Defense: Molotov cocktails may have sparked deadly Ghost Ship fire

Officially, the cause of the deadly Ghost Ship warehouse fire in oakland is "undetermined."

But attorneys for Derick Almena and Max Harris, the two men on trial for the tragedy say, it's arson.

On wednesday, Almena's attorney Tony Serra took it one step further when he gave opening statements to the jury.

"One witness close by heard popping sounds, like glass breaking, right before the fire and then he saw people run out the back door, and that suggests that Molotov cocktails, or at least bottles of gasoline,were utilized in the arson," Serra said outside court.

In his remarks to the jury, Serra said the unidentified arsonist, and not his client, should be facing trial on 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter, one count for each victim who died. 

The attorney said Oakland police and firefighters visited the warehouse and never brought up any safety issues. Serra compared the Ghost Ship to the Louvre

"And they thought it was beautiful and awesome," Serra said. "They never told him that it was, you know, a fire hazard. They never red-tagged him. They never gave him an eviction notice."

Serra says he wants to humanize Almena, whom he says isn't the tyrant or cult leader as others have portrayed him. 

The defense attorney ended his remarks by showing the jury a picture of Almena with his wife and their three children.

"The heart of it is, I'm going to describe my client as a trying to create a beautiful environment for all art, and making it as safe as possible," Serra said.

The defense strategy is to paint their clients in the best possible light. A day earlier, Curtis Briggs, an attorney for Harris, variously described his client as a "servant, not a boss," a "Cinderella" who acted as a de facto janitor and not the creative director or executive director of the warehouse, and a "Buddhistic" and "Christ-like" figure.

Testimony begins Monday. There are no court sessions on Fridays, and Judge Trina Thompson has jury duty on Thursday.

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