The likelihood of a mistrial in the Ghost Ship fire case is growing by the day as nine jurors entered their 11th day of deliberations with three newcomers, and deliberations began all over again Tuesday. In open court today, meanwhile, the judge in the case announced that two of the three dismissed jurors are going to face contempt charges related to their conduct.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson said that the two jurors had violated her rules about reading material outside of case evidence, and talking to people outside the jury. As KPIX reports, one of the three female jurors was referred to by the judge as "non-offending" — likely because she turned in the other two but waited too long to do so — while the other two were the offenders. Defense attorney Brian Getz, who is on Derick Almena's defense team, put his objection on the record saying that they considered all three jurors as "offending."
The exact nature and details of the jurors' misconduct has not been discussed in open court.
On Monday, the defense team, led by attorney Tony Serra, entered an oral motion to declare a mistrial, which Judge Thompson denied.
Still, tensions are running high, and one of the three alternates seated on Monday has already declared that they have a scheduling conflict and will be unavailable for a month — between September 9 and October 6, per KPIX. As the Chronicle reports, this led Judge Thompson to say on Monday that there is a "high probability" that the fourth and only remaining alternate will get seated as well — which would mean deliberations would have restart yet again. The judge already directed the current 12-person jury to begin again at square one late Monday afternoon. She also once again admonished the jury not to use the internet, and not to interact with "anyone from a news agency."
As KQED reports, the judge has received "six notes from six different jurors," though the nature of those notes is unclear.
Other jurors are also said to have scheduling conflicts coming up, and the entire jury is scheduled to go on a recess beginning Thursday, and continuing until after Labor Day. The jury was seated in late April, and has been listening to evidence in the case since early May.
Defendants Derick Almena and Max Harris face 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter, and each face up to 39 years in prison in connection with the December 2016 Oakland blaze.