Ghost Ship jury selected; opening statements set to begin

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- After nearly a month of jury selection in the Ghost Ship criminal trial, a panel has been seated and opening statements are set to begin Tuesday morning.

"We're delighted in the jury that was selected. It's a beautiful cross section of all races," said defense attorney Tony Serra, who represents Derick Almena, the founder of the Ghost Ship artists collective and one of two men criminally charged in the deadly December 2016 fire inside the warehouse located in Oakland's Fruitvale District.

RELATED: Ghost Ship warehouse fire trial begins

"My client, along with those who occupied the premises, at the heart of them, they were artists. They were musicians," said Serra. "It was not a firetrap and Mr. Almena through act or omission is not responsible for this fire."

Almena and co-defendant Max Harris both face 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutors are expected to argue that the men were aware conditions in the warehouse were unsafe and that they lied to officials and the owners about the fact that people were living there.

The jury is made up of nine women and three men, with six alternates. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson lifted a gag order on the case once the jury was sworn in.

RELATED: Ghost Ship defendants ask for officials, landlords to be arrested for fire

Opening statements are set to begin at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Serra says he does expect Almena to testify in his own defense, in a proceeding that is expected to last at least two more months.

The judge denied defense requests to call Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf to the stand.

Defense attorneys plan to argue that Harris and Almena are not criminally responsible for the fire and that the City of Oakland, building owner Chor Ng and others share at least some of the blame. None others have been criminally charged.

Serra said his client is anxious to prove his innocence and is not doing well behind bars.

"My client, he's not a criminal. He's an artist, " said Serra. "He's never been in jail before. He's clean and he's suffering."

See more stories related to the Ghost Ship Fire case.
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