15 June 2011

Justice served in Chauncey Bailey case thanks to journalist collective

U.S. journalist Chauncey Bailey
U.S. journalist Chauncey Bailey
The Chauncey Bailey Project

This is available in:

English Français Español
Four years ago, U.S. journalist Chauncey Bailey was gunned down on his way to work. Within weeks, local journalists, including a representative from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), came together as the Chauncey Bailey Project to finish his work looking at criminal activity at a local bakery and to investigate his death. On 9 June, victory finally came: the manager and employee of the business were convicted of first-degree murder, report CPJ and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Bailey, a well-known community journalist and editor of the Oakland Post Group of newspapers in California, had been investigating the troubled finances of a local business called Your Black Muslim Bakery - whose proprietors and employees themselves had long rap sheets - when he was killed in the street by a masked gunman on 2 August 2007.

Shortly after, an employee of the bakery, Devaughndre Broussard, confessed to being the gunman - and the case was considered solved. But Bailey's colleagues asked why only one suspect was charged as an alleged lone gunman when evidence pointed to a wider conspiracy.

Organised as the ad hoc collective the Chauncey Bailey Project, they uncovered several pieces of evidence that were only later pursued by Oakland police, and that drew attention to the irregularities of the initial police investigation - including the mishandling or withholding evidence by the chief detective.

For instance, the project obtained and made public a secretly recorded police video of Your Black Muslim Bakery's owner Yusuf Bey IV and other employees at a police station joking about Bailey's murder.

Eventually, in exchange for a lesser sentence, Broussard testified against Bey as well as his co-worker, Antoine Mackey, for having arranged and ordered the murder. Both were convicted of first-degree degree murder on 9 June.

Bey was also found guilty for the 2007 deaths of Odell Roberson, Jr. and Michael Wills. Mackey was found guilty of Wills's death as well, reports CPJ.

According to the project's executive editor, Robert Rosenthal, the district attorney acknowledged the project's crucial role in getting the guilty verdicts - an unusual statement for a prosecutor to make. "I would especially like to recognise and acknowledge the Chauncey Bailey Project, who worked diligently and tirelessly to ensure that the defendants responsible for these senseless murders were brought to justice," district attorney Nancy O'Malley said, shortly after the verdicts were announced.

"There is a broader lesson in the success of the Chauncey Bailey Project," said Rosenthal. "In today's journalism world, collaboration is frequently essential. These verdicts and the work of the Chauncey Bailey Project are a powerful reminder that investigative reporting plays a crucial role in our democracy."

Putting free expression issues in perspective.

Sign up to receive IFEX In Context.

Related stories on ifex.org

Newspaper editor gunned down in Oakland 2 August 2007
United States

IFEX members working in this country 1

More from United States

At this point, would publish cover: "Home page"
IFEX is a global network of committed organisations working to defend and promote free expression.
Permission is granted for material on this website to be reproduced or republished in whole or in part provided the source member and/or IFEX is cited with a link to the original item.