OAKLAND -- The Chauncey Bailey murder trial will remain in Alameda County.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon on Thursday denied a request from Yusuf Bey IV, leader of the defunct Your Black Muslim Bakery, and his co-defendant, bakery member Antoine Mackey, to move the trial because of voluminous pretrial publicity.

Bey IV and Mackey, both 25, are facing murder charges in connection with the Aug. 2, 2007, shooting death of Bailey, a Bay Area journalist who was working on a story about turmoil at the bakery, and the unrelated shooting deaths of two other men, Odell Roberson and Michael Wills.

Reardon said he found scant evidence during "a grueling" screening that potential jurors had been exposed to excessive media coverage and couldn't be fair. A pool of 800 potential jurors was narrowed down to 109 during a seven-day process that concluded last week. The final jury of 12, with five alternates, is expected to be empaneled March 21.

Defense lawyers said outside court they have not yet decided whether to appeal Reardon's ruling.

"We're disappointed," said Mackey's lawyer, Gary Sirbu. Surveys a jury expert conducted for the defendants showed "a very substantial number" of jurors came into the process believing the defendants were probably guilty.

Both Sirbu and Bey IV's lawyer, Gene Peretti, said they are expecting a combative trial.

"It's going to be one big legal battle," Sirbu said, adding the case will hinge on the testimony of Bailey's confessed killer, former bakery follower Devaughndre Broussard, 23.

Broussard first denied killing Bailey, then confessed and told police he acted alone, then recanted that confession. He eventually cut a plea deal with prosecutors and told a grand jury that Bey IV ordered the killing and that Mackey helped him carry it out.

Broussard told the grand jury that Bey IV wanted Bailey dead to stop him from writing about a bankruptcy case the bakery had filed in 2006.

Broussard also testified he killed Roberson, a homeless man, on Bey IV's order and that Mackey handed him the murder weapon, an assault rifle. In the Wills slaying, Broussard testified he saw Bey IV and Mackey return to the bakery after the man was shot, and that they later bragged and joked about the killing.

In exchange for his testimony in the murder trial, Broussard is to receive a 25-year sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of voluntary manslaughter.

"Broussard has enormous credibility issues," Peretti said. "He's told so many lies he can't keep them straight."

The defense lawyers said the murder of a journalist sparked intense media coverage and said their research showed that a fair trial in Alameda County was impossible because of it.

Prosecutor Melissa Krum said defense attorneys ignored that fact that the 109 jurors in the pool were those who remained after others who said they had deep preconceived ideas about the case based on media reports were removed.

Reardon said preconceived notions about the public's exposure to news coverage didn't bear out during jury screening.

Of 126 people interviewed, he said, 17 were dismissed for cause, including admitted prejudices and unwillingness to follow instructions. Only one, he said, was dismissed because of significant exposure to news about the murders.

Reach investigative reporter Thomas Peele at tpeele@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/thomas_peele.