Ghost Ship Trial: Jury asking to re-hear fire captain's testimony

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ByLaura Anthony KGO logo
Thursday, September 5, 2019
Ghost Ship Trial: Jury are asking to re-hear fire captain's testimony
The Ghost Ship jury wants to re-hear testimony from Oakland Fire Captain George Freelen, who was inside the warehouse after a 2014 arson fire.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The Ghost Ship jury wants to re-hear testimony from Oakland Fire Captain George Freelen, who was inside the warehouse after a 2014 arson fire. Freelen told jurors in May that during that 2014 visit, Derick Almena told him that no one lived in the warehouse.

"It's a note that indicates they're in the midst of significant deliberations," said Almena's lawyer Tony Serra about the jury's request to re-hear significant portions of Freelen's testimony. "They asked for the direct and the cross. The witness was put on as a prosecution witness."

Freelen also testified he wrote a report about fire dangers inside the warehouse back in 2014-- a report that has never been located.

The jury will hear Freelen's testimony first thing Thursday morning when deliberations resume.

Seven women and five men are deciding whether Ghost Ship founder Derick Almena and Max Harris are each guilty of 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

MORE: Ghost Ship jury resumes deliberations - but for how long?

The Ghost Ship warehouse was gutted by fire on December 2, 2016, killing 36 people, most of whom were attending a concert on the second floor.

The jury resumed their discussions Tuesday after a 12-day break. Last month, three jurors were removed by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson for misconduct.

"There's one alternate juror left," said Brian Getz, one of Almena's defense attorneys. "If that juror were to replace an existing juror and we were to lose one more juror, of course it would be an 11-member panel, which is a mistrial per se... unless all parties agree to having an 11-person jury, which occasionally happens. "

TIMELINE: How the investigation into the deadly Ghost Ship fire unfolded

While the jury deliberates on the sixth floor of the courthouse, Harris and Almena wait in a jail cell on another floor of the same building. Both men were arrested about six months after the fire, in the summer of 2017, and have been in jail ever since.

"I think anyone who's got their head on the chopping block worries about a jury deliberation, regardless of the weight of the evidence," said Getz, "And in this case, both Almena and Harris have had a long time to think about what the jury's going to do, hopeful that the verdict's going to go their way."

As it is now, the jury may have as few as six days of deliberation for the entire month of September due to various vacations planned by the individual members. Judge Thompson has yet to rule on whether she will allow those vacations or order the jurors to cancel their plans.

See more stories and videos related to the Ghost Ship fire.