Chauncey Bailey Project

Murder convictions cap a ‘great day for journalists’

Oakland, Calif. police work at the scene where Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey was shot dead by an unknown assailant at the corner of 14th and Alice streets in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, August 2, 2007. (D. Ross Cameron/The Oakland Tribune)
Oakland, Calif. police work at the scene where Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey was shot dead by an unknown assailant at the corner of 14th and Alice streets in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, August 2, 2007. (D. Ross Cameron/The Oakland Tribune)

Oakland, Calif. police work at the scene where Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey was shot dead by an unknown assailant at the corner of 14th and Alice streets in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, August 2, 2007. (D. Ross Cameron/The Oakland Tribune)

By Josh Richman, Kristin J. Bender and Angela Woodall, The Chauncey Bailey Project

The murder convictions of two men who killed Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey were hailed Thursday by press-freedom groups and residents of the city for which Bailey reported.

Bailey, 57, was the first journalist killed over a domestic story in the United States since 1976, and his death sparked a coalition of local media to join together in what later became known as The Chauncey Bailey Project to investigate the death and the police handling of it.

Dori Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education in Oakland, called it “a great day for journalists.”

“I am so proud of the Chauncey Bailey Project,” she said. “We proved that the murder of a journalist is not going to silence journalism and it cannot and will not be acceptable in this society. What they did really could have had a chilling effect on people’s willingness to cover tough issues and I think we sent a strong message (Thursday).”

Special Report:
–Main story: Chauncey Bailey murder: ‘Justice has finally been done’
–Sidebar: Murder convictions cap ‘a great day for journalists’
–KTVU-TV: Bey IV and Mackey found guilty in Bailey murder
–Courthouse video after the verdict: Verdict in Chauncey Bailey murder trial
–Commentary: Chauncey Bailey verdict brings long-awaited justice
–Commentary: Unusual partnership helps bring justice for Chauncey Bailey
–Bay Area News Group: Chauncey Bailey murder trial Special Report

Reporters Without Borders, an international nonprofit group promoting journalists’ rights and safety, issued a statement saying it’s “relieved that justice has been served in the case of murdered journalist Chauncey Bailey. However, it won’t erase the lack of efficiency and fairness on the part of the local police handling his case. The organization now hopes that lessons will be drawn from this case and that journalists will be able to perform their job as they have a right to.”

The verdicts were praised throughout the city, as well.

Father Jay Matthews of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in Oakland was Bailey’s pastor and friend, and said he spent the day of Bailey’s murder at the Oakland Post’s offices trying to console the editor’s colleagues and friends.

“I’m glad the jury did what they did, and I am so happy with this verdict,” Matthews said. “Anything short (of this verdict) would have been a real miscarriage.”

“My heart is going out to the family,” he continues. “After nearly four years, justice has been served, and of course my heart goes out to the families of journalists everywhere (who have been killed). Chauncey was my buddy. It doesn’t bring him back, but justice has been served.”

Oakland resident Melvin Hicks, 60, on Thursday was passing by the spot on 14th and Alice streets at which Bailey was gunned down as he walked to work on the morning of Aug. 2, 2007.

“He got what he deserved,” Hicks said of former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV, convicted of first-degree murder and facing a mandatory sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole for ordering Bailey and two other men — Odell Roberson and Michael Wills — killed in summer 2007.

Asked what a fair sentence would be, Hicks replied, “I don’t think there’s a fair sentence if you take a life.”

Leroy Smith, 57, of Oakland, agreed. “If (Bey) set (Bailey) up to be killed then justice has been served. You can’t go around killing people. Not here.”

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Councilman Larry Reid declined to comment; Oakland Police spokeswoman Holly Joshi said Chief Anthony Batts wouldn’t say anything either.

“The City Attorney has advised us to refrain from commenting on the case as there is a pending civil lawsuit,” Sue Piper, Quan’s spokeswoman, said via email.

Oakland Police Sgt. Derwin Longmire has a federal lawsuit pending against the city and police officials, claiming they ruined his reputation by leaking information about an internal investigation of his handling of the Bailey case.

Longmire had been the lead homicide investigator on the case and came under criticism for allowing Bey IV and Bailey’s killer, Devaunghndre Broussard, to speak privately following their Aug. 3, 2007, arrest. After the private meeting, Broussard told investigators he acted alone when he shot Bailey; he later recanted and said he shot the journalist on Bey IV’s order.

“From the very first meeting that led to the creation of the Chauncey Bailey Project, there were two goals,” said Robert Rosenthal, the Chauncey Bailey Project’s executive editor and now head of the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting. “One was to continue Chauncey’s work and (the other was) to make sure that when a journalist is murdered because of their work justice is served. There is no doubt that the work of the project helped keep law enforcement focused on this case, and revealed facts and evidence that may have never been disclosed. (Thursday’s) verdict is a reminder that journalists do make a difference and that their work is crucial to our democracy.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists, another international press-freedom organization, also welcomed the verdicts. Frank Smyth, the group’s journalist security coordinator, said “this sends the signal to those who would violently attack the press in the United States that they will not get away with it and that murdering journalists will not pay and they will be brought to justice.”

“This was a long and arduous process. The police investigation involved a number of irregularities, several of which were brought to light by the Chauncey Bailey Project, and his colleagues deserve credit for the success of today’s verdict,” Smyth said.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley noted Bailey was slain two blocks from the courthouse in which Thursday’s verdicts were rendered; Wills was chosen at random and gunned down solely because he was white; and Roberson was slain “in pure retaliation for a crime with which Mr. Roberson had nothing to do.”

She thanked the jury for its diligence. “It’s clear they took their role very seriously.”

What might once have been an organization of value to Oakland — Your Black Muslim Bakery — became nothing more than a street gang engaged in random acts of violence, O’Malley said. She noted that Bey IV still faces charges in the kidnapping and torture of two women from which he allegedly hoped to extort money.

“In his extreme arrogance, Bey believed he was above the law — until now,” she said.

Assistant District Attorney Melissa Krum, who prosecuted this case, said she was “relieved, I’m pleased, I’m incredibly proud of this jury.”

Krum said she started feeling confident of a conviction last week, when the jury’s questions indicated they had already reached a verdict in Bailey’s murder and had turned their attention to the Wills and Roberson slayings.

She said she and O’Malley have not yet discussed what to do about the one count on which the jury hung; she said she didn’t know whether the 8-4 split described by the jury foreman was eight in favor of conviction or against. “They seemed relieved, they seemed happy with themselves, and I think they should be.”

Josh Richman may be reached at; Kristin J. Bender can be reached a;  Angela Woodall can be reached at

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