Witness testimonies in Ghost Ship Fire Trial to begin Monday

Bay Area

Witnesses are scheduled to take the stand Monday to testify in the deadly Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire trial in Oakland, but the prosecution’s first witness may not be allowed to testify. 

The attorney for Ghost Ship Warehouse Creative Director Max Harris, filed a motion Friday asking the judge to block the testimony of Carol Cidlik, whose daughter was among the 36 victims killed in the blaze on Dec. 2, 2016

Harris and master tenant Derick Almena, are charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter.  

The defense says Cidlik’s emotional testimony would prejudice the jury. 

Legal analyst Steven Clark weighed in on the move saying he is not surprised that Alameda County prosecutors plan to call Cidlik to testify. 

Cidlik’s testimony will center around a text message her daughter, 29-year-old Nicole Siegrist, sent her that night which read, “I’m going to die.”

“What the prosecution is saying is regardless of how the fire started, the fact that the people could not exit was the reason this was gross negligence and manslaughter,” Clark said. 

An attorney for Harris wants to block Cidlik’s testimony stating, “The danger of undue prejudice is extremely high and vastly outweighs any probative value that Ms. Cidlik’s testimony might provide.”

Clark said, ” I hink the judge will allow this in, particularly not just to show this is one of the victims of the Ghost Ship Fire, but also because the text message is extremely relevant to the prosecution’s theory of the case that this was a death trap.” 

Harris’ attorney also wants to stop one of the victim’s who survived the fire, from testifying.

Samuel Maxwell was in a coma for five weeks after the fire and now relies on his mother to interpret for him. Clark says the issue of his mother playing interpreter in court could get complicated. 

“That creates a bit more of a problem because interpreters have to be certified by the court,” he said. “I think the judge, in an effort to allow them to testify, will give it a shot, but if it becomes too emotional and is not truly interpretive but more akin to testimony, I think the judge may have to step in and fashion some other type of remedy for communication with the jury.”

The exact cause of the Ghost Ship Fire remains undetermined. 

The trial is scheduled to resume Monday morning at 9 a.m. 

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