Defendants Derick Almena and Max Harris, both wearing suits and with hair tucked back in ponytails, sat next to their lawyers in an Oakland courtroom on Tuesday — the first day of the trial — while Judge Trina Thompson heard several motions from the prosecution.
Prosecutors in the case allege that master tenant Almena, 48, and 29-year-old Harris, who was considered second-in-command of the building, had created a fire trap in the building.
Defense attorneys have argued Almena and Harris are scapegoats and that the building’s owner, Chor Ng, should face criminal charges.
Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Autrey James argued that the defense should be barred from using the terms "cover-up" and "scapegoat."
Thompson said she would not allow the defense to use the terms during opening arguments.
"The sideshow might become the show," she said from the bench. "My biggest fear is the parties get so distracted not looking at Dec. 2 and what led up to it."
But the judge ruled defense attorneys can otherwise use the words. The prosecution, Thompson said, could always object.