Journalists and First Amendment advocates have been watching the trial of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey’s murder closely since he was killed in July of 2007 while investigating the financial woes of Your Black Muslim Bakery. Today a jury convicted former Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusef Bey IV for ordering the 2007 slayings of Bailey and two other men named Michael Willis and Odell Roberson, Jr. San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Former bakery associate Antoine Mackey was found guilty for the murders of Bailey and Willis, but the jury split on a third count involving the Roberson’s slaying. The Huffington Post reported that Judge Thomas Reardon declared a mistrial on that charge.
"I hope that it sends the message that the First Amendment is not going to be murdered by murdering journalists," prosecutor Melissa Krum said, "You cannot kill the man and expect the message to be killed."
Bey IV’s father found the bakery about 40 years ago, with the intent to promote self-empowerment in Oakland’s black community through the institution. In recent years, the bakery’s members had been linked to a list of crimes which included shootings, the kidnapping of two women, vandalism of two liquor stores and a sexual-assault against Bey IV’s father.
Prosecutors argued that Bey IV was desperate to protect the legacy of his family’s once-influential bakery that he ordered Bailey murdered. The Oakland Post editor had been working on a story to cover the organization’s decline in finances.
While Bey IV was charged for ordering the slayings of the three men, Mackey was accused of acting as the getaway driver for Devaughndre Broussard, who confessed to killing Bailey on a busy street with three shots, the last which was a shot to the face.
Prosecutors said that Bey IV ordered Mackey to kill Wills after Mackey and Bey IV had a conversation about the Zebra murders, a string of racially motivated black-on-white killings in San Francisco in the 1970s. Bey IV and Mackey are black while Wills was white.
Many of the case’s major breaks came as the result of efforts by journalists with the Chauncey Bailey Project, which was formed to continue the slain writer’s work after his death.
Roberson’s murder was not as politically charged. Bey IV allegedly ordered Broussard to kill Roberson in retaliation for the murder of Bey IV ‘s brother by Roberson’s nephew.
Bey IV and Mackey, both 25, face life terms in prison without the possibility of parole when they are sentenced July 8. They appeared stoic when their verdicts were read, while their families hugged each other, in tears.
"I believe in my son’s innocence, I do," said Bey IV’s mother Daulet Bey.
"This is all bittersweet," said Wendy Ashley-Johnson, Bey’s cousin. "It’s not just about the three families of the victims, but it’s also the Bey family and the Mackey family as well that’s involved in this, and I feel sorry and sad for their mothers."
Bailey’s case involves the first American journalist to be murdered in U.S. soil since nearly two decades ago. The last case involved Cuban-American Manuel de Dios Unanue, an outspoken journalist who was shot in the head in a New York City restaurant in 1992.
Frank Smyth, CPJ’s journalist security coordinator said, "This sends a signal to those who would violently attack the press in the United States that they will not get away with it."