Friday, January 16, 2015
C.A. Upholds Convictions in Killing of Oakland Newspaper Editor
Panel Says Pretrial Publicity, Though Extensive, Did Not Require Change of Venue
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
An Alameda Superior Court Judge who acknowledged that the murders of three people, including the editor of a local weekly newspaper, resulted in “substantial and inflammatory” pretrial publicity was not required to move the trial out of the county, the First District Court of Appeal has ruled.
Div. Two held late Wednesday that the lengthy and comprehensive voir dire conducted by Judge Thomas Reardon had, beyond a reasonable doubt, ensured that a fair and unbiased jury tried the case of Yusuf Bey IV and Antoine Mackey.
Chauncey Bailey, an award-winning local journalist who worked at the Oakland Tribune before becoming editor of the Oakland Post, was killed with a shotgun in 2007. Prosecutors said Bey recruited Mackey and others to kill Bailey because they feared he was going to write about the bankruptcy of Your Muslim Bakery, one of several businesses run by Bey, who was 19 years old when he took control of the businesses, following the deaths of his father and brother.
Bey and Mackey were both convicted of the Bailey murder, which took place on a downtown Oakland street on the morning of Aug. 2, 2007 as Bailey was headed to work. Bey was also convicted of ordering two others, Odell Roberson and Michael Wills, killed prior to the Bailey slaying.
Shooter Plea Bargains
Mackey was convicted of killing Wills, but the jury deadlocked on charges he was involved in the murder of Roberson. Devaughndre Broussard admitted shooting Roberson and Willis, pled guilty to two counts of voluntary manslaughter, testified against Bey and Mackey, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison in a plea bargain.
Bey and Mackey were sentenced to life terms without possibility of parole for murder,
Justice James Richman, writing for the Court of Appeal, acknowledged that the facts surrounding the killings created great public interest and extensive coverage media, both locally and elsewhere. But the amount of publicity gradually lessened as the case took three years to get to trial, he noted.
The most significant factor weighing against a change of venue, he said, was the size and diversity of Alameda County, the seventh largest county in the state, with a population of over 1.4 million, he said
‘Methodical’ Jury Selection
Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon, he added, was an experienced jurist whose approach to jury selection was “methodical and comprehensive.” More than 800 potential jurors were summoned and asked to fill out questionnaires regarding topics that included their knowledge and opinions regarding Bailey as a journalist, the potential of race as an issue, the bakery, Islam, and firearms, following which the pool was reduced to 109 people who were questioned over a period of 12 days before a jury was empaneled.
The jurors who were actually seated were, as reflected in their questionnaire responses, “remarkably impartial,” Richman said.
“After reviewing the ‘totality of the circumstances’ here, we conclude that despite the extreme volume and inflammatory nature of the pretrial publicity, there was no reasonable likelihood that defendants could not have received a fair trial based on the state of the court’s knowledge and the jury panel’s composition at the time the motion was ruled upon,” the justice wrote.
Richman also rejected the defense contention that police, while investigating previous crimes in which Bey and his cohorts were alleged to be involved, violated the Fourth Amendment by placing a GPS device on Bey’s car. They were later able to determine from the device that the car was near Bailey’s house hours before the killing and near the site of the murder about an hour after it occurred, that it went directly from the location near the murder site to a place near where the body was found, and that it went from there directly to the bakery.
Motion to Suppress
Reardon denied the motion to suppress, holding that there was no search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. While the appeal was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the placement of a GPS on a vehicle in order to track its movements along public streets is a search.
Richman said the Supreme Court ruling does not apply retroactively, and that the motion to suppress was properly denied based on the state of the California case law at the time.
The justice went on to reject several other claims by the defense, including the contention that jurors relied on biased and unreliable testimony by Broussard and that the accomplice-testimony instructions given the jury were erroneous.
“The evidence against defendants was strong and, while dependent on accomplice testimony, was sufficiently corroborated to comply with California law,” the justice wrote. “Defendants were vigorously represented by counsel throughout the proceedings…The jury’s ultimate ability to resolve its doubts about Broussard’s credibility was due to its own dedication, industry, and thoroughness, not to any misinstruction or outside influence.”
The case is People v. Mackey, 14 S.O.S. 250
Copyright 2015, Metropolitan News Company