Judge Removes Three Jurors, Orders Deliberation Reset in Ghost Ship Trial

Ghost Ship Anniversary
AP Photo/Ben Margot
– Ghost Ship Anniversary
In this photo taken Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, flowers are left at a makeshift memorial to those who died outside an art collective known as the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, Calif.

The trial against two men charged in the fatal Ghost Ship warehouse fire in San Francisco in December, 2016 that claimed the lives of 36 people, took another turn today when a judge removed three jurors, bringing deliberations to a standstill after 10 days, according to a report in the East Bay Times.

Alameda County Judge Trina Thompson replaced the jurors with alternates and ordered a fresh round of deliberations on the fate of Derick Almena and Max Harris, each charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

The jurors were accused of misconduct and forbidden to talk to news agencies or discuss information from the press. She also issued a gag order prohibiting attorneys from discussing the case outside of court.

The four-month-long trial finds the jury down to a single alternative, which would force a mistrial if they run out of jurors. Judge Thompson said there is a “high probability” of having to use the last alternate because of scheduling conflicts.

The jury of seven women and five men were told to disregard all previous deliberation. Families of the victims were informed of the move.  Last year, the judge dismissed a planned plea deal and sent the case to trial instead.

The original jury had been deliberating since July 31, a total of 10 days after three months of testimony. 

Prosecutors hold Almena and Harris responsible for the blaze at the Ghost Ship warehouse, while the defense has shifted blame to the police, fire or child protective services workers who were aware of conditions but did nothing. They also introduced the theory of arson as a potential cause of the fire.