Trial Under Way For Alleged Killers Of Popular Journalist

In 2007, journalist Chauncey Bailey was gunned down on a street in Oakland, Calif., in broad daylight. The outspoken newspaper editor had been investigating criminal activity connected to a local bakery when he was killed. The murder rocked the city and stunned fellow journalists. Two men are now on trial for his murder. Guest host Farai Chideya speaks with Oakland-based journalist Bob Butler about the case and the community's response.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Farai Chideya; Michel Martin is away.

Yoga may be a hot trend in exercise but for millions of people, it's a part of their faith. And some are wondering whether yoga's new fans need to acknowledge its Hindu roots. We'll have that in just a moment.

But first, journalist Chauncey Bailey was just doing his job, and it may have cost him his life. On August 2, 2007, Bailey was walking back to his office in Oakland when he was shot to death by a masked gunman.

As the editor of the African-American newspaper the Oakland Post, Bailey had been investigating charges of crime and misconduct at a local entity called Your Black Muslim Bakery. The trial of two men allegedly involved in the murder began this week in Oakland.

And reporter Bob Butler has been covering the story from the beginning. He's an independent reporter who's also part of the Chauncey Bailey Project. That's a group of journalists that independently investigated the crime and the police response to it. And he joins us now from the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland. Bob, good to talk to you again.

Mr. BOB BUTLER (Reporter): Thanks, Farai.

CHIDEYA: So, Chauncey Bailey was an important part of the journalism community in Oakland, but what is the national significance of his murder?

Mr. BUTLER: Well, Chauncey was the editor of the Post, as you mentioned. But when he was killed, he was the first journalist killed for doing his or her job - first American journalist killed for doing his or her job in the United States, in 31 years.

The first person that we know of in this modern era was Don Bolles, a reporter for the Arizona Republic, who was investigating organized crime in Phoenix. He was killed by a car bomb in 1976. And journalists from around the country came to Arizona to investigate what happened to him, and to complete his work.

We did the same thing when Chauncey Bailey was killed. We decided that we were going to have a collaboration of journalists come together and investigate what Chauncey was investigating, and finish that work because, you know, journalists are a very important part of our democracy. And if you figure that you can stop a story by killing a journalist, it really hurts the democracy - and society at large.

CHIDEYA: So he had been investigating Your Black Muslim Bakery, a business, a coalition of people, at the time of his death. What was the bakery's place in the community, and what were the allegations that Chauncey Bailey was looking into?

Mr. BUTLER: Well, the bakery actually started back in the late '60s, in Santa Barbara, and moved to the Bay area in the early 1970s. It really was a bakery. They did actually cook, you know - they made bean pies, and cakes and cookies. It also was a center of black empowerment.

This was a gentlemen, Yusuf Bey, who started this bakery, and he held it up as a symbol to other African-Americans - look; you, too, can be successful. He was one of the few people in Oakland who would hire ex-convicts. That was consistent with the Nation of Islam, across the nation, doing the same thing.

It was one place - if you were a drug dealer or you were homeless, you had problems, you could go to the bakery and get a job.

CHIDEYA: Now, if you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Farai Chideya, and we're talking about the trial in the murder of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey. Our guest is independent journalist Bob Butler.

Bob, a suspect, Devaughndre Broussard, reportedly confessed to the shooting the day after the murder. But he is not one of the two men on trial. So why not, and who are the defendants?

Mr. BUTLER: Well, a little bit of background. Chauncey was killed; witnesses saw a masked gunman get into a white van, and the van drive away. They saw him get into the passenger side of the van. The next day, the police raided the bakery - not because of what happened to Chauncey, but because of a previous kidnapping case the police were investigating, involving members of the bakery -they believed.

So when they raided the bakery, they actually saw - and this was testimony that we heard this week. They saw Broussard throw out a shotgun - out of his window in a house near the bakery, which is part of the part of the bakery compound. They arrested him.

At first, he denied that he was involved in the Chauncey Bailey murder. Then he had a meeting with the bakery CEO, Yusuf Bey IV, the son of the late founder. And after that conversation, he confessed. Then a few days later, he got an attorney; he changed his mind.

And then in April of 2009, he actually went to the D.A. for a deal, agreed to plead guilty to killing not just Chauncey Bailey, but another man, in exchange for testifying against Yusuf Bey IV - you know, his boss - and another man who was driving the van that day, a guy named Antoine Mackey.

So Broussard pleaded guilty; he is expected to be on the stand soon. And in fact, sometime next week, the defense is looking forward to talking with him because they say that he is nothing but a liar. He's trying to implicate other people to save his own skin.

CHIDEYA: Well, I want to ask you, just very briefly, about why the police were also part of the Chauncey Bailey Project's investigation. Why were you looking into them?

Mr. BUTLER: Well, we were looking to see what happened to Chauncey - who killed him, and why. We also wanted to finish his story. We did that. And then we wanted to make sure the police investigated the case and got everybody who was involved in Chauncey's death.

We actually were very surprised when we found out the police had evidence of a conspiracy that went uncharged. And it wasn't until the Bailey Project began, pointing out all the evidence that police had that showed the conspiracy, that the police and the D.A. actually filed that case. It was in April of 2009 that the project got word that Broussard was going to testify - was going to plead guilty, and testify for the prosecution.

And in talking to Broussard's attorney, he said in no small part, it was the stories that the Bailey Project had done that prompted his client to come forward and cop a plea.

CHIDEYA: All right. Well, Bob Butler, an independent journalist in Oakland, California. He joined us from the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland. For links to Bob Butler's blog and the Chauncey Bailey Project, please check out our website. Go to npr.org, and select TELL ME MORE from the program page. Bob Butler, thanks for being with us.

Mr. BUTLER: Thanks, Farai.

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