Ghost Ship Fire Retrial: Jury selection dates set; former juror explains not guilty vote

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- It was a fire that claimed 36 lives in Oakland on a December night more than three years ago.

A fire that no one has been held criminally responsible.

RELATED: Ghost Ship Fire Verdict: Max Harris acquitted, released from jail, mistrial for Derick Almena due to hung jury

She stood before reporters, but did not want her face shown, "Betty" was one of just two jurors who voted for acquittal last September in the criminal trial of Ghost Ship founder Derick Almena.

"Juror Number 5" described why she couldn't find Almena guilty criminally guilty in the December 2016 fire that killed 36 people. It happened in a warehouse Almena had transformed into an artists' collective known as the "Ghost Ship."

"I found him innocent," said Betty. "I think there were a lot of other people who shared the guilt. In my heart, I do know that it was the right thing and in the end, I did something that was right for me and something I could live with, without compromising my integrity."

Almena's next trial begins in two months. Co-defendant Max Harris, who was found not guilty on 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter, will be called as a witness by the defense.

"Next trial! We're excited!" said Almena's lead defense attorney Tony Serra. "We're going to do better than we did in the first trial! Why do you say that Mr. Serra? First and foremost, the statute of limitations has run on the owners."

RELATED: What's next for the Ghost Ship case? The retrial scenarios and huge pending civil suit

Now that the statute of limitations has run on prosecuting the owners of the warehouse, the Ng family, the defense plans to call them as witnesses in Almena's next trial.

Former juror, Betty has some advice for the next group to decide Almena's fate.

"Just go in with your heart," she said. "Take everything into account and think with both your mind and your heart."

Barring a plea agreement, jury selection will begin in early April. Because of all the publicity in this case, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson said the initial pool will number more than 300 prospective jurors.
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