Judge rules Ghost Ship defendants will go to trial

Byby Leslie Brinkley KGO logo
Thursday, December 14, 2017
Both Ghost Ship defendants will go to trial, judge says they are responsible for deadly fire
Derick Almena and Max Harris will both go to trial for 36 counts of manslaughter for the 36 people who died in the Ghost Ship fire last year.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A judge ruled that the two men charged in the Ghost Ship fire will face trial. Derick Almena and Max Harris are both charged with 36 counts of manslaughter for the 36 people who died in the Ghost Ship fire last year.

The prosecution in closing arguments said, "The fact that people could die in the fire was foreseeable. There were no alarms. There were no smoke detectors."

That seemed to resonate with the judge, who echoed witness testimony in calling the Ghost Ship a "death trap."

Judge Jeffrey Horner ruled the case should go to trial saying, "Both defendants are legally responsible for what happened on that terrible night and are responsible for the deaths of 36 individuals."

RELATED: ATF agent testifies in Ghost Ship hearing

Before the ruling it was a contentious day over fire codes with prosecutors blaming the defendants for not installing fire alarms and sprinklers in the Ghost Ship and defense attorneys blaming the city of Oakland for not enforcing codes to prevent the fire.

Oakland Fire Marshal Miguel Trujillo was the final witness for the prosecution. He testified they had received no complaints about the Ghost Ship that would have warranted a fire inspection prior to the fire. He stated there were no alarms, sprinklers or illuminated exit signs. The defense was appalled.

"The city of Oakland and the fire department are supposed to prevent these situations by doing inspections. They've never inspected that warehouse since 1930," said Max Harris' attorney Curtis Briggs. "How many more lives are in danger? The indictment lies with the city of Oakland."

RELATED: 'Heartbreaking' testimony marks day 2 of Ghost Ship preliminary hearing

In closing arguments, prosecutors said there was negligence involved with chemicals stored in the warehouse, lots of wood, and an illegal staircase that all contributed to the fire spreading quickly on December 2, 2016.

Thirty-six people died. Their names were read aloud in court as victims' friends and families broke down in tears. The bailiff passed around a box of tissues.

Defendants Almena and Harris both face 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Elissa Roy implored the judge to reduce the $750,000 bail on Max Harris. Judge Horner denied the motion saying "the charges are extraordinarily serious."

Click here for more stories, photos, and video on the Ghost Ship fire.