for Derick Almena.

“From my perspective, the reason I voted guilty was for one reason, the lease specifically said all of things things you can’t do,” Billings said. “The real person who broke the law was Derick Almena.”

Almena returns to court on Oct. 4 to learn if he will have to face a new jury, should the D.A. choose to retry the case again.

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