A jury in Oakland, California, delivered a mixed verdict Thursday, acquitting one man on 36 involuntary manslaughter charges for the deaths of 36 people at an illegal warehouse residence in December 2016 and deadlocking on the second defendant. A fire broke out at the Ghost Ship warehouse during an electronic music concert on the illegally constructed second floor, trapping partygoers inside. The three-month trial touched on gentrification, code violations, city culpability, and allegations of arson.
After two weeks of deliberations, the jurors decided that the 29-year-old de facto warehouse manager, Max Harris, was not responsible for the dangerous code violations and fire hazards at the artist collective, and two of the 10 jurors declined to convict Derick Almena, the 49-year-old master tenant and leaseholder. Almena had moved out of the warehouse after being told it wasn't a safe home for his young children and wasn't there the night of the fire.
Before the trial, Almena and Harris had pleaded no contest to manslaughter charges and faced nine and six years in jail, respectively, but a judge threw out their pleas last year after the families of the victims objected. Both men faced up to 39 in prison if convicted. Prosecutors said they will meet with victims' families before deciding whether to retry Almena.
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