OAKLAND, Calif. — It’s been eight days of jury deliberations in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire trial, and although no sign of a verdict yet, a defense attorney speculated Wednesday that the jury could make a decision soon.
The jury of nine women and three men spent the day listening to testimony being read back to them from three witnesses: defendant Derick Almena; Nico Bouchard, who co-signed the warehouse lease; and Ryan O’Keefe, who was present the night of the fire.
Almena and Harris are charged with 36 counts each of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of three dozen people who died the night of the Dec. 2, 2016, fire during a dance and music party at the Ghost Ship warehouse in the Fruitvale district.
Tony Serra, the lead attorney for Almena, said he took it as a good sign that the jury asked for the testimony of his client in its entirety.
“I think it’s every criminal defense lawyer’s fantasy, when his client testifies, to have the transcript read back to the jury,” Serra said Wednesday afternoon.
He stated that having the jury hear his client’s testimony right before making a decision was a positive.
Serra said he believed the jury was “on the eve of a decision.”
“This could be the final aspect of the case that they’re considering,” Serra said.
Almena was on the stand for four days in July, but reading his testimony back to the jury would take less time because of a lack of objections, or pauses. Even so, reading back Almena’s testimony could take several hours, likely going into Thursday morning.
“Dare I be at this juncture jubilant? No, I have to wait and see what occurs next,” Serra said.
Of course, there’s no way of knowing where the jury is in its deliberation process. David Gregory, father of Michela Angelina Gregory, who perished in the fire, said that it’s been torture waiting for the verdict these past couple of weeks.
“Every day that passes the question mark gets bigger and bigger. I hope the jurors will make the right decision, and for me and my family and all the victims’ families, that is a guilty verdict,” Gregory said to the Bay Area News Group.
He said the defense attorneys are the only ones making public statements, spinning every small development in their favor.
“We have no idea, and we have no control in the outcome,” he said.
However, Pamela Krueger, mother of Micah Krueger Danemayer, who also died in the fire, said she and her husband, Chris Danemayer, do not want a guilty verdict for Harris.
“For us, Max is yet another victim of the entire situation which goes beyond the fire, and we do not hold him accountable for the loss of our son,” she said in an email.
The jury began deliberating the afternoon of July 31, but only for about an hour that afternoon. Jurors typically meet between 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day, but with a two-hour lunch break and two 15-minute breaks.
The jury has not asked too many questions besides the request Tuesday afternoon for read-back of testimony and two questions on the first day of deliberations regarding definition of terms.
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