The judge in the trial of Ghost Ship fire defendants Derick Almena and Max Harris has dismissed three jurors — a quarter of the jury — for undisclosed reasons, and replaced them with three alternates.
On the tenth day of deliberations in this trial that began in April, it's been clear that the jury has not been able to come to a consensus very easily on the guilt of either or both of the defendants. The revelation that three jurors had to be replaced, as reported by KRON 4, is the latest in the ongoing tension and drama around this trial, in which the families of 36 victims eagerly await a guilty verdict.
Almena and Harris each face 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the tragic December 2016 warehouse blaze. Most of the dead were attendees at an electronic music show in the upstairs part of the space, but the Oakland warehouse was also home to two dozen or so artists, including Harris and Almena and his family of five.
An expert speaking to KRON 4 today says that deliberations must now start over at the beginning because the three alternate jurors were not present for what's gone on over the last 10 days. The three dismissed jurors will be subject to a gag order, and will not be able to discuss the reason for the dismissal.
The original jury consisted of 9 women and three men.
Almena's defense attorney, longtime Bay Area character Tony Serra, said from the outset of deliberations that the longer the jury is out, the better the chances of a hung jury and a possible mistrial.
Last Wednesday, the jurors asked for read-backs of some testimony, including that which was given by Almena — a sign that Harris's attorney Curtis Briggs took to mean that his client's guilt was likely not as much in question.