Appellate justice says change of venue major issue in Chauncey Bailey murder appeal
By Thomas Peele, Bay Area News Group
SAN FRANCISCO — Lawyers for a pair of men convicted in the 2007 murders of journalist Chauncey Bailey and two other men argued before a state appellate panel on Wednesday that their clients deserve new trials, but the justices appeared more interested in a point they barely raised: Should the sensational trial have been moved out of Oakland?
Whether intense media coverage prevented former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV and Antoine Mackey from receiving a fair trial in the Bay Area is “an issue we are paying a lot of attention to,” 1st District Court of Appeal Presiding Justice J. Anthony Kline said during a 30-minute hearing.
But lawyers for Bey IV and Mackey did not argue the venue issue during the long-awaited hearing that came more than three years after an Alameda County jury convicted the two men. Rather they said they are relying on lengthy legal briefs on that matter and instead concentrated on evidence and arguments they claimed should not have been allowed at the 2011 trial.
A then 19-year-old bakery worker, Devaughndre Broussard, shot Bailey as the veteran journalist walked to work in downtown Oakland on Aug. 2, 2007. Broussard eventually testified for the prosecution that Bey IV ordered the murder because Bailey, an editor for the Oakland Post, was working on a story about the bakery’s year-old bankruptcy filing.
Bey IV and Mackey were convicted of Bailey’s slaying in 2011. Bey IV was also convicted of ordering the killings of Odell Roberson and Michael Wills. Mackey was also convicted in the Wills’ killing. Jurors could not decide if Mackey was involved in Roberson’s killing, as Brousssard claimed. Bey IV and Mackey are serving life in prison without parole. Broussard got 25 years in exchange for his testimony against them.
The case was the subject of hundreds of media reports and the venue issue takes up a sizable portion of legal briefs in the case, writings Kline said were the subject of scrutiny.
At trial, Judge Thomas Reardon took what he said was the unusual step of interviewing jurors before ruling on the defendants’ change of venue requests that were the subject of a three-day hearing. After screening more than 100 people for the jury, Reardon denied the request, noting that many of them said they either ignored media coverage of the case or had not concluded anything about the defendants’ guilt or innocence.
But Bey IV’s lawyer, Clifford Gardner, and Mackey’s attorney, Philip Brooks, said their clients were correct to demand the trial be moved because of hundreds of newspaper articles and television reports about Bailey’s killing.
“Massive pretrial publicity” made it impossible for the men to get a fair trial, Gardner wrote. “Alameda County was saturated with publicity about the case,” Brooks wrote. Both said Reardon should have moved the case.
Deputy Attorney General Allen Crown, though, filed papers saying Reardon made the right decision.
He noted that the defendants accepted the jury without using all their challenges to remove those to whom they objected, even though additional people remained in the jury pool.
Gardner and Brooks argued Wednesday that evidence from a tracking device on Bey IV’s car as well as crimes by bakery members not directly related to the murders should not have been allowed as evidence. Kline and two other justices seemed noncommittal about those claims.
The justices from the state 1st District Court of Appeal have 90 days to issue a ruling.
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