Ghost Ship fire: Jury hands down one acquittal; mistrial for second man

The Ghost Ship warehouse, site of a fire on December 2, 2016, that killed 36 people in Oakland, California. Photo: Jim Heaphy/Wikimedia Commons

Sept. 6 (UPI) — A jury in California acquitted one man on 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter related to the 2016 Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland, Calif. They were unable to reach a verdict for a second man.

Max Harris was found not guilty of the charges, for which he faced 39 years in prison. The jury was “hopelessly deadlocked” on the charges for Derick Almena, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson said, declaring a mistrial.

The jury foreman said the jury voted 10-2 in favor of convicting Almena, but multiple votes failed to end the deadlock.

Almena, 49, rented the warehouse, which he then sublet to artists. Prosecutors accused Harris of helping Almena convert the warehouse into living spaces and hold large parties. They said Almena negligently failed to install smoke alarms and other safety devices inside the warehouse, and declined to obtain inspections.

Harris was expected to be released from jail Thursday night, while Almena remained in detention. Almena was expected to return to court Oct. 4 to determine a new trial date.

Deliberations began July 31, and on Aug. 19 Thompson replaced three jurors after the original jury failed to reach verdicts.

The Dec. 2, 2016, broke out during a concert on the second floor of the warehouse. Most of the victims were unable to evacuate the building via a makeshift staircase, which prosecutors called an “inadequate means of escape.”


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