Judge to rule next week on whether to move Chauncey Bailey murder trial
By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — The Chauncey Bailey murder trial should be moved out of Alameda County because of overwhelming negative news coverage, defense lawyers said Thursday as a hearing on the change of venue motion ended.
A prosecutor insisted an impartial jury can be found to hear the case of the journalist slain on the streets of Oakland in August 2007.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon said he will issue a written ruling in less than a week.
Reardon said Thursday he was confident that he could “look (prospective) jurors in the eye” and determine whether they could be fair to accused killers Yusuf Bey IV and Antoine Mackey.
Lawyers for Bey IV and Mackey argued that “relentless” news reporting about Bailey’s killing tainted potential Alameda County jurors against the defendants. On behalf of the defendants, a social psychologist testified that 70 percent of respondents to a survey he conducted said they believed the accused men were probably or definitely guilty.
In closing, Mackey’s lawyer, Gary Surbu, made an impassioned argument, waving a small copy of the U.S. Constitution and insisting that the county’s pool of potential jurors was tainted with overwhelming negative impressions of Bey and Mackey.
He said that trying Mackey next to Bey IV was like trying Hermann Goering together with Adolf Hitler. He also said Mackey’s standing was like that of “lietentant being tried along (with brutal Ugandan dictator) Idi Amin.”
Reardon cut Surbu off and said the analogies might fuel the very types of media references that Surbu said was hurting the defendants’ chances of a fair trial.
Surbu also argued that Reardon should simply be cautious and that moving the trial wouldn’t be harmful.
“Is it worth the risk of going to trial in Alameda County in these circumstances?” he said.
Prosecutor Melissa Krum said in a short closing argument that a defense telephone survey asked “suggestive and leading questions” that described details of Bailey’s killing and was flawed. Based on that, she said, people were likely to say the defendants were “probably” guilty using a general, not a legal, definition.
To move the trial based on those responses “offends the very core of jury selection,” Krum said.
Bey IV, the former leader of Your Black Muslim Bakery, is charged with ordering the killings of Bailey and two other men, Odell Roberson and Michael Wills. Mackey is charged with slaying Wills and helping confessed killer Devaughndre Broussard hunt down and shoot Bailey and Roberson.
Broussard pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter last year in exchange for a 25-year sentence. He testified before a grand jury that indicted Bey IV and Mackey and is scheduled to appear as the prosecution’s major witness at trial.