Ghost Ship Trial: Derick Almena on the stand for last day of testimony

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Defendant Derick Almena took the witness stand for the fourth straight day in the Ghost Ship trial in Oakland. Almena and co-defendant Max Harris are charged with manslaughter in the 2016 fire that killed 36 people.

"My guy's an artist man, he's not a criminal," said defense attorney Tony Serra.

That's the defense argument in a nutshell, that Almena was not criminally responsible for the deadly blaze that left dozens of people who were attending a concert dead. Almena was the master tenant who rented out space to others inside the Ghost Ship.

GHOST SHIP TRIAL: Derick Almena gets combative on witness stand

The day before, the exchanges between Almena and lead prosecutor Autry James were testy. On Thursday Almena worked at keeping his cool, despite a rapid-fire barrage of questions Serra says were designed to convince the jury that, "Oh, he's a vicious animal. Oh the heart of him is violent so you probe."

Under prosecution questioning, Almena admitted all the plumbing, electrical and carpentry work that was done inside the converted warehouse was done without permits. Almena said the building had not been inspected for 71 years before the fire. Prosecutors then took Almena back to an interview with a local TV station in 2018 in which he reportedly said, "the whole structure of my defense is to point and blame."

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Serra says that was taken out of context and contrary to what he said on the stand.

"Remember, he kept saying I'm blaming anyone, I'm just trying to tell you what occurred," Serra said.

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Attorneys for co-defendant Max Harris believe Almena helped their case.

"In our opinion, Mr. Almena entirely exonerated Mr. Harris" according to Curtis Briggs, attorney for co-defendant Max Harris.

The defense attorneys have said repeatedly throughout this trial if you really want to find out what is behind the fire that killed 36 people, you would have brought the building's owners and the people who performed the electrical work.

Take a look at the latest stories and videos about the Ghost Ship Fire trial.
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