On Thursday — two years, nine months and four days after a fire ripped through an Oakland warehouse-turned-arts-collective, killing 36 people — a Bay Area jury returned a verdict in the Ghost Ship fire trial.
Two men, Max Harris and Derick Almena, had been facing 36 years in state prison on 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the fire.
The jury acquitted Harris, the warehouse’s 29-year-old self-described “creative director,” and deadlocked on the charges against Almena, the warehouse’s property manager. Yesterday’s verdict closed a long judicial story that involved two trials, an aborted plea deal and a near-mistrial. It was not immediately clear whether or not prosecutors would attempt to retry Almena.
“For the victims’ loved ones, many of whom had either sat in court and listened to tragic testimony about their relatives’ final moments during the four-month trial or flown back and forth from other parts of the country to attend key hearings, Thursday’s result was the latest round of pain and frustration,” as crime and policing reporter James Queally explained in his story on the verdict.
“You have 36 people who died, and there’s no one taking responsibility for this,” Grace Kim, whose cousin Ara Jo died in the fire, told Queally.