Commentary: Bailey case must move forward
A MediaNews editorial
WITH EACH NEW development, we become increasingly concerned about the investigation of the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey. Not only has the Oakland Police Department bungled the case, but comments this week by Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff leave us worried that it is not getting the attention it deserves in his office.
Bailey, editor of the Oakland Post, was working on a story about the bakery when he was gunned down last summer in downtown Oakland. Police quickly arrested Devaughndre Broussard, a 20-year-old handyman from Your Black Muslim Bakery, and charged him with the killing. But eyewitnesses say he didn’t act alone and new evidence links bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV to the killing.
A report last month by the Chauncey Bailey Project — a reporting consortium of news organizations including MediaNews — revealed that Bey said in a secretly recorded police video that he kept the gun used to kill Bailey in his closet after the attack.
On the video, Bey describes the shooting in detail, then, laughing, denies he was there. He also boasts that his friendship with the lead investigator, Sgt. Derwin Longmire, protected him from charges.
We have already raised questions about the relationship of Bey and Longmire. According to one of Bey’s lawyers, the detective had become like an older brother and mentor to her client after the two met in 2005 when Longmire investigated the shooting death of Bey’s brother. It also was Longmire who left Bey and Broussard alone in a room together to have an unmonitored conversation in which, according to Broussard’s lawyer, Bey pressured Broussard to confess.
Clearly, there are questions about the way the police department, especially Longmire, have handled the case — questions that are serious enough to merit state Attorney General Jerry Brown taking over the investigation.
Meanwhile, Bey remains in custody on an unrelated case, charged with the kidnapping of two women and the torturing of one of them. It was against that backdrop that District Attorney Orloff made comments this week to a legal newspaper that suggested he wasn’t pursuing Bey’s involvement with the Bailey killing.
“If the aggravated kidnapping (case) did not exist, then … there’d be more effort put into seeing what you can develop with a chargeable, provable case against (Bey),” Orloff told the Recorder. “There’s a marginal benefit to spending a lot of resources on a case that might not be provable when you have a provable case with significantly stronger sanctions, like a possible life sentence.”
In an interview Thursday with a MediaNews editorial writer, Orloff backed away from those comments. What he meant to say, he said, was that having Bey in custody for the kidnapping case “buys time” to develop the case against him in the Bailey killing. Specifically, Orloff said, new information about Bey’s role might come out during the trial of Broussard for the murder.
He urged patience. “Things are still moving here,” he said, “and everyone wants to bring it to a head while it’s in motion now.”
For now, we will give Orloff the benefit of the doubt since he now acknowledges that he misspoke. And we will give him time to do his job. However, we also realize that he’s very dependent on the Oakland Police Department’s investigation.
If he’s not getting the information he needs, we expect him to join our call for the attorney general to step in. This case must be kept moving forward.