According to several news outlets stationed at Alameda County Superior Court Thursday, the jury has reached a verdict in the trial against Derick Almena, 49, and Max Harris, 29, for the Dec. 2, 2016 fire that killed 36 people at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland’s Fruitvale District.
The verdict is expected to be read at 2 p.m., bringing an end to a lengthy and emotional trial that has been fraught with complications.
The jury trial itself was the result of a rejected plea agreement more than one year ago when Judge James Cramer “wrestled at length” over a joint deal. The plea, if accepted, would have greatly reduced the sentence for both men who each face 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the fire that occurred during an electronic music concert at the warehouse on that Friday night.
Cramer was not satisfied at the time that Almena exhibited a level of remorse deserving of the plea deal.
“I am expressly rejecting this deal with regard to Mr. Almena, but I do not know that it will help the victims’ families here.”
Testimony in the jury trial began May 6, presided over by Judge Trina Thompson. The case has since been further complicated by outward tensions between attorneys and ongoing issues surrounding the jury. Thompson released and replaced three jurors Aug. 19 and although she did not disclose specifics in open court, she did say that two of the three released jurors would be charged with contempt of court.
The alternate jurors joined deliberations just two days before a scheduled two-week break. They returned to the deliberation process Tuesday. If found guilty of all charges, Almena and Harris could each face up to 39 years in prison.