Commentary: Chauncey Bailey killer’s bizarre court behavior
Sitting in court during the triple murder trial of the men accused of killing journalist Chauncey Bailey is a surreal experience.
The civility is in stark contrast to the barbarism that has brought together everyone. The defendants, who are charged with killing three men, smile and chat with their lawyers. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon uses the salutation “Mr.” when addressing Devaughndre Broussard, the prosecution’s star witness and the man who admits to shooting Bailey three times at point-blank range.
Bailey’s brother and aunt sit stoically in the second row a few yards from Broussard and his two alleged co-conspirators — former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV and Antoine Mackey, a bakery member.
Bey stands accused of ordering Bailey’s killing in August 2007 to stop the Oakland Post editor from investigating a story about the bakery’s financial collapse. Bey and Mackey have also been charged in the slayings of Odell Roberson and Michael Wills. They have pleaded not guilty.
Much of the prosecution’s case hinges on Broussard. He has agreed to testify against the two in exchange for a reduced plea of voluntary manslaughter and a 25-year prison term.
Broussard says that Bey gave him the shotgun that he used to kill Bailey and that Mackey drove the getaway car. Broussard has also testified that he shot Roberson with Mackey’s help in another hit ordered by Bey.
Prosecutors are attempting to prove that Bey ordered Broussard to kill Roberson in retaliation for the slaying of Bey’s older brother Antar by Roberson’s nephew. Mackey and Bey, according to prosecutors, killed Wills out of a hatred for white people.
Broussard is far from an ideal witness for the prosecution.
His testimony has ranged from chillingly devoid of emotion to outright bizarre. He responds to simple questions with zoned-out silences. He says, “I don’t remember” a lot.
The jury will have its hands full trying to determine whether he is believable or whether he’s just concocting a story to get a sweet deal from the prosecutors.
The former bakery handyman testified that he and Mackey lay in wait for Bailey in downtown Oakland. Mackey waited in a van, while Broussard set out in search of the journalist. Broussard spotted Bailey leaving McDonald’s on Alice Street and ran toward him carrying a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun, the barrel pointed toward the ground. He was wearing a black mask.
All of this, during morning rush hour.
Broussard got within arm’s length of Bailey and shot him about eight times in the chest. After Bailey fell, Broussard stood at the wounded journalist’s feet and shot him again. He ran a few steps, then returned to shoot Bailey again in the face.
“To make sure he was dead,” Broussard told prosecutor Melissa Krum. “Three times would have made it for certain.”
Matter-of-fact. Like he just said he’d taken out the trash.
Last Monday, Broussard busted out laughing as he described shooting Roberson. “Stop or I’m going to fire,” Broussard said he shouted as Roberson ran for his life.
Broussard was laughing so hard he buried his face in his arm.
How did this young man become such a sociopath?
A good deal of the responsibility rests with his mother, a convicted drug dealer who was in and out of prison and left others to raise her child. As a result, Broussard cycled in and out of foster homes and homes for troubled kids. He had a stepfather who tried to provide stability, but Broussard kept trying to reunite with his mother. She couldn’t stay away from drugs and out of prison.
A few months after Broussard’s 18th birthday — about a month after his mother’s latest arrest — he and some other youths robbed and assaulted a Muni passenger.
While he was in Alameda County county jail, Broussard met a bakery member. After his release, Broussard told his stepfather he was joining the bakery, to change his life.
Errol Cooley, Bailey’s brother, had this to say after listening to Broussard’s strange, sickening testimony.
“The bottom line is, he was just a pawn.”
Tammerlin Drummond is a columnist for Bay Area News Group. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her at Twitter.com/tammerlin