SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA (KTLA) -- A jury on Thursday didn’t convict two men charged after flames tore through a party at a San Francisco Bay Area warehouse that had been converted into a mazelike artist space, stunning families of the 36 victims who had opposed a deal that would have put the pair behind bars.
Jurors acquitted Max Harris of involuntary manslaughter but said they could not agree on whether to convict or acquit Derick Almena after deliberating over a two-week period.
As the judge declared a mistrial, sobs and gasps erupted from family and friends of the victims who have packed the courtroom for the emotional three-month trial. The men were accused of filling the building in Oakland with so much clutter that it trapped people at an electronic music party nearly three years ago.
“I’m in shock,” said David Gregory, whose 20-year-old daughter Michela perished in the fast-moving fire. “We were hoping for justice, but we didn’t get justice today.”
Michela Gregory and her 22-year-old boyfriend, Alex Vega, died when fire roared through the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse, which had been illegally converted into a live-work space for artists and held events.
The building was packed with furniture, extension cords and other flammable material but had only two exits and no smoke detectors, fire alarms or sprinklers, prosecutors say.