Chauncey Bailey Project

Convicted killer of Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Antar Bey asks for new trial

Alfonza Phillips (2004/Oakland Police Department)
Alfonza Phillips (2004/Oakland Police Department)

Alfonza Phillips (2004/Oakland Police Department)

By Josh Richman and Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project

SAN FRANCISCO — The man convicted of killing the then-leader of Your Black Muslim Bakery in 2005 deserves a new trial because jurors weren’t allowed to hear about an internal power struggle at the bakery that might’ve turned brother against brother, his attorney told an appeals court Tuesday.

“I don’t think the jury heard what they needed to hear to make a reliable determination in this case,” attorney Randi Colvin told the First District California Court of Appeal’s Fourth Division, saying it’s “a travesty that the jury would not be allowed to weigh that evidence, that there’s another explanation for what happened here.”

Covin’s client, Alfonza Phillips, was convicted of murdering Antar Bey in what police and prosecutors called a botched carjacking. Antar Bey was a biological son of bakery founder Yusef Bey, and had taken the bakery’s reins in early 2004 after the disappearance of his father’s hand-picked successor, Waajid Aljawwaad; Aljawwaad’s remains were found in a shallow grave in the Oakland hills five months later, and his slaying remains unsolved.

Phillips, sentenced in December 2007 to life in prison without the possibility of parole, is at Corcoran state prison.

But Covin argued Tuesday that Antar Bey’s widow, Amarreh Bey, was ready to testify about threats bakery associates including her brother-in-law, Yusuf Bey IV, had made on her husband’s life in the months before he was killed; in one instance, an unknown assailant had fired shots into their home.

Associate Justice Patricia Sepulveda noted the widow’s testimony was excluded as hearsay, but Covin contended “quite a lot of the evidence was admissible.”

Associate Justice Maria Rivera said the law requires that some specific third party be implicated in the kind of defense Phillips’ trial lawyer wanted to mount, but Covin argued the bakery — as a criminal organization — would’ve qualified as such a third party even if a specific shooter couldn’t be identified.

Covin noted Antar Bey was shot in the back as he tried to run away, and the shooter got into a waiting car to be driven from the scene. “That suggests an assassination.”

Bey IV took over the bakery after his brother’s death. He is now in jail awaiting trial both on charges of kidnapping and torture in a May 2007 incident and on charges that he ordered the July and August 2007 killings of Odell Roberson Jr., who was Phillips’ uncle; Michael Wills; and Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey. Devaughndre Broussard, the bakery worker who has confessed to killing Bailey and Roberson on Bey IV’s order, told a grand jury his boss wanted Roberson dead in revenge for Antar Bey’s killing.

Covin said jurors should have been allowed to know that a detective who talked to witnesses in Antar Bey’s slaying, Derwin Longmire, was a “big brother” to Bey IV who had interceded on his behalf in other cases. “Longmire is Yusuf Bey’s buddy,” she said.

Longmire was suspended with pay for about eight months during the Oakland Police Department’s internal investigation of his actions regarding Yusuf Bey IV; he since has returned to duty without any disciplinary action against him.

And Covin argued Phillips’ public defender was sandbagged by prosecutors at the preliminary hearing, where an eyewitness unexpectedly was asked to identify the person he had seen shoot Antar Bey — and Phillips was clad in a prison jumpsuit and shackles. That witness saw the shooter only briefly, in profile, from 150 feet away and at twilight, Covin argued, and couldn’t possibly have identified Phillips without such suggestive circumstances in the courtroom.

Deputy Attorney General Chris Wei argued Tuesday that there’s no evidence the trial judge abused his discretion in an arbitrary or capricious way by excluding the evidence he did, and there’s no direct evidence tying any bakery associate to Antar Bey’s slaying. But there is, he said, “overwhelming” evidence of Phillips’ guilt, including an eyewitness; several witnesses saying Phillips had told them he pulled the trigger; a partial fingerprint at the scene; and Phillips’ possession of ammunition of the same caliber as that used to kill Antar Bey.

Covin argued those witnesses were coerced, rewarded with lighter sentences of their own or otherwise beholden to prosecutors, and that the fingerprint was met only minimal standards for a match.

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