Ghost Ship Trial: Jury enters deliberations after 4 months of testimony

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- After four months of testimony, the Ghost Ship fire trial entered jury deliberations on Wednesday, July 31, 2019.

It is an agonizing wait for the families who have lost so much, and who long for some measure of justice for the 36 people who died in a December 2016 inferno, inside a warehouse known as the "GhostShip."

"It's nerve-wracking, but you just have to wait and just hope for the best. It's just day by day, hour by hour," said Mary Vega, the mother of Alex Vega, who died the night of the fire.

TIMELINE: How the investigation into the deadly fire Ghost Ship fire unfolded
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Two men were charged for the deaths of 36 people in the Ghost Ship fire, but the investigation put a spotlight on incidents before then that could have prevented the tragedy.


The trial phase of the two-month criminal trial ended with a rebuttal closing argument from prosecutor Autrey James.

He told jurors that Ghost Ship founder Derick Almena began breaking laws, fire and building codes, within days of signing the lease for the empty Fruitvale warehouse in late 2013.

"He was indifferent to the consequences of his actions. It is not a defense that the defendant did not know that he was breaking the law," proseuctor Autrey James told the jury.

RELATED: Ghost Ship Trial: Video shows Almena saying fire inside would be 'horrible'

James also told the jury that Almena lied repeatedly about the fact that people were living in the Ghost Ship, among other things.

"The final argument of the prosecution was an emotional tirade, an emotional tirade is the last refuge of a dying cause," said Almena's attorney Tony Serra.

James also told the jury that the defendants' claims that arsonists set the deadly fire were baseless, and even if true, do not exonerate Almena or Harris for creating a condition the inside the warehouse - The lack of marked exits, fire alarms and smoke detectors and a questionable staircase that prevented so many from getting out in time.

RELATED: Ghost Ship Trial: Derick Almena's wife takes the stand

"It doesn't hurt us that they did that," said Tyler Smith, Max Harris' attorney. "The fact that he did actually helps us because if anything I think it will leave at least a few of jurors scratching their heads."

Finally, James told the jury of the Ghost Ship and its three dozen victims,"If it was so safe, why aren't those 36 people with us here today? Because it was a deathtrap!"

The relatives of the victim told us, many of them are now extremely close.

"I'm so thankful for all of you," said Ashley Lanier, who lost her brother in the fire. "A guilty verdict won't bring our loved one back, but it will give us some peace."

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