The credibility of the prosecution’s key witness was the prime target during closing arguments Thursday in the murder trial of a former Oakland community leader charged with ordering the murders of three men, including a local journalist.
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The credibility of the prosecution’s key witness was the prime target during closing arguments Thursday in the murder trial of a former Oakland community leader charged with ordering the murders of three men, including a local journalist.
Defense attorneys for former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV and co-defendant Antoine Mackey told jurors in Alameda County Superior Court that confessed killer Devaughndre Broussard lied in court and his testimony shouldn’t be factored into their verdict.
Broussard testified that Bey ordered him and Mackey to kill Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey and two other men in 2007 exchange for a credit rating hook-up.
"Is Broussard telling us the truth?" Bey’s lawyer, Gene Peretti, asked jurors. "And, in fact, can we rely on the testimony of Broussard in a case as important as this?
Concluding her closing arguments on Thursday, prosecutor Melissa Krum reiterated that Broussard is a "sociopath" and a stone-cold killer, his testimony is supported by their overwhelming evidence.
She said they struck a plea deal with Broussard because "sometimes you’ve got to make a deal with a demon to get to the devil."
Bey is charged with ordering the killings. Mackey, a former bakery supervisor, is charged with helping confessed Broussard kill Bailey and another man, Odell Roberson, and with fatally shooting a third man, Michael Wills.
Prosecutors said Bey wanted Bailey dead to prevent an investigative piece about the bankrupt bakery’s financial troubles from being published.
Bey and Mackey, both 25, have pleaded not guilty. They face life in prison without parole if convicted.
Broussard, 23, has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for the fatal shootings of Bailey and Roberson and is expected to receive a 25-year prison sentence in exchange for his testimony in late March.
And while Broussard isn’t exactly the person a district attorney wants as their main witness, Krum said Bey made that happen when he ordered him to kill Bailey. She said the evidence in the case supports Broussard’s testimony.
Krum said Wednesday that Bey was determined to protect the legacy of his failing family bakery that he went so far as to order the killings.
Founded some 40 years ago by Bey’s late father, the bakery became an institution in Oakland’s black community as it ran a security service, a school and other businesses.
But it also became marred by connections to criminal activity and money woes.
On Thursday, Peretti said Bey was thrust into the leadership role at the bakery after his older brother was murdered.
Peretti said it was already public knowledge that the bakery was facing bankruptcy and that Bey commanding others to kill "would’ve exacerbated things."
"It’s a big stretch to say that Mr. Bey ordered the deaths of three people," Peretti said.
Krum said Bey ordered Broussard to kill Roberson, 31, in retaliation for the murder of Bey’s brother by Roberson’s nephew.
Mackey is accused of killing Wills, 36, at random after he and Bey had a conversation about the Zebra murders, a string of racially motivated black-on-white killings in San Francisco in the 1970s. Bey and Mackey are black, and Wills was white.
Peretti also said that Broussard isn’t a credible witness because he’s a "cold-blooded killer" who "kills people for sport and almost enjoys it."
Peretti later said that Broussard was trying to find a way out of a cage and "hit the lottery" when he struck a plea deal.
Peretti said the district attorney’s office was under political and media pressure to implicate the bakery when Bailey was gunned down on a downtown Oakland street in broad daylight on Aug. 2, 2007.
"The district attorney’s office jumped for the bait like a dolphin leaping for a sardine," Peretti said.
Gary Sirbu, Mackey’s attorney, later told jurors that Broussard "got a script and so he better follow it." Krum’s evidence "has no true substance and she knows this is a paper thin case," he said.
Broussard implicated Mackey to cover up for another bakery associate and that his client was "expendable," Sirbu said.
Sirbu also urged jurors not to be swayed by emotion or public sentiment of the nearly four-year-old case that garnered national attention and has culminated with a two-month-old trial.
"This is an important case," Sirbu said. "You must be satisfied with the decisions you can live with and sleep with for the rest of your lives."
Closing arguments resume on Monday and the jury could begin deliberating by early next week.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.