Prosecution’s case is built on lies, defense attorneys argue
By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — Lawyers for two men charged with murder in the 2007 slaying of journalist Chauncey Bailey told jurors Thursday that the prosecution’s star witness against their clients is a calculating, manipulative liar who set them up.
In closing arguments, defense lawyers Gene Peretti and Gary Sirbu said the charges against their clients hinge on one thing: the testimony of Devaughndre Broussard, a confessed killer who lacks credibility.
Former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV and his co-defendant, bakery member Antoine Mackey, should be acquitted because of it, the attorneys said.
Bey IV and Mackey, both 25, are charged with murder in connection with the Aug. 2, 2007, death of Bailey, 57, and the unrelated shooting deaths of two other men, 31-year-old Odell Roberson and 36-year-old Michael Wills, in July 2007. Bey IV and Mackey have pleaded not guilty, and face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Broussard confessed to shooting Bailey and Roberson — which he said was on Bey IV’s order — and said that Bey IV and Mackey bragged about killing Wills.
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Again and again, Peretti and Sirbu pointed out inconsistencies in Broussard’s testimony, highlighting his often changing accounts. The 23-year-old Broussard, they said, would say anything to get a 25-year sentence, rather than a life term, in exchange for testifying.
Deputy District Attorney Melissa Krum finished her closing argument earlier Thursday, telling jurors that substantial evidence corroborates Broussard’s testimony.
Broussard “is not exactly the person a District Attorney wants as a main witness,” Krum said. “But I didn’t pick him. Mr. Bey did. Sometimes you have to make a deal with a demon to get the devil.”
Krum will deliver her rebuttal to the defense statements Monday. Jurors could begin deliberations later that day, after Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon reads them lengthy instructions. The trial began March 21.
In his two-hour presentation, Peretti said Krum has not proven Bey IV’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
“This is a one-witness case,” he said. Evidence attempting to describe Bey IV as an out-of-control “shot caller” at the bakery “is designed to shore up weak foundations,” Peretti told the jury of five men and seven women.
Broussard “won the lottery” when prosecutors offered him a shorter sentence in exchange for his testimony, Peretti said, and Broussard lied when he told jurors that Bey IV ordered three deaths.
“It’s his ticket out,” Peretti said. “He’s jumping for the bait like a dolphin leaping for a sardine.”
Sirbu and Peretti highlighted Broussard’s behavior on the stand, when he burst into laughter when describing shooting Roberson with an assault rifle on July 8, 2007.
“He has no apologies, no regrets,” Peretti said. “This is the person you are being asked to believe.”
Sirbu urged the jury to reject Broussard’s testimony and acquit Mackey. Bailey’s murder “was a lethal assault on the independence of the press,” Sirbu said, but Mackey was not involved in that or any other killing.
Sirbu said Broussard is framing Mackey to protect a former bakery member, Richard Lewis, who was Broussard’s childhood friend in San Francisco. Lewis is serving a life sentence without parole at Pelican Bay State Prison in Del Norte County following his conviction last year in a kidnapping and torture case involving bakery members.
Sirbu noted that Mackey flagged down a police officer at the Roberson shooting scene, and presented identification when asked. “That is not the behavior of a guilty person,” Sirbu said.
A witness who said he saw a man running from the scene of Wills’ death on July 12, 2007, described a man nearly six inches shorter than Mackey, and running like a football player. Sirbu noted that Lewis is about 5-foot 7-inches and was a star high school running back. Mackey is 6-foot-2.
Peretti said Bey IV was 19 and charged with “sweeping and mopping” at the bakery when its leadership was thrust upon him when his older brother, Antar Bey, was killed in 2005.
The bakery was not a criminal enterprise under Bey IV, Peretti said. It was more “of a cooperative,” he said, but one that was “destined for failure” because of crushing debts.
Because of debt his brother had taken on, Bey IV found the bakery “in a deadly vortex,” and had no business training to rely upon. “It was well on its way to financial disaster,” he said.
When the bakery filed for bankruptcy in 2006, “it was all a matter of public record,” Peretti noted, disputing Broussard’s claims that Bey IV wanted Bailey dead to stop him from writing about the proceedings in the Oakland Post, where he was editor.
Contact Thomas Peele at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/thomas_peele.