Chauncey Bailey murder trial expected to begin Monday in Oakland courtroom
By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — A little past 7:20 a.m. on Aug. 2, 2007, Chauncey Bailey walked out of the McDonalds on 14th Street not far from Lake Merritt and headed downtown to his job as editor of the Oakland Post, a small, weekly newspaper.
He’d covered nearly a block when a man wearing a ski mask confronted him.
That man, Devaughndre Broussard, then 19, carried a short-barreled pistol grip shotgun, a 12-gauge Mossberg. In quick succession, Broussard would later tell a grand jury, he fired a shot into Bailey’s right shoulder and another into his lower abdomen. Bailey, 57, fell dying.
Broussard started to run, but would later say he then remembered the orders he’d been given: fire three times, make sure Bailey was dead. He turned and loaded another shell into the gun’s barrel. Standing over Bailey, Broussard fired a load of buckshot into the journalist’s face.
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Sometime Monday, after a pool of 109 potential jurors has been whittled down to 12 plus five alternates, opening statements in the murder trial are expected to begin in a courtroom four blocks from where Bailey died.
The man Broussard now says ordered him to kill the journalist, Yusuf Bey IV, as well as the man Broussard says helped him hunt Bailey down that day, Antoine Mackey, are being tried together in the case. They face murder charges in Bailey’s death, and also in connection with the unrelated shooting deaths of two other men in 2007.
Bey IV, the former leader of Your Black Muslim Bakery, and Mackey, both 25, have pleaded not guilty to the charges and face life sentences without parole if convicted.
Broussard, now 24, is expected to testify in the case as part of a plea deal. Broussard has pleaded guilty to two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the case and will receive a 25-year sentence in exchange for his testimony.
The mission Broussard described to a grand jury was straightforward: Bey IV dispatched him and Mackey to “take (Bailey) out before he write (sic) that story.”
Bailey was working on a story about the bakery, which had a long and controversial history in Oakland, thanks largely to its founder, Bey IV’s father, Yusuf Bey. The elder Bey fathered more than 40 children with a dozen women or more and at the time of his 2003 death was facing charges based on DNA evidence that he raped and impregnated girls as young as 13.
Bey IV, then 19, took over the organization in fall 2005 following the murder of his older brother, Antar. A year after his brother’s death, Bey IV filed for bankruptcy. The day after Bailey died, a bankruptcy judge ordered the bakery liquidated to pay more than $700,000 debt.
Bailey was trying to write about Bey IV and the business. But his story never ran.
Journalists around the country are watching the case with interest.
Broussard’s confession and grand jury testimony — which are expected to be challenged aggressively by defense attorneys — would make Bailey the first journalist killed in the United States over a domestic story since 1976, when Don Bolles, an investigative reporter for The Arizona Republic, died when members of organized crime detonated a bomb planted in his car outside a Phoenix hotel.
If Broussard’s confession and grand jury testimony are true, then “the parallel (between Bailey and Bolles) is that there was an environment in a community that it is acceptable to kill a reporter to kill a story,” said Brant Houston, Knight Chair of Investigative and Enterprise Reporting at the University of Illinois and former executive director of the trade group Investigative Reporters and Editors.
Broussard’s confession paints a case “where a journalist was murdered as direct reprisal for a story within his own community,” said Frank Smyth of the Washington, D.C.-based Committee to Protect Journalists. The question is whether Bey IV is the “intellectual author of the crime” as alleged and whether he will be held accountable for it.
For Bailey’s relatives, the trial will be a painful reminder of the slaying, but they are eager for resolution, Bailey’s brother, Mark Cooley, said in a written statement on behalf of the family last week.
“Our hearts will forever be broken, but our minds will be at ease when those responsible for his death are held accountable and punished accordingly,” Cooley wrote.
Broussard is expected to be a key witness in the triple-murder case. He testified to a grand jury that he killed Bailey and another man, Odell Roberson, at Bey IV’s order and said that Mackey aided him in both slayings. He also testified that Mackey and Bey IV bragged about Mackey’s shooting of a third man, Michael Wills, who they saw walking late at night near the bakery and allegedly killed because he was white. The slaying, Broussard said, was a tribute the so called “Zebra Killers,” a group of San Francisco Black Muslims in the early 1970s who killed random white “devils.”
Krum is expected to call Broussard to testify early in the trial, which is expected to take between three and five months.
Bey IV and Mackey’s lawyers have said the case comes down to Broussard’s credibility.
Broussard changed his stories numerous times before agreeing to testify, setting the stage for “one big legal battle,” Mackey’s lawyer, Gary Sirbu, has said.
Another important prosecution witnesses will be Bey IV’s brother in law, Ali Saleem Bey, who was Bailey’s anonymous source for the unpublished story on the bakery. He was attempting to wrest control of the business away from Bey IV.
Bey IV’s lawyer, Gene Peretti, and Sirbu are also expected to aggressively challenge data from a tracking device police planted on Bey IV’s Dodge Charger weeks before the murders. The device shows the car parked outside Bailey’s apartment seven hours before he was killed. Broussard told the grand jury that he, Bey IV and Mackey were there plotting how to ambush Bailey.
Peretti and Sirbu have already tried to have the tracking device thrown out as evidence. Reardon rejected their motion, as well as a separate motion that would have moved the case out of Alameda County, citing extensive publicity of Bailey’s shooting.
Reach investigative reporter Thomas Peele at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/thomas_peele.