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Judge dismisses three Ghost Ship trial jurors

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Jim Heaphy, Cullen328 on Wikimedia Commons
Site of the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, Calif. Thirty-six people were killed in a fire that erupted at the Fruitvale District artist collective warehouse during a live music show on the night of Dec. 2, 2016.

People gathered Monday afternoon in front of an Alameda County courthouse waiting for a “major announcement” in the trial against Derick Almena and Max Harris in connection with the deadly 2016 Ghost Ship warehouse fire. The jury has been deliberating the case since July 31 as the fate of the two men, both charged with 36 counts of involuntary slaughter, hangs in the balance.

Much to the dismay of victims’ families and friends, the announcement made shortly after 3 p.m. was not a verdict but yet another issue discovered within the jury, which has been problematic from the onset of trial at the end of April.

Judge Trina Thompson dismissed three jurors who have been replaced with alternates and placed a gag order on all trial participants. The new jurors will have to join deliberation that has been in progress for 10 days, essentially forcing the jury to re-start the process.

The reason for the dismissals was not immediately given. Only one alternate remains available for the duration of deliberation and if further complications arise and require more than one replacement, it will result in an automatic mistrial.

This is already the second formal legal proceeding in the case against Almena and Harris. The first ended in Judge James Cramer’s rejection of a combined plea deal, forcing the case to jury trial.

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated that this is the second trial in the case against Almena and Harris. The first legal proceeding ended in a rejection of a plea deal. The text has been corrected.

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