Josh Richman and Thomas Peele, Mercury News, May 26, 2009
The July 2007 slaying of Michael Wills, in which two members of Your Black Muslim Bakery have been charged, was tinged with racial overtones, yet those men aren’t charged with a hate crime.
Friends and relatives of Wills, who was white, are concerned that prosecutors haven’t done all they can against defendants Yusuf Bey IV–the last leader of the now-defunct bakery–and Antoine Mackey, one of Bey’s followers charged with pulling an assault rifle’s trigger to end Wills’ life.
But experts say hate-crime cases are particularly difficult to prove and, in this case, would not bring added potential penalties beyond what the defendants already face.
Devaughndre Broussard, another Bey IV follower who has admitted to killing journalist Chauncey Bailey, told a prosecutor in March that Bey IV and Mackey bragged they killed Wills because of his race. The two saw him walking in North Oakland as they were discussing a string of racially motivated murders in the 1970s known as the Zebra killings.
“They was laughing about and joking about,” Broussard said of Bey IV and Mackey.
Mackey “said he seen the white dude walking down the path “. . . then he shot him,” Broussard added.
Bey IV later said, “‘We got a devil. White people are devils,'” according to Broussard’s statement.
Then Broussard said Bey IV talked about “a devil mentality. A black man can be a devil if he’s against his people.” Bey IV and his late father, bakery founder Yusuf Bey, have often, while preaching, referred to white people as “devils.” And in telephone calls recorded from the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and obtained by the Chauncey Bailey Project, Bey IV often made similar statements, referring to “white and Jew devils” and “media devils” whom he claims are trying to destroy him.
Patrick Wills, the victim’s younger brother, said his brother’s family and friends “pretty much all feel the same. Everybody knows the only reason (Michael Wills) was shot was because he was white. So I don’t see any reason why that (hate crime enhancement) should not be part of the charges. For it to not to be there is horrible.”
“Prosecutors tend to be very hesitant to charge hate crime cases “. . .because they’re really, really hard to prove: You have to prove the offender’s motive beyond a reasonable doubt,” explained Associate Professor Phyllis Gerstenfeld, a hate-crime expert who chairs the criminal justice program at Cal State, Stanislaus. “Hate crimes are the only criminal acts that require you to prove motive beyond a reasonable doubt “. . . and we can’t read people’s minds.”
California law requires that someone convicted of first-degree murder that is a also hate crime be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The law also says one of the “special circumstances” that make murder defendants eligible for capital punishment is if the “victim was intentionally killed because of his or her race, color, religion, nationality or country of origin.”
The California Department of Justice reports that although 1,426 hate crime events were reported statewide in 2007, only 443 hate crime cases were referred to prosecutors. Of those, charges were filed in 387 cases–330 as hate crimes and 57 as crimes not motivated by bias. And of the 241 cases completed in time to be available for the annual report, 110 were hate crime convictions, 103 were other convictions and 28 were not convicted at all.
Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty for two men charged in several murders, including that of an Oakland journalist, Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff said Friday.
Orloff said he’s opted to seek life sentences without the possibility of parole for Yusuf Bey IV and Antoine Mackey. He declined to elaborate on his decision. Defense attorneys were told of Orloff’s decision before Friday’s scheduled arraignment, which was postponed until June 18.
Bey, the former leader of a now-defunct community group called Your Black Muslim Bakery, is accused of ordering the killings of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey and two other men. Mackey, a bakery associate, is accused of being the getaway driver in the Bailey killing and being the shooter in another murder.
Bailey was investigating the group’s finances when he was gunned down on his way to work in 2007.
Your Black Muslim Bakery, founded almost 40 years ago by Bey’s father, Yusuf Bey, became an institution in Oakland’s black community, running bakeries, a security service, a school and other businesses. But the group became marred by connections to criminal activity.
Earlier this month, former bakery handyman Devaughndre Broussard, 21, pleaded guilty to two lesser counts of voluntary manslaughter for shooting Bailey and another man. In exchange, Broussard agreed to testify against Bey and Mackey.