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Jury selected in Jay Street fire trial

Jury selected in Jay Street fire trial

Snowstorm doesn't stop courtroom efforts
Jury selected in Jay Street fire trial
Kenneth Tyree leaves the courtroom Tuesday.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

SCHENECTADY — Opening statements in the criminally negligent homicide trial of former city building inspector Kenneth Tyree are expected Thursday, officials said.

Attorneys completed jury selection Wednesday, despite the a snowstorm that blanketed the region, and set the stage for attorneys to give their first arguments to the jury. Testimony in the trial, which is expected to last four to six weeks, is expected to start shortly afterward.

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 during that inspection. 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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