Closing Arguments in Trial of Landlord Charged with Manslaughter

Gregory Nisbet trial

The fate of a Portland, Maine landlord charged with six counts of manslaughter is in the hands of a judge.

Closing arguments ended Friday in the criminal trial of Gregory Nisbet, the landlord in the fatal Noyes Street fire in Nov. of 2014, in which six people under the age of 30 died. It would be the first time in Maine history that a landlord is convicted of manslaughter due to the condition of his property.

The cause of the fire was accidental, but prosecutors argued that fire code violations throughout the property turned the apartments into "death traps."

Witnesses testified that smoke alarms were not working in the building, furniture blocked exits, and third floor bedrooms lacked escapes.

"His attitude was callous indifference," said prosecutor Bud Ellis. "He was showing up once a month to get the rent. His conduct allowed these conditions to exit, which is what killed these people."

One of the fire survivors testified that he could hear screams coming from the third floor. Prosecutors used this as evidence that the tenants who died were awake, trying to escape, and would have survived if the landlord had proper exits as outlined in the fire code.

Defense attorney Matt Nichols argued that this fire moved so quickly, those fire code safety measures wouldn't have made a difference.

He also argued that Nisbet was running the property as a single family dwelling, not a boarding house, and that different fire code ordinances apply.

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