Defense Rests In Trial Involving Murdered Journalist

In Oakland, Calif., the prosecution and defense have rested in the trial of a man accused of ordering the murder of a well-known journalist. Chauncey Bailey, an editor for a local community paper, was gunned down in August 2007. Prosecutors say Bailey was killed because he had run afoul of the leader of a local Black Muslim group.

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In Oakland, California, the prosecution and defense have rested in the trial of a man accused of killing a well-known local journalist. Chauncey Bailey, an editor for a community paper, was gunned down in August 2007. Prosecutors say that Bailey was killed because he had angered the leader of a local black Muslim group. NPR's Richard Gonzales reports.

RICHARD GONZALES: Journalists don't get killed every day in this country, and certainly not at point blank range in broad daylight on a busy city street. The prosecution brought nearly 70 witnesses to the stand and presented more than 160 pieces of evidence.

The star witness was a confessed gunman, Devaughndre Broussard. He testified that he killed Bailey and another man on the orders of his boss. He worked for Yusuf Bey IV, the operator of Your Black Muslim Bakery. At the time of his murder, Chauncey Bailey was writing a story about the business's financial problems.

After the prosecution rested, Yusuf Bey's court-appointed defense attorney, Gene Peretti, says he's confident the prosecution hasn't proved its case and that his client wouldn't take the stand in his own defense.

Mr. GENE PERETTI (Attorney): In fact, I'm really prepared to rely on the state of the evidence the way it is right now. Given the state of affairs, I don't think there's sufficient evidence to prove his guilt, and I don't see any point in him taking the stand.

GONZALES: But keeping Yusuf Bey off the witness stand also means he won't have to answer some key questions. For example, why does a police tracking device put his car in front of Chauncey Bailey's home just a few hours before the journalist was slain. The gunman, Devondre Broussad, testified that Bey was in that car that night surveilling Bailey.

Another question: Why did Yusuf Bey's ex-girlfriend tell police that he seemed angry that Bailey was writing about the potential bankruptcy of Your Black Muslim Bakery?

(Soundbite of police recording)

Ms. SHEAVON WILLIAMS: And he wasn't too happy about that.

GONZALES: That's Sheavon Williams in a recorded statement she gave to police the day after Bailey's murder. A collaboration of Bay Area news organizations called the Chauncey Bailey Project provided the audio to NPR.

(Soundbite of police recording)

Ms. WILLIAMS: He told me to come here. And I said for what. And the news was on in the background(ph) and it was talking about Chauncey Bailey supposedly being assassinated.

GONZALES: Williams told police that Bey appeared satisfied and happy about the news of Bailey's death.

And then there's another piece of evidence against Yusuf Bey - the words from his own mouth on a secretly recorded videotape. The tape shows Bey in a jailhouse holding cell with two other associates after he had been arrested on a separate kidnapping charge.

(Soundbite of videotape)

Mr. YUSUF BEY: That fool said, pow, pow, poof(ph).

GONZALES: That audio is difficult to hear, but the jury read a transcript of a 65 minute videotape in which Bey describes and laughs about the murder of Chauncey Bailey. He also acknowledges having been in possession of the shotgun used to kill the journalist.

But Yusuf Bey's defense attorney, Gene Peretti, insists that the only hard evidence against his client in six weeks of testimony is that of the confessed gunman Devaughndre Broussard. And Broussard has changed his story several times before getting a plea agreement in exchange for his testimony.

Mr. PERETTI: It really is a one witness case. And the question is, do you believe the main witness, who has gotten a deal for 25 years flat, or do you not? And that's a simple one for the jury.

GONZALES: In a surprise move on Wednesday, Peretti rested his case after calling only one witness. Closing arguments are scheduled for the week of May 17.

Richard Gonzales, NPR News, Oakland.

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