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8 jurors selected in Jay Street fire trial

8 jurors selected in Jay Street fire trial

Snowstorm could delay opening statements
8 jurors selected in Jay Street fire trial
Kenneth Tyree leaves the courtroom as jury selection continues Tuesday in the Jay Street fire case.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

SCHENECTADY — Eight jurors were selected Tuesday to hear evidence in the criminally negligent homicide trial of former city building inspector Kenneth Tyree, officials said.

That leaves four main jurors left to be selected and at least three, possibly more, alternates.

Opening statements could come as early as Thursday, but Wednesday's snowstorm — 8 to 12 inches are predicted — could push that back further if courts are closed.

Tyree, 53, of Schenectady, faces four counts each of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide — one for each of the four people who died in the massive March 2015 Jay Street blaze. He also faces other charges.

Tyree inspected the 104 Jay St. building the day before the accidental fire and is accused of failing to act on dangers he observed. Prosecutors have said signs of a malfunction in the fire alarm box, as well as Tyree's observations about fire doors, showed conscious disregard for the risks posed and that Tyree lied when he said he saw indications that the system was operational. 

An inoperable fire alarm alone, they said, should have resulted in an evacuation or "fire watch," and prosecutors believe the system hadn't been operational for more than a month before the fire.

Tyree's attorney, Mark Gaylord, has contended that Tyree lacked proper training to inspect the Jay Street building's fire alarm system and that Tyree did everything asked of him.

If convicted, Tyree faces 5 to 15 years in state prison. He previously rejected a plea offer that would have resulted in one year in jail. He maintains his innocence. 

Judge Matthew Sypniewski is presiding.

Killed in the fire were Harry Simpson, 59; Robert Thomas, 31; Jermaine Allen, 37; and Berenices Suarez, 33. Dozens of others were injured.

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