Judge replaces 3 jurors in Ghost Ship Trial

Ghost Ship

OAKLAND (KRON) — The judge has decided to replace three of the 12 jurors deliberating the Ghost Ship warehouse fire trial. 

The announcement was made Monday during the 10th day of deliberations.

The three female jurors were dismissed and replaced by three alternative jurors.

This means deliberations must start over.

According to legal expert Paula Canny, the alternate jurors have not been in the prior deliberation, so the process must start over.

The removed jurors would then likely be subject to a gag order, Canny said, meaning they would not be allowed to discuss with the public why they were removed from the trial or the status of deliberation.

The two defendants, Derick Almena and Max Harris, each face 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deadly warehouse that killed three dozen people in 2016.

Both Harris and Almena face up to 36 years in prison.

During the more than three-month long trial, the jury heard testimony from victims’ family members, city and fire department officials and defendants Almena and Harris themselves. 

With fire victims’ memories as the trial’s backdrop, prosecutors worked to convince the jury that Almena and Harris were criminally negligent and at fault for the deaths of three dozen partygoers who died in the fire. 

Defense attorneys for the pair worked to dissuade jurors from a guilty verdict, presenting evidence the fire was started by arson or an explosive.

Another central piece of defense attorneys’ claims was that to this day, the cause and origin of the warehouse fire remains unknown. 

On the night of Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, the Ghost Ship was the site of an electronic dance concert, where Oakland’s eclectic artist community gathered. 

The fire began around 11:30 p.m. at the 10,000 square-foot warehouse in the city’s Fruitvale neighborhood. 

About five hours later, with the help of 52 firefighters, the fire was out. 

Many remained missing and nine people were confirmed dead by the next morning. 

By Dec. 5, 2016, three dozen were confirmed dead. 

In June 2017, Almena and Harris were charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. 

They’ve remained in police custody since. 

Almost two years after their arrests, the trial got underway. 

Prosecutors opened their case to the jury by remembering the victims, setting the stage for a trial with emotional, and sometimes combative, witness testimony

In their opening statements, attorneys for Almena and Harris emphasized that the fire was started by arson, discrediting their clients’ guilt.

Last month, Almena took the witness stand. 

While wiping away tears, the 49-year-old suspect said, “[I’m] tired, brokenhearted, I’m just so sad. I built something, I dreamed something, I attracted beautiful people to my space.”

During Harris’ testimony, he detailed what happened the night of Dec. 2, 2016. 

He remembered stamping hands of guests at the Ghost Ship and later seeing a glow coming from the warehouse as the fire erupted. 

He said “eventually, people stopped coming out,” while the fire burned. 

He told the court he did the best he could, but that he felt responsible for the fire because it was his house.

>>Click here for full coverage of the Ghost Ship trial

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