Believing Broussard

The Chauncey Bailey case appears to hinge on whether the confessed shooter was following orders, or was trying to score points in a controversial black Muslim organization.

Written for the East Bay Express, published April 20, 2011.

To believe Devaughndre Broussard’s testimony so far in an Oakland courtroom is to believe he is a pawn, manipulated and used by a man who held everything he could over Broussard’s head: money, honor, loyalty, and even God. Broussard was a “soldier,” who was ordered to kill two men, including Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey.

But from the defense’s perspective, Broussard was merely a loose cannon, acting on his own behalf. Although lawyers for Yusuf Bey IV, the alleged mastermind of Bailey’s assassination, have yet to fully reveal their strategy in the trial, it appears so far that they intend to argue that Broussard simply heard about Bailey and another man, Odell Roberson, around the bakery and decided to kill both men, thinking it would earn him points with Bey IV.

Based on the first two weeks of testimony, the trial may come down to whether jurors believe Bey IV ordered Broussard to murder Bailey to stop him from writing stories about the bakery, or because Broussard acted alone in an attempt to climb the ladder of a controversial black Muslim organization. The distinction is not only pivotal to the outcome of the case, but to whether Bailey was murdered specifically to stop him from doing his work as a journalist.

Bey IV is on trial for first-degree murder for allegedly ordering the murders of Bailey and Roberson. His co-defendant, Antoine Mackey, is accused of being a co-conspirator and accomplice. According to Broussard, Mackey helped him kill both Roberson and Bailey, and Mackey killed another man, Michael Wills Jr., while driving around with Bey IV one night.

Early in the case, prosecutor Melissa Krum called Broussard to the stand. He recounted in gory detail how he killed Roberson with an assault rifle in the neighborhood around Your Black Muslim Bakery, and Bailey with a shotgun early one morning while Bailey was headed to work at the Oakland Post.

Broussard said Bey IV had ordered him to kill Roberson because his nephew, Alfonza Phillips Jr., had killed Antar Bey, Bey IV’s brother and onetime head of the bakery. Broussard said Bey IV then ordered him to kill Bailey because he was working on a story exposing financial troubles and fraud within the bakery.

It’s clear from testimony in the case that without Bey IV, Broussard had no motive to kill both men. Broussard was just a bakery laborer who swept, mopped, and performed security duties. His only reason to want to murder either man came from his association with Bey IV.

Broussard’s story, however, has changed significantly since he was arrested on August 3, 2007. Broussard initially denied any knowledge of Bailey’s murder to the police, and it wasn’t until Bey IV pointed the finger at Broussard as the man who killed Bailey that Broussard confessed and said he’d acted alone. He now says that Bey IV promised him an attorney and a credit line in exchange for not implicating Bey IV in the murder, during a brief conversation while the two were in custody.

After Broussard secured an attorney, he pleaded not guilty to the murder. In a 60 Minutes interview, he said he did not kill Bailey, but had information that he would reveal during his trial. Later, Broussard made a plea deal with the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, confessed to the murders, and agreed to testify against Bey IV and Mackey in exchange for a 25-year sentence.

In an attempt to bolster her star witness’ credibility problems, Krum introduced into evidence three phone calls made by an anxious, emotional Broussard during the week following his arrest. The calls were meant to show that Broussard was not some cold-blooded murderer, but rather was ordered to kill. Two of the calls were to a colleague at Your Black Muslim Bakery, and one to his uncle begging for help.

“They brought Fourth into the room; he told ’em what happened,” Broussard said in the first call, referring to Bey IV by his nickname, “Fourth.” Broussard was speaking to Kahlil Raheem, a friend at the bakery. Raheem advised Broussard to get an attorney; Broussard was inconsolable and contemplating suicide.

In the second call, Raheem urged Broussard to “tell the truth. If somebody else is involved you gotta say somethin.'” But Broussard was unwilling to contradict Bey IV’s story.

“Somebody told on me,” Broussard cried to his uncle in the third call. “They told ’em what happened. They told the boys what happened in front of my face.”

“You admit to it?” his uncle asked.

“I had to,” Broussard responded.

His uncle then screamed and swore at him, and told him to tell the police to bring in the person that sent him to commit the murder.

“They did,” Broussard responded.

“He told them he sent you?” his uncle asked.

“No, he told them I did it out my own will.”

During cross examination, it became clear that defense attorneys Gene Peretti and Gary Sirbu will argue that Broussard is a known liar, and is lying now to avoid a longer prison stint. They also likely will contend that Broussard wants revenge for Bey IV telling police that he was the shooter and the only person involved.

Indeed, Broussard confirmed his anger toward Bey IV on the witness stand. “He told on me; I’m gonna get his ass,” Broussard testified.

“Well you’re gettin’ his ass now, aren’t you?” Peretti asked later.

Broussard smiled and nodded. In later questioning, Broussard admitted that he had wanted to kill Bey, and would have tried to if he had been released, but saw no need to kill him now.

During cross-examination, Broussard also admitted that Bey IV never used the word “kill” when referring to Bailey and Roberson. In questioning, Peretti indicated that he intends to argue that Broussard decided to kill both men in order to please Bey IV.

Both defense attorneys also noted that Broussard had access to newspapers while in jail. He followed his case closely, and knew that the DA was under pressure to charge other members of the bakery with Bailey’s murder.

As for prosecutor Krum, she promised in her opening statement that Broussard’s testimony will be corroborated over the coming weeks through witness testimony, ballistics analysis, GPS data from Bey IV’s car, and even a video of Bey IV himself in holding, telling his brother, Joshua Bey, and a friend, Tamon Halfin, a story very similar to Broussard’s.