"Baretta" star Robert Blake, 68, and his bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, 46, were arrested in Southern California on Thursday, for investigation of the murder nearly a year ago of the actor's wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, then 44, according to live Los Angeles TV news reports. Footage of Blake being taken into custody after being apprehended at his sister's house in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb north of L.A., was shown on local TV stations. He was taken to LAPD headquarters downtown and is being held without bail. On May 4, 2001, Blake, whose career stretched back to his starring as a child in the "Our Gang" comedies, and his wife had been to dinner at an Italian restaurant, Vitello's, near their home in Studio City (also in the Valley).
At the time of the murder, Blake told authorities that he had left his wife alone in their parked car while he returned to the restaurant to retrieve a gun he claimed had fallen out of his clothing. Blake and his lawyer, Harlan Braun, suggested in interviews given to TV news shows immediately following the incident that Bakley, who had been painted as a grifter, may have been done away with by a former boyfriend or one of the many men they claimed she had bilked out of money in con schemes. She and Blake had been married for about five months before the slaying, after DNA tests proved that he fathered her 11-month-old daughter. Police Chief Bernard Parks told the AP that detectives will seek to have prosecutors charge Blake with one count of murder with special circumstances (which could make him eligible for the death penalty) and two counts of solicitation of murder.
They are seeking a conspiracy to commit murder charge for the bodyguard. "I think that after thousands and thousands of hours of investigation by the LAPD they have concluded that Robert Blake and Earle Caldwell are responsible for the death of Bonny Bakley," attorney Cary W. Goldstein, who represents the estate of Bakley, told CNN. "I believe that the real killer is out there," Blake's attorney, vouching for his client's innocence, told reporters Thursday night.
LOS ANGELES —Robert Blake posted $1 million bail for bodyguard Earle Caldwell, who is charged with conspiring to kill the actor's wife, Blake's lawyer said Friday.
"He's an employee and a friend and Robert felt responsible for him," attorney Harland Braun said.
He said Caldwell, 46, was released from jail early Friday. He was not available for immediate comment.
Caldwell has said previously that Blake is innocent.
Blake, 68, is charged with murder, conspiracy and solicitation to murder his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, who was shot to death May 4, 2001. He remains jailed without bail.
Children of Blake's Murdered Wife Sue Him in L.A.
By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES - The four children of actor Robert Blake's slain wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Monday against the "Baretta" star and his bodyguard, who already face criminal charges in her murder.
The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, filed by the administrator for Bakley's estate, seeks unspecified damages and asserts that the children -- including 22-month-old Rose Lenore Sophia Blake, the girl fathered by Blake -- are her only known heirs.
The others are Jeri Lee Lewis -- the 7-year-old daughter who Bakley, 44, once claimed was the daughter of rock-n-roll wild man Jerry Lee Lewis -- and her two adult children from a previous marriage, Glenn Paul Gawron and Holly Lee Gawron.
The lawsuit claims that Blake and bodyguard Earle Caldwell "conspired to kill" Bakley and charges that "on or about May 4, 2001, defendant Robert Blake murdered his wife by shooting her with a gun while she was sitting in his vehicle."
Blake's civil attorney, Barry Felsen, could not immediately be reached for comment on the lawsuit. Caldwell's attorney was also unavailable.
The 68-year-old Blake, who is being held in the Los Angeles Men's Central Jail without bail, pleaded innocent last week to charges of murder, conspiracy and solicitation of murder. He faces a sentence of life in prison if he is convicted.
Judge Rejects Blake's Dramatic Plea for Bail
Wed May 1, 2002
By Dan Whitcomb
VAN NUYS, Calif. (Reuters) - Actor Robert Blake made a dramatic courtroom plea on Wednesday to be freed from jail so that he could clear his name in the face of charges that he murdered his wife, but a judge refused to grant him bail.
Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash said the 68-year-old "Baretta" star must remain in jail at least until after prosecutors present their case against him at a preliminary hearing, which could be several months away.
Blake, who has been held in the Los Angeles Men's Central Jail without bail since his arrest two weeks ago on murder and conspiracy charges in the May 4, 2001 death of 44-year-old Bonny Lee Bakley, interrupted attorney Harland Braun's argument to stand up and address the judge himself.
"For the past year I've been silent while this town, my country and the police have said whatever they want about me," Blake said. "Now it's my turn to fight back. I have to fight for my life and I can't do that from inside a concrete cell."
He added: "For the past year practically everybody has tried to take (my life) away from me. The news media, who I once respected, the police, who I once respected, and my country, which I once respected."
Blake said he had a difficult time studying the 35,000 pages of documents produced by prosecutors in the case without the help of his lawyers because he suffered from severe dyslexia which rendered him essentially unable to read.
"I spent grade school sitting in the back of class with the children who didn't speak English," the former child actor said. "I got straight D's, took gardening and wood shop. Nobody could understand how the same kid could learn 10 pages of script on the way to the studio."
Blake said he never was able to read scripts in Hollywood, even while starring as gritty detective Tony Baretta in the hit 1970s TV cop drama, and memorized his lines as someone read them out loud to him.
Judge Nash said Blake and Braun had made convincing arguments for granting him bail, but said defendants facing murder charges with special circumstances rarely are freed pending trial.
JUDGE SAYS MAY SET BAIL
He agreed with prosecutors that the issue should be postponed until after a preliminary hearing, adding: "If I believe it's appropriate at that time then I will set bail."
Authorities say Blake, bound by marriage and a baby to the woman he hated and unable to hire a hitman to kill her, took matters into his own hands and shot Bakley to death with a vintage German handgun as she sat in his car near Vitello's restaurant in suburban Studio City.
His 46-year-old handyman and bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit murder. Both men have pleaded innocent.
Prosecutors on Wednesday released details of their case against Blake, including phone records which show the actor calling two aging stuntmen who he allegedly asked to kill Bakley, letters and the transcript of a phone conversation between the actor and his wife.
In one letter Bakley informs Blake that she is pregnant because her birth control pill "did not work." In another, dated July 17, 2000 she tells him that she will get married so that they can share custody of their child, but that she wants a ring "of at least a carat" and signed paternity papers.
Braun has portrayed Bakley as a lifelong grifter with a penchant for attaching herself to famous men, including Blake.
The evidence produced by prosecutors also includes results of tests conducted by the Los Angeles County Coroner's office which show particles of gunshot residue on the clothes that Blake was wearing on the night that Bakley died.
But Braun said those tests would be proven "meaningless" because his client had admitted handling a gun on that night.
Blake has told police that on the night of the murder he took Bakley to dinner at Vitello's and left her in his black Dodge Stealth while he went back to retrieve a gun that he accidentally left behind, returning to find her shot dead.
Also Wednesday, prosecutors filed a motion asking that the attorney for Caldwell, Arna Zlotnick, be removed from the case because Blake was paying her retainer, an arrangement they said was a conflict of interest.
Braun said prosecutors wanted Zlotnick off the case because she was a "tough" litigator who would not let her client be pressured into testifying falsely against Blake.
Brother of Blake's Slain Wife Arrested in Calif.
Thu May 2, 2002
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - The brother of actor Robert Blake's slain wife has been arrested for a Florida parole violation after authorities there saw him being interviewed on national television in connection with the sensational murder case, police said on Thursday.
Florida authorities contacted police in San Diego after Joseph Bakley, 36, appeared on ABC's "20/20" program last week to discuss his sister's shooting death and the case against Blake, San Diego Deputy District Attorney Robert Locke said.
San Diego police then tracked Bakley, who has been sought by the state of Florida since 1993, to a city mission and arrested him on charges of violating a court parole order stemming from a conviction on drug and grand theft charges.
Bakley, who waived his right to fight extradition, will be returned to Florida within 30 days, Locke said.
Blake is charged with murder, conspiracy and solicitation of murder in connection with 44-year-old Bonny Lee Bakley's shooting death on May 4, 2001 and is being held without bail pending a trial later this year.
Prosecutors say the 68-year-old former "Baretta" star opened fire on his wife of less than a year as she sat in his car near Vitello's restaurant in the Los Angeles suburb of Studio City after he failed to hire a hit man to do the job.
Blake, who faces a life prison term if convicted maintains his innocence and has vowed to fight for his life at trial.
Blake's Daughter Wins Temporary Custody of Girl
Thu May 9, 4:27 PM ET
By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Robert Blake's adult daughter on Thursday won temporary custody on Thursday of her half-sister -- a nearly 2-year-old girl whose very existence, prosecutors say, drove the "Baretta" star to murder his wife.
A Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner H. Ronald Hauptman granted Delinah Blake -- who has been caring for Rose Lenore Sophie Blake almost since she was born -- guardianship pending a hearing on permanent custody in July.
The 35-year-old college psychology instructor, who has stood by her famous father as he faces trial for allegedly murdering Bonny Lee Bakley, clenched her fist and exclaimed "Yes!" as she turned to leave the courtroom.
Hauptman also rejected requests by family members of the dead woman to have authorities "study" the girl's living conditions and limit the 68-year-old actor to one-hour visits with an armed bodyguard present.
The judge also refused a request by Cary Goldstein, a lawyer for Bakley's sister and adult children, that Delinah Blake disclose "a serious illness" that is mentioned obliquely in annulment papers she filed in 1999.
Hauptman said during the brief hearing in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom that those issues would likely be probed before the July hearing on permanent guardianship.
Prosecutors say Blake, bound to the woman he hated by marriage and fearful that Bakley would try to take the baby away, shot her to death on May 4, 2001 after twice failing to hire a hit man who could do the grim work for him.
Blake has been held at the Los Angeles Men's Central Jail without bail since his arrest last month, nearly a year after Bakley was gunned down as she sat in his black sports car outside Vitello's restaurant in suburban Studio City.
The onetime child star turned tough-guy actor -- best known for portraying edgy detective Tony Baretta on the hit 1970s crime drama --maintains his innocence and told police that Bakley was shot to death by an unknown assailant.
His lawyer has portrayed the 44-year-old Bakley as a lifelong grifter who tried to attach herself to famous men like Blake and Christian Brando, son of film star Marlon Brando.
Delinah Blake declined to comment outside court, but her attorney, Terry McNiff, told reporters that she was "very happy" with the custody arrangement, which her father wanted, and that the judge rejected Goldstein's requests.
Goldstein said that he sought the court orders because Bakley's family fears that he will be released on bail and could try to harm the child.
"Robert Blake is very morose, very depressed," he said. "We think he could very well try to take Rose down with him."
Harland Braun, Blake's criminal attorney, dismissed that suggestion and said that in fact his client had "dedicated his life" to the girl's welfare.
Defense: DA denying Blake fair trial
(From Court TV)
LOS ANGELES —The district attorney is trying to deny Robert Blake a fair murder trial by jailing him without bail and interfering with his employment of an investigator, the defense says — a claim the DA's office called "preposterous."
Defense lawyer Harland Braun also suggested Thursday that the arrest of the former "Baretta" star was politically motivated: He claimed now-retired Police Chief Bernard Parks wanted a "last moment of glory" before leaving.
Blake, 68, is accused of murdering wife Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, on May 4, 2001, soliciting her murder, conspiracy and the special circumstance of lying in wait. He had pleaded innocent.
Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for District Attorney Steve Cooley, denied Braun's claims, saying: "These outrageous allegations are patently preposterous."
Braun's motion, which said it will be filed in court Friday, came the day after prosecutors asked a judge to prohibit Braun from hiring a private investigator who is scheduled to testify against the actor.
Prosecutors are also trying to remove the lawyer representing Blake's bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, claiming she has a conflict of interest. The lawyer is being paid by Blake and allegedly gave information to authorities that might make her a witness at the trial.
A hearing is scheduled Monday.
"Robert Blake objects to all these attempts by Steve Cooley to interfere with his right to a fair trial," Braun's motion said. "Mr. Blake also objects to Mr. Cooley's engineering of his arrest as a political and media event."
He claimed that Cooley yielded to a wish by Parks that Blake be arrested before he left office.
"Only a fool would not notice that Bernard Parks' last day as chief was April 19, 2002," said the documents. "Parks would not be denied a last moment of glory in the press and therefore forced the arrest of Blake on April 18 before Cooley was prepared to file a complaint.
The motion said that on Feb. 19, Cooley ordered his deputies to file a case against Blake within 30 days.
"The order from Cooley clearly put the investigation in a bind because it did not have any physical evidence or witness connecting Robert Blake to the murder of Bonny Bakley," said the motion.
As for prosecution complaints about Braun's employment of William C. Jordan, a private investigator, the motion said Jordan had worked for Blake previously in his attempt to gain custody of his child by Bakley.
Prosecutors said they interviewed him and had planned to call him as a witness before Braun hired him as a consultant last week.
The motion concluded with a renewed plea for Blake's release on bail. Blake has offered to post $1 million bail and to submit to electronic monitoring.
Judge to Rule on Actor Blake Paying Defense Costs
Sun May 19, 2002
By Gina Keating
LOS ANGELES - A Los Angeles judge is expected to rule on Monday on whether actor Robert Blake should be allowed to pay legal defense costs for his bodyguard, who allegedly helped him plan his wife's murder last year.
Blake, 68, and his former aide, Earle Caldwell, were arrested last month and charged in the May 4, 2001, murder of Bonny Lee Bakley, with whom Blake, the star of the 1970s "Baretta" television series, has a young daughter.
Bakley, 44, was fatally shot as she sat in Blake's 1991 Dodge Stealth behind a Los Angeles restaurant where the couple had just dined. Blake told police that she was waiting for him while he went to retrieve a handgun that he had accidentally left in the restaurant.
So far, Blake has put up $1 million in cash and an undisclosed amount of legal fees for Caldwell, 46, who is represented by Los Angeles attorney Arna Zlotnick.
Blake and Caldwell, who also served as a handyman at the actor's sprawling Los Angeles home, are charged with conspiracy to commit murder in Bakley's death. Blake also faces two counts of solicitation of murder and a special allegation that could result in a life prison term.
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys Patrick Dixon and Gregory Dohi have asked Judge Lloyd Nash to remove Zlotnick from the case, contending she has a conflict of interest in the case because she had a financial relationship with Blake.
The prosecutors said Zlotnick could be called as a witness to explain statements she made to police about a list of supplies including shovels and pool acid that was found in Caldwell's car. Police consider the list a key piece of evidence that links Caldwell to the murder plot.
Caldwell and Zlotnick made conflicting statements about the list, prosecutors said in court documents.
"In light of the fact that Ms. Zlotnik is a material witness against her client and is being paid by a party whose interests are adverse to her client's, the People ask this court to relieve her as counsel and require substitution by a truly independent attorney," the prosecutors wrote in court papers.
The District Attorney's Office wants the judge to appoint a publicly paid attorney for Caldwell if he cannot afford a private attorney. Blake's attorney, Harland Braun, said he will oppose the request.
Attorney Diane Karpman, a past president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association's ethics committee, said no legal ethics rules prohibit a third party from paying legal bills, though the arrangement is more common in civil cases.
Karpman called the prosecutors' attempts to disqualify Zlotnick "outrageous" and possibly a violation of Caldwell's civil rights.
"It should not be the prosecutor that should tell the accused who is going to represent him," Karpman said.
Stuntmen Say Blake Tried to Solicit Them for Wife's Murder
June 12, 2002
Two stuntmen told police last year that Robert Blake tried to hire them to kill his wife and suggested ways she could be murdered, according to documents released today.
Gary McLarty, who doubled for Blake on a few episodes of the Baretta television series and a movie, told police the actor suggested that someone could sneak into her apartment and "bump her off while she was asleep.''
The quote was in a follow-up investigation report done in conjunction with a probable cause warrant and affidavit for Blake's arrest.
Blake -- jailed without bail for the May 4, 2001, shooting death of Bonny Lee Bakley -- said to McLarty, "How's $10,000 sound?'' according to the document.
McLarty told police investigators that he informed Blake three days later that he did not want to be involved in any illegal acts. He said he believed Blake asked him to kill his wife because he knew McLarty had previously shot and killed a person, according to the document.
Another stuntman, Ronald "Duffy'' Hambleton, denied twice to investigators earlier last year that he had been solicited to kill Blake's wife. But he said last November that Blake offered to pay him to kill the woman, and showed him a .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol that he said was untraceable, the court papers show.
Hambleton said Blake drove through the alley behind Vitello's restaurant in Studio City, and along nearby streets, to point out other possible locations that could be used as the site of the murder. He said Blake suggested a scenario in which Bakley would be seated in a parked car where Hambleton could sneak up and kill her, according to the document.
Blake later stopped at a 7-Eleven to get a prepaid telephone card, and Hambleton suggested Blake could use it to phone him so no record of the calls would exist, the document alleges.
Hambleton said he met with Blake two more times, including one in which Blake suggested Bakley could be shot to death in a car parked alongside a road, and her remains taken to a desert location where holes would have already been dug, according to the document.
The report alleges that Hambleton told investigators Blake phoned him to confirm that his calls were untraceable, either the day before or day that Bakley was shot to death.
"All they have, basically, is two stuntmen ... who say he solicited them,'' Blake's lawyer, Harland Braun, said. He added that he believes the prosecution's case "depends on what two stuntmen say.''
"There's no way to corroborate their version,'' Braun said of the accounts.
A third man, former stunt coordinator Bobby Bass, also was called by a friend of Blake's, who said the actor wanted to meet with him, according to the report.
Bass declined to meet with Blake because he had Parkinson's disease. He committed suicide last November, according to the document.
Bakley's brother, Joe, told police detectives that Blake solicited him to "eliminate'' someone for him, and offered to pay Joe Bakley $5,000 for his services, according to the document.
Joe Bakley told investigators that he went along with Blake's offer, but that the actor never told him whom he was to "eliminate,'' and that Blake never solicited the man to kill Bonny Lee Bakley, according to the document.
The document is among 13 search warrants publicly released today at the request of the Los Angeles Times.
The 68-year-old actor is accused of killing Bakley himself. She was shot to death as she sat in Blake's 1991 Dodge Stealth near Vitello's, where the two had just eaten dinner.
Blake is charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder, as well as two counts of solicitation of murder. He also is accused of the special circumstance allegation of lying in wait, but prosecutors will not seek the death penalty if he is convicted.
Blake's bodyguard/handyman, Earle Caldwell, is free on $1 million bail. Caldwell is accused of conspiring with Blake to murder Bakley.
Blake and Caldwell are due back in Van Nuys Superior Court on June 18, when a preliminary hearing date is scheduled to be set.
Braun is expected to argue then that his client should be released on $1 million bail.
Judge To Consider Bail for Blake
June 18, 2002
A judge is expected today to consider a defense request to set bail for Robert Blake and strike a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait against the actor. Blake is accused of killing his wife last year.
In court papers filed yesterday, prosecutors Patrick Dixon and Gregory Dohi objected to both defense requests. They argued that they have already shown Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash "far more evidence than that required to deny defendant Blake bail.''
The prosecutors claim they have presented "compelling evidence'' that the 68-year-old actor had been "planning an ambush murder for months'' and had taken steps to "conceal his contacts with potential hitmen,'' then "used a gun which could not be traced.''
Harland Braun wants his client released on bail before a preliminary hearing, at which a judge will determine if there is enough evidence to require the actor to stand trial for the May 4, 2001, shooting death of Bonny Lee Bakley.
A preliminary hearing date may also be scheduled at this afternoon's court session for Blake, who has been held without bail since his arrest April 18.
The man who played a cop in the 1970s television show Baretta is charged with one count each of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, as well as two counts of solicitation of murder and the special circumstance allegation of murder while lying in wait.
Prosecutors have already announced that they will not seek the death penalty if he is convicted.
Blake's bodyguard-handyman, Earle Caldwell, 46, is charged with conspiracy to commit murder and is free on $1 million bail that Blake posted.
In court papers filed last week, Blake's lawyer said his client believes the special circumstance allegation was filed "for the sole purpose of denying bail and is, therefore, an abuse of prosecutorial discretion.''
Braun has complained that his dyslexic client, who has trouble reading, can offer little assistance in defending himself while jailed.
The attorney also has asked the judge to consider a San Diego Superior Court judge's decision in another murder case involving the lying in wait statute.
In a written ruling issued last month, San Diego Superior Court Judge Herbert Exarhos found that the special circumstance allegation of lying in wait is "unconstitutionally vague'' since the statute was amended under a measure voters approved in March 2000.
Braun noted in his motion that the San Diego judge's ruling is "not binding on this court,'' but he said that "the logic of that decision is certainly persuasive.''
The prosecutors countered in their response that the San Diego case was "decided incorrectly,'' and that "opinions of the superior court of another county have no value as precedent before this court.''
"The solitary opinion of the San Diego Superior Court notwithstanding, the lying-in-wait circumstance is still the law. And that law applies to defendant Blake,'' the prosecutors argue.
If Nash agrees with his counterpart's decision in San Diego, Blake could be released on $1 million bail, according to Braun.
Blake's Bodyguard Can Keep Lawyer
June 19, 2002
A judge ruled today that a lawyer Robert Blake is paying to defend the actor's bodyguard will be allowed to stay on, despite prosecution concerns of a potential legal conflict of interest.
Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash said he will allow Arna Zlotnik to remain as the defense attorney for Earle Caldwell, who is accused of conspiring with Blake to murder the actor's wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, last year.
The judge made his ruling after hearing from lawyer Stephen Sitkoff, who Nash appointed independent counsel to discuss the potential conflict issue with Caldwell.
Caldwell told the judge he understands what the independent lawyer explained to him and wants Zlotnik to continue representing him.
Caldwell is free on $1 million bail that Blake posted. The actor is being held without bail.
The judge decided to wait until June 27 to rule on defense motions to set bail for Blake and to dismiss a special circumstance allegation of murder while lying in wait. The defense agrees with a San Diego judge that the lying in wait statute is unconstitutionally vague.
Nash said he needed more time to review the motions, and noted that some of the court papers both sides presented were not even filed until today.
Blake's lawyer, Harland Braun, told reporters outside court that the judge's decision will have "implications beyond this case.''
"It's a decision that will affect the entire state of California because there are many of these (lying in wait) cases pending currently all across the state.
"So, it's to everyone's best interest to have this resolved correctly and early because these cases cost millions of dollars to prosecute. And if the special circumstance is unconstitutional, we're wasting a lot of taxpayers' money,'' Braun said.
The defense attorney has asked Nash to consider San Diego Superior Court Judge Herbert Exarhos' decision regarding the lying in wait statute.
In a written ruling issued last month, Exarhos found that the special circumstance allegation of lying in wait has been "unconstitutionally vague'' since the statute was amended under a measure voters approved in March 2000.
If Nash agrees he would set bail for Blake, Braun said.
"If he finds it's constitutional, then he has to make a decision whether the evidence is clear and compelling at this stage to deny bail,'' Blake's lawyer added.
Blake has been jailed without bail since his April 18 arrest in connection with Bakley's May 4, 2001, shooting death.
The former star of the 1970s TV series Baretta remains "philosophical'' while being kept away from the jail's general population, Braun said.
Prosecutors Patrick Dixon and Gregory Dohi are fighting the defense request for bail, arguing in court papers filed yesterday that the judge has already been shown "far more evidence than that required to deny defendant Blake bail.''
The prosecutors claim they have presented "compelling evidence'' that the 68-year-old actor had been "planning an ambush murder for months'' and had taken steps to "conceal his contacts with potential hitmen,'' then "used a gun which could not be traced.''
Blake, 68, is charged with one count each of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, as well as two counts of solicitation of murder and the special circumstance allegation of murder while lying in wait.
Prosecutors have already announced that they will not seek the death penalty if he is convicted.
Caldwell, 46, who worked for Blake, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit murder.
According to court papers the prosecution filed, police investigators have determined that Caldwell "accessed Web sites which provided information about firearms silencers and books on how to make firearms silencers.''
Prosecutors also allege that Caldwell received a catalog that contained a dog-eared page with a listing on the back of it for a book called Killing Zone: A Professional's Guide to Preparing or Preventing Ambushes.
Braun said outside court that Caldwell is a "survivalist, a gun nut if you will,'' and police "didn't find one scrap of evidence that he had the materials to build a silencer.''
6/27/02 LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- A judge denied bail Thursday for Robert Blake -- the actor charged with murdering his wife -- but said he will make a final decision on the matter at a future date.
Blake, 68, the star of the 1970s television series "Baretta," has been in jail since his arrest April 18. He is accused of shooting his wife of six months, Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, in the head as she sat in his car outside a Studio City restaurant last year.
The tussle over Blake's bail centers around language in his murder charge accusing him of "lying in wait."
During Thursday's hearing, Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash said he would keep an open mind about whether to let stand the lying-in-wait charge, which precludes Blake from getting bail.
Blake lawyer Harland Braun said he would file a writ to the appellate court next week to try to overturn the judge's decision.
"The reason they're denying him bail is because they want to convict him, and it's easier to convict someone who's locked up," Braun told reporters. "That's the only justification."
Braun said the prosecution has no evidence that Blake was lying in wait.
Bakley's sister expressed satisfaction with the decision to keep the actor behind bars for now.
"I'm just pleased that he's staying where he's at," said Margery Bakley. "I'm just very pleased with Judge Nash."
Braun argued that his client should be released on bail while awaiting trial.
The judge said he will decide August 27 when the preliminary hearing should be held.
Blake, wearing a dark sportcoat during the proceeding, appeared gaunt. His hair, which had been brown in recent appearances, was gray.
Prosecutors say the lying-in-wait charge makes Blake ineligible under California law for bail until after his preliminary hearing, where Nash will decide if there is enough evidence to proceed to a trial. They also argue that he is a flight risk and a danger to the community.
But Braun said prosecutors have not presented sufficient evidence to establish that Blake was lying in wait, and he contended the state statute is unconstitutionally vague.
Braun accused prosecutors of stretching the law solely to keep Blake behind bars, and he said the actor was neither a flight risk nor dangerous.
About the preliminary hearing, Braun had argued that the volume of evidence in the case required a delay of up to six months, and he argued that Blake is entitled to bail in the meantime.
Nash responded that an earlier date would be fair, because much of the 35,000 pages of documents had been provided by the defense, and that only about 1,000 pages of documents remain to be transcribed and handed over.
Prosecutors say they can prove that Blake long planned to set up an ambush of his wife, unsuccessfully trying to find a hit man to kill her before finally deciding to shoot her himself. Blake has denied killing Bakley.
Earle Caldwell, Blake's one-time bodyguard, is charged with conspiracy to commit murder and has been released on $1 million bail, posted by Blake.
Appeals Court Denies Bail for Actor Robert Blake
Wed Jul 24, By Gina Keating
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California appeals court has rejected actor Robert Blake's plea to be freed on bail so he can help defend himself against charges he murdered his wife last year.
The Los Angeles-based 2nd District Court of Appeal on Tuesday denied without comment Blake's petition for bail, as well as a request to drop a charge of "lying in wait" that makes the former star of the "Baretta" crime-fighting series ineligible for bail.
Blake's attorney Harland Braun Wednesday called the appeals court decision "irresponsible" and said he plans to appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court.
"How could you have a lying in wait (charge) when they left the restaurant together and she turned up dead?" Braun said. "There is absolutely no physical evidence linking him to the murder. (The charge) is a completely unfounded."
Prosecutors say Blake shot his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, to death on May 4, 2001, as she sat in his car behind a restaurant in Studio City, a Los Angeles suburb, where she and the actor had just dined. Blake said he had left his wife in the car alone so that he could retrieve a gun he left in the restaurant and when he returned, he discovered her dead.
Blake has been jailed since his televised arrest on April 18, almost a year after the killing.
Bakley, 44, was the mother of Blake's 2-year-old daughter Rosie, who now is being cared for by Blake's adult daughter from a previous marriage.
The charges against the 68-year-old actor could land him in prison for the rest of his life. He has been denied bail three times.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash said he will hold a bail hearing for Blake after a preliminary hearing to determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to try Blake for Bakley's murder.
The preliminary hearing was postponed, at the request of Blake's attorneys, until November. But the actor's lawyers asked the appeals court to force Judge Nash to hold the bail hearing much sooner. They argue that Blake cannot communicate freely with his lawyers because his jailers are monitoring his telephone calls.
Braun said he commissioned public opinion polls of potential jurors, which show that "most people think (Blake) is guilty but 75 percent of people asked think he is being unfairly jailed by the (District Attorney)."
Braun said Blake was not surprised by the appeals court's ruling. "He understands how desperate (District Attorney Steve) Cooley is to convict him ... he understands the Hollywood nature of this case," he said.
Actor's daughter wins custody battle
BBC News June 26, 2002: The daughter of actor Robert Blake has won permanent custody of his two-year-old girl, as the actor awaits trial for murder in prison.
Mr Blake, 68, is charged with murdering his wife Bonny Lee Bakley, with whom he had the child in question, Rosie.
Delinah Blake, 35, was awarded temporary custody of Rosie, her half-sister, in May - but a judge ruled on Thursday that the child should be placed permanently in her care.
The college psychology instructor has stood by her father, since he was arrested on 18 April this year for allegedly murdering the child's mother, Bonny Lee Bakley.
Ms Bakley, who was married to Mr Blake for five months, was shot dead on 4 May 2001 as she sat in his car outside a restaurant in Los Angeles.
The actor - who has appeared in 127 films and won an Emmy for the TV series Baretta - claims he left his wife in the car alone so that he could retrieve a gun he had left inside the restaurant, only to find her body on his return to the car.
Ms Bakley was married to Mr Blake for five months
He was arrested on suspicion of the killing on 18 April of this year.
Mr Blake faces the rest of his life in prison if he is convicted of the crime.
He has been denied bail three times, with a judge turning down his most recent application earlier this week.
A Los Angeles court also denied a request to drop a charge of lying in wait, which makes him ineligible for bail.
Mr Blake's lawyer has said he intends to appeal against the decision, which he branded "irresponsible".
Bonny Lee Bakley's sister, Margerry Bakley, had challenged the custody arrangements, but her request to continue the hearing was denied.
Blake lawyer releases taped call between slain wife, Christian Brando
August 2, 2002
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Actor Robert Blake's attorney has released a recorded phone call showing that months before the actor's wife Bonnie Lee Bakley was killed, the son of actor Marlon Brando angrily warned her about her lifestyle.
"You're lucky somebody ain't out there to put a bullet in your head," Christian Brando said in the conversation.
The exchange between Christian Brando and Bakley was released by Blake defense lawyer Harland Braun, who cited it as evidence of other potential suspects in Bakley's death, as well as a flawed police investigation.
Blake has been jailed since his April 18 arrest on charges of murdering Bonny Lee Bakley, the 44-year-old mother of his toddler daughter. Bakley was shot to death May 4, 2001, outside a restaurant the couple had just visited.
Early into the investigation, police cleared Brando as a suspect in Bakley's death. But Braun, who has asserted that many people had the motive to kill Bakley, said he believes police did not adequately investigate Brando.
Brando pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for shooting his half-sister's boyfriend in 1990 and served about five years in prison. Blake married Bakley after she gave birth to a child she initially claimed was fathered by either Blake or Brando. Tests showed the child was Blake's.
According to The Associated Press, Braun said the tape was made in October or November 2000, and was turned over to the Blake defense by prosecutors, along with 120 other telephone call tapes found among Bakley's personal effects. In a police log of evidence seized after the murder, the tape is identified as a conversation between Bakley and Brando. Bakley recorded all her telephone calls and marked each tape, the AP reported.
During the taped conversation, Brando denied he fathered Bakley's baby. He warned her that her behavior -- particularly soliciting money from men by mail with promises of sex -- might lead to violence.
"You have no idea what you do to people with this shit," Christian Brando said. "Think about it. It gets close. You lucky, you know. I mean, not on my behalf, but you're lucky somebody ain't out there to put a bullet in your head!"
Toobin: Defense trying to show many suspects
When detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department arrested Robert Blake for the shooting death of his wife Bonnie Lee Bakley, the then chief of police said prosecuting the actor would be easy.
In various court documents, the case against Blake became clearer. He allegedly tried to hire at least two hitmen to kill his wife before settling on doing the job himself, police said.
Although no DNA evidence apparently links Blake to the crime - and it has yet to be established that the murder weapon belonged to him - investigators are hanging much of their case on the testimony of the two Hollywood stuntmen who police say Blake tried to hire to murder his wife.
CNN was unable to contact Brando over several days to learn what he thinks of Blake's defense strategy to drag him back into this case.
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, however, says he understands exactly what Blake's attorney is trying to do
"From day one, the defense has been trying to show that lots of people, not just Robert Blake, had a motive to kill Bonnie. This tape, the release of it, is another attempt to show other people with possible motives," Toobin said.
A lawyer representing the Bakley family said, however, that he is convinced the evidence against Blake is strong.
UPDATE: Judge denies bail for actor Blake
Wednesday, October 9, 2002
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Actor Robert Blake, charged with murder in the shooting death of his wife, was denied bail Wednesday and will remain behind bars.
Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash said he would reconsider the issue at a preliminary hearing, scheduled for December 11.
Blake, who has been in jail since April 18, has not been eligible for bail before now because the special circumstance of "lying in wait" is included in the charges.
Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, Blake's wife of six months, was shot in the head May 4, 2001, as she sat in Blake's car outside a Studio City restaurant where they had just eaten.
Prosecutors have said they can prove that Blake long planned to set up an ambush of his wife, unsuccessfully trying to find a hit man to kill her before finally deciding to shoot her himself. Blake has denied killing Bakley.
Before Wednesday's hearing, Blake's attorney, Harland Braun, predicted his client would be freed on bail because there is "no physical evidence" that Blake shot his wife or that he was lying in wait to do so.
Earle Caldwell, Blake's one-time bodyguard, is charged with conspiracy to commit murder and has been released on $1 million bail, posted by Blake.
UPDATE: Blake attorney quits case because of TV interview dispute
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Harland Braun, the attorney representing actor Robert Blake on charges that he murdered his wife, announced he is resigning from the case because Blake agreed to tape a national television interview without his approval, CNN has learned.
"No defense attorney could tolerate that," Braun said. His resignation comes just six weeks before Blake's preliminary hearing was scheduled to begin.
In a letter informing the trial judge of his decision to quit, Braun said the interview, with ABC's Diane Sawyer, was negotiated with the actor's civil attorney, Barry Felsen.
"As you surely know from your experience in the criminal justice system, the idea that a defendant in a murder case would go on national television to discuss any aspect of his relationship with the deceased, or any of the facts surrounding the murder, is beyond the comprehension of any criminal lawyer," Braun said in his letter to the judge.
A private investigator working on the case, Scott Ross, also plans to quit, according to Braun.
Blake, 69, is accused of killing Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, his wife of six months, who was shot in the head outside a Studio City restaurant on May 4, 2001. He has been held without bond since his arrest on murder charges in April.
Blake has steadfastly denied that he killed Bakley. A preliminary hearing is set for December 11.
Braun has been unsuccessfully attempting to get Blake released on bail. Earlier this month, he said the actor would appeal to the California Supreme Court a judge's recent decision to deny bail.
ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider declined to talk about Sawyer's interview with Blake, saying, "We don't talk about our bookings."
Braun said the ABC interview was set for Friday, according to a report from The Associated Press. However, the Sheriff's Department said Monday that it has rejected ABC's request for an on-camera interview because it would be too disruptive.
Braun said the greatest danger of such an interview is that something Blake might say could be taken out of context, the AP reported.
UPDATE: Robert Blake to give jailhouse deposition
November 6, 2002
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Actor Robert Blake, who is accused of killing his wife, will give a jailhouse deposition next week in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by her children.
Blake will be deposed by attorney Eric Dubin at the downtown Men's Central Jail, where he has been held since his April arrest.
The 69-year-old former star of television's "Baretta" is charged with murder, soliciting murder and conspiracy. Prosecutors contend he shot and killed Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, outside a San Fernando Valley restaurant on May 4, 2001.
A Dec. 11 preliminary hearing is scheduled to determine if Blake must stand trial on the criminal charges.
January 17, 2003 (CourtTV) Another attorney has quit Robert Blake's murder case.
Citing her frustration with Blake's continued desire to talk to the media, Jennifer Keller asked to be taken off his case. A judge approved the request Friday.
Blake's remaining lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, promised the change would not delay the preliminary hearing, scheduled for Feb. 26.
"I'll be ready," Mesereau assured Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash. It remained unclear whether Mesereau planned to seek another lawyer or to continue as Blake's sole legal counsel.
Blake wore a bright orange prison suit to the brief hearing. He leaned forward and squinted when the judge addressed him. He continuously worked his jaw, and Mesereau asked the judge for permission for his client to visit a dentist.
Best known for his role as a tough-talking cop in the 1970s television show "Baretta," Blake is accused of gunning down his estranged wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, after the two dined together at a Studio City restaurant on the night of March 4, 2001.
Friday's hearing capped a dramatic week in the often slow-moving case.
On Wednesday the actor cried and begged his lawyer to let him tell his version of events during a deposition in the wrongful death suit filed against him by Bakley's family. Mesereau, who had previously ordered Blake not to talk, reportedly threatened to quit on the spot if Blake did not keep silent.
In the interview, which was televised, Blake complained about the conditions of his imprisonment, saying that he only gets 10 minutes to shower every other day, 30 minutes with a priest on Sundays and meetings alone with his lawyer, but otherwise has almost no human contact.
He repeatedly mentioned fears that he would die in prison.
On Tuesday, a Los Angeles judge denied a request by Blake's attorneys to prevent any civil depositions from becoming public before his criminal trial. That same day a judge in the civil case declined to delay Blake's deposition until after the criminal trial.
Mesereau and Keller took over Blake's defense when Harland Braun quit the case over a jailhouse television interview the actor had scheduled with ABC's Diana Sawyer against his advice. The sheriff's department eventually blocked the interview.
Blake has been held in jail without bail and without a trial date since last April. In a hearing last December Nash expressed concern and frustration over the case's delays, noting the actor's advanced age and his constitutional right to a speedy trial.
Blake Is Granted TV Interview
Jailed actor Robert Blake is to talk to the American public - at last. The Baretta star, who was arrested and jailed for the suspected murder of his wife Bonny Lee Bakley last April, has been going against his attorneys' wishes and trying to set up TV interviews with top broadcasters. His efforts to secure a TV chat with newscaster Diane Sawyer last year, which cost him the services of defense lawyer Harland Braun, were scuttled when the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department declared the interview would be a travesty. But, now the authorities have agreed to Blake's wishes, and top broadcaster Barbara Walters will visit the jailbird on Monday, where she will record an interview with him, which will be broadcast at a later date on her news magazine show 20/20. Meanwhile, friends of Blake say the actor is annoyed after hearing record producer Phil Spector was allowed to post bail after he was arrested and charged with the murder of actress Lana Clarkson earlier this month. Blake has not been allowed to post bail and walk free, despite many attempts.
UPDATES: Preliminary Hearing
March 7, 2003 (Source: CourtTV.com)
VAN NUYS, Calif. — With a witness list featuring Hollywood stuntmen, a litany of alleged murder-for-hire schemes, and motives rooted in the victim's mail-order pornography scam, Robert Blake's preliminary hearing for the murder of his wife has been heavy on spectacle. But for legal experts closely watching the proceedings, the real show will come after the hearing, when a controversial issue that has galvanized the legal community and attracted the attention of the California Supreme Court could affect Blake's chances at bail. Blake, the star of the 1970s TV hit series "Baretta," faces charges of murder, conspiracy and solicitation, for the May 4, 2001, shooting of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. He is also charged under a provision of California law called "lying in wait." Prosecutors have said they won't seek the death penalty for Blake, but in California, any so-called "special circumstance" defendant is considered a capital defendant and is not eligible for bail. Because of the lying in wait component of his charges, Blake has remained in the same cell O.J. Simpson and the Menendez brothers inhabited in the Los Angeles County Jail since his arrest last April. Blake's lawyers asked for bail and were denied. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lloyd M. Nash has said that he will consider the issue of bail after Blake's preliminary hearing, which has spanned six days and will resume Monday. The lying in wait issue will be at the center of the judge's decision on whether to grant bail to Blake, who is likely to face trial on the murder charges later this year. It has also sparked a debate with constitutional overtones. Under California law, murdering someone by "lying in wait" is essentially concealing the intent to murder and then surprising the victim with a deadly assault. The charge is only one of many special circumstances that allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for the "worst" murders. But many legal experts believe that an "overbroad" definition of lying in wait makes any murder a special circumstance murder. "Lying in wait comes from the Old West idea of an ambush," said Gigi Gordon, a California lawyer who argued the constitutionality of a similar special circumstance case a decade ago. "But it's become so broad that today, unless you say to the victim, 'I am going to kill you,' it's deemed to be lying in wait." It is the judge's job to decide whether there is a "strong suspicion" that Blake murdered Bakley and conspired with and solicited others to do it, and also whether Blake will be held to answer to the charge of lying in wait. If Nash denies the special circumstance, Blake's bail could be set at $1 million, according to the standardized "bail schedule." But if he doesn't, Blake could be in jail until his trial, by law, within 74 days of that decision. In 2000, California voters approved Proposition 18, which loosened the language on the lying in wait special circumstance, leading to the current debate. "Proposition 18 cleared up an anomaly that made for ridiculous circumstances," said San Diego Deputy District Attorney Richard Armstrong, who won a constitutional challenge to the new definition, in California v. Bradway, in January. In that case, a San Diego man, Gabriel John Bradway, was charged with the lying in wait after allegedly murdering a friend in her home with a shortened hammer he had tucked in his waistband. The Superior Court of San Diego dismissed the circumstance, calling it "unconstitutionally vague," a ruling that the court of appeals overturned. The case appears bound for the California Supreme Court. The loophole, said Armstrong, was a time issue. If a murderer waited for a victim, kidnapped him, and brought him to another location before committing the murder — by traditional accounts an ambush — the defendant was not eligible for the special circumstance of lying in wait. Opponents of the new definition say that another loophole has been opened, however. "One of the legal arguments is that special circumstance actually means special," said Andrew Stein, a veteran Los Angeles criminal defense attorney. "But our Supreme Court rendered a decision that makes almost any murder lying in wait. It can be 10 seconds or it can be 10 hours." According to prosecutors, Blake and Bakley had just finished dinner at one of his neighborhood haunts, the Italian restaurant Vitello's, when he shot her twice with an unregistered handgun while she sat in the passenger seat of his Dodge Stealth. Witnesses testifying in Blake's preliminary hearing have said that he plotted a variety of schemes to murder his wife, from shooting her in the guest house of his Studio City home to the same Vitello's killing he is charged with. But opponents of the lying in wait component say that even Blake's plotting might not be enough to prove that he was actually "lying in wait." "Even if you believe that Mr. Blake was the killer, there's nothing to prove that he didn't just get angry that evening," Stein said. Blake's former lawyer, Harland Braun, asked the California Supreme Court to find that the lying in wait component was misapplied to Blake's case. In October 2002, the California Supreme Court asked Judge Nash to grant a bail hearing, and ordered prosecutors to explain why they believe Blake should not be offered bail. "If the murder of Bonny Lee Bakley wasn't committed by means of lying in wait, it is hard to imagine a murder that was," said prosecutors, led by District Attorney Steve Cooley, in their Oct. 8, 2002, response. As proof, they offered evidence of Blake's scheming — from his solicitation of the stuntmen to his choice of a well-hidden spot for his car — much of which has already come out during the preliminary hearing. Their argument in October could be repeated after the preliminary hearing, as both sides square off on the lying in wait issue. "I think what the defense is going to argue is that this really wasn't an ambush," said Anthony Salerno, a Los Angeles-area lawyer. "I think Nash is going to either give Blake $1 million or he's not going to give him anything." Blake's current lawyer, Thomas Mesereau Jr., was not available for comment. Blake's bail could also be denied if he is deemed a flight risk, or a risk to himself or others. Meanwhile, amid all this speculation, Blake has implied that the question on his mind is not whether he gets bail, but what to do if he does. "You know, what do I do? Work on my case? Sit in a lawyer's office and read documents?" he said in an interview with Barbara Walters that aired last Wednesday on the ABC's "20/20." "Do I walk down the street and watch the same people cross the street when they see me coming?" "Or I put a bag over my head like the Elephant Man? Or maybe I put a collar around me and walk down the street and they can throw money at me. Yeah, sure, people will hire me as a clown. Oh, yeah, we'll give him a job because he's the murderer. We can stand on the corner and sign pictures."
March 5, 2003 (Source: CourtTV.com) Stuntman who says Blake tried to hire him to kill wife admits changing story
VAN NUYS, Calif. — A tabloid-reading stuntman who claims Robert Blake tried to hire him in the months before his wife's murder admitted Monday on the stand that his story about the actor's sales pitch changed three times during interviews with police. In his first interview with police, on May 16, 2001, Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton denied knowing anything about the murder of Blake's new wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, on May 4. "I wouldn't have the slightest idea," Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton's told police then. On May 21, Hambleton told police he had fed his "snitch" roommate false information that Blake offered him $100,000 to murder Bakley — a figure he pulled from the tabloids. But Hambleton maintained that Blake never actually solicited him. But Hambleton's final story, which did not come out until a Nov. 29, 2001 interview, is the one that made him a key witness in Blake's murder case: On March 11, 2001, Blake asked him to help kill Bakley and even suggested a number of scenarios in which Hambleton could carry out the murder. Blake, 69, remained slouched in his chair, wearing the same vacant expression and the same purple pinstriped suit he has had on throughout his four-day preliminary hearing. A judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to try Blake on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and solicitation to murder at trial. Prosecutors say Blake wanted Bakley out of his life after she tricked him into impregnating her and forced him into marriage. Blake's defense has suggested one of the many men burned by Bakley's mail-order pornography and lonely-hearts ring could have been the killer. Blake's link to Hambleton stretches back to his days as the star of TV's "Baretta," the popular 1970s series about a hard-talking investigator. Hambleton played Blake's "double," filling in during car rolls, fight scenes and other stunts. Their March 2001 meeting came 20 years after any professional association, however. According to Hambleton, Blake wanted to meet to work on a movie "treatment" that the stuntman had developed. Called "The Day of the Dirt," the movie called for elaborate on and off-road motorcycle work, one of Hambleton's strengths as a stunt coordinator. During their first meeting, which began at Du Par's restaurant in Van Nuys, Blake veered off subject. He asked Hambleton to come for a ride in his primer-black Ram Charger, and unfurled a variety of scenarios to "snuff" his wife, Hambleton testified Friday. After Bonny Lee Bakley was eventually killed behind a Studio City Italian restaurant Blake frequented, Hambleton testified that he was in shock. "My knees buckled," he said. Hambleton eventually gave a series of three interviews to the police, but his story changed each time. Blake's defense attorney, Thomas Mesereau, Jr., also focused on the "treatment" (a sample script) during his cross-examination. Mesereau is not exactly stoking a nascent interest in filmmaking; Blake's defense could benefit by showing another link between the two men other than the alleged murder plot. "Did you expect a script to come out of this?" he asked Hambleton. "Yes," the witness replied. Outside of the courthouse Monday, Mesereau waxed philosophical on the prosecution's chief witnesses, a private investigator and two stuntmen that he has vigorously cross-examined. "What did they all have to gain in this case?" he asked rhetorically. "Money and fame: It intoxicates all people." The "money and fame" angle might also explain Mesereau's persistent interest in the tabloid newspapers found by the police in Hambleton's house. The lawyer pressed Hambleton on whether he had entertained a deal from the publications, and noted the breadth of tabloid material found at Hambleton's Lucerne Valley residence. But the stuntman adamantly denied purchasing the magazines, from The National Enquirer to the Weekly World News, for any reason but pleasure. "I had been purchasing the tabloids long before this ever took place," said Hambleton. "I do the crosswords."
March 4, 2003 (Source: CourtTV.com) Defense grills detective about relationship with author
VAN NUYS, Calif. — Robert Blake's lawyer attacked a homicide detective Friday for giving an author unparalleled access to the LAPD's investigation of the murder of the actor's wife. "Do you think bringing [author] Miles Corwin to every stage of this investigation is a good way [for you] to get in a book or movie ...?" asked Blake's lawyer, Thomas Mesereau Jr. "Well, a book for sure," replied the 26-year LAPD veteran, Ronald Ito. Mesereau, representing Blake at a preliminary hearing to determine whether the actor will be tried for the murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, charged Ito with contaminating evidence and seeking to "poison the jury pool" by buddying up with Corwin. The former Los Angeles Times reporter is writing a book featuring the investigation that Ito said could come out before the end of the year. Blake, 69, was charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and solicitation to murder after Bakley's shooting death behind Vitello's Italian Restaurant last year. Police say he wanted his new wife, a small-time grifter, out of his life, but Blake has claimed that any one of the men burned by Bakley's lonely hearts scams could have wanted her dead. A trio of witnesses testified Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday that Blake sought their help in killing his wife, suggesting a number of schemes to "whack," "pop" and "snuff" her. But Blake's defense surged as Mesereau tore into Detective Ito. "This is nothing but a Hollywood scenario where everyone wants to compromise," said Mesereau outside the Van Nuys, Calif., courthouse. Corwin's entrace into the homicide department began in 1993, when he spent several months with the robbery-homicide division. Corwin's 2000 book about the experience called, "The Killing Season: A Summer Inside an LAPD Homicide Division," was received favorably by the department. He was again working with the division in 2002, when then-police chief Bernard Parks saw the author as a way to "get the information out to the public that we have nothing to hide," according to Ito. Corwin's access placed him close to Bakley's murder investigation. The night of the murder, the author arrived at Blake's Studio City home and was logged in as a member of the search crew before entering the home as an "observer." As the investigation grew, Corwin's access extended. With the encouragement of Ito and others in the department, Corwin was free to rifle through hundreds of pages of letters, photos and personal effects, and was privy to breaking information on forensic testing and witness depositions. Corwin was so wedded to the department, in fact, that he flew to Arkansas with two LAPD detectives while they interviewed a private investigator. Corwin did not return messages left at his Altadena, Calif. Although his role was simply to observe detectives on the case, Ito admitted under questioning by the defense that the author "touched some evidence before the defense had touched it.'' But he could not specify which evidence. "He didn't touch blood. He didn't touch blood evidence. He didn't touch trace evidence. He didn't touch fibers. He didn't touch clothes. I know that. He didn't touch those items," Ito said. Mesereau raised a link to the O.J. Simpson trial, which Ito (no relation to Judge Lance Ito in the Simpson case) helped investigate, although he played a limited role in the criminal trial. "Now it's your chance to be on TV, true?" asked the lawyer. "Do you like being on TV?" "No," said Ito, as the Court TV cameras kept their silent vigil in a corner of the courtroom. Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash — who will decide whether there is enough evidence to try Blake — noted that Corwin's proximity to the investigation was indeed troubling. "It's fraught with all kinds of problems," the judge said. Ito did testify that Corwin's access to the department's investigation had boundaries. "When I felt that his presence would jeopardize the investigation or prevent witnesses from talking to me freely, I asked him not to come," he said. But Ito could only recall doing that once, during an interview with the victim's brother, Joe Bakley, on June 14, 2001. In fact, Ito admitted to calling Corwin his "partner" during an interview with Roy "Snuffy" Harrison, the man prosecutors say put Blake in touch with the two hit men he asked to help murder Bakley in March 2001. "I probably shouldn't have said that," said the detective. "I don't know why... It might have been a slip of my tongue." Also on Friday, a second former "Baretta" stuntman, Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton, testified that Blake tried to enlist him in a variety of schemes to murder his wife. First, there were the plans to kill her at the guest house behind Blake's home. Then there were plans to take her to the Grand Canyon and "take care of her." Blake also suggested that Hambleton travel to Memphis to gun down Bakley, according to Hambleton. Unlike the first stuntman to testify, Gary "Whiz Kid" McLarty, Hambleton didn't turn Blake down. Out of fear for his family, Hambleton told the court, he continued to meet with Blake and talk via calling cards Blake allegedly thought would obscure identifying numbers. The records have actually helped prosecutors connect Blake and the two stuntmen. The day of the murder, Blake called Hambleton. It was their final conversation. "Duffy, are you sure that there's no way they can trace any calls made from a calling card?" Blake asked, according to the stuntman. Then he hung up, Hambleton testified, without saying goodbye.
March 3, 2003 (Source: CourtTV.com) Cribbing from Baretta scripts?
VAN NUYS, Calif. — Twenty years after filming episodes entitled "Murder for Me" and "Woman Trouble" as the small-screen gumshoe Baretta, Robert Blake hatched a scheme worthy of Hollywood to get rid of his pregnant girlfriend, a private investigator testified Wednesday. "We're going to hire a doctor, we're going to abort her, and if that doesn't work, we're going to whack her," said Blake according to William Welch, testifying in Blake's preliminary hearing for murder. The hearing is to determine whether Blake will stand trial for the killing of Bonny Lee Bakley, the woman whom he eventually married after she gave birth to their daughter. Welch testified he had worked on "routine P.I. stuff" for the actor for a decade, and agreed to accompany Blake on a meandering, out-of-form walk that took them down near the Los Angeles River one Saturday in October, 1999. But the murder plot caught him by surprise. "I said Robert, are you out of your f**king mind?" The next day, Welch said, Blake called to say he'd abandoned his murder plan. Bakley gave birth to the child, and she and Blake married in November, 2000. But prosecutors claim Blake never really forgot the scheme, and took matters into his own hands when he shot Bakley twice behind a Studio City Italian restaurant on May 4, 2001. Blake is charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and solicitation of murder. He could face life in prison. During a taped interview aired on ABC's "20/20" Wednesday night, Blake professed his innocence and speculated that someone Bakley scammed years ago could have been the one to shoot her. He also questioned the role of the LAPD, which waited more than a year before arresting him last April 18. "Only a celebrity can say that police are framing me with that much evidence in his face," said Eric Dubin, who represents Bonny Bakley's estate. Bakley's sister, Margery Bakley, and Bakley's grown daughter, Holly Gowran, sat with Dubin in court Wednesday. Bakley's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Blake. The murder plot wasn't the only scheme that Welch revealed while on the stand—and it wasn't the only scheme seemingly culled from Blake's days as "Baretta." Another time, the actor, who once filmed an episode called "Setup City," devised a plan to plant some cocaine at Bakley's Beverly Hills hotel. Welch would call his friends with the Los Angeles Police Department, and Bakley—who was on probation for fraud related to her mail-order pornography business—would be out of the picture. Welch said he quashed this plot too. "I told him that this was another one of his real bad ideas," said the witness. Welch's testimony came after prosecutors played a tape Bakley recorded in which Blake berates her for getting pregnant with their child. "You swore to me, you promised me, you promised," says Blake on the recording. "You said, 'Don't worry, Robert, no matter what, I will have an abortion. You never have to worry about me getting pregnant.'" The tape was initially allowed into evidence despite a rule barring illegally obtained evidence from court (Bakley recorded the conversation without Blake's consent, which is illegal in California) but Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash decided later in the hearing that he will consider the matter further. Blake's attorney, Thomas Mesereau, Jr., won't be required to call witnesses during the preliminary hearing, as the prosecution has the simple hurdle of proving they have enough evidence to try Blake for murder, not convict him. That hasn't stopped Mesereau from putting on a tenacious defense through cross-examination, including an extended cross of a medical examiner on Wednesday morning and a contentious battle with Welch the investigator. Mesereau's most pointed attack came when the lawyer asked Welch repeatedly why he continued working for Blake, even after he thought he wanted his wife dead. "Didn't you think you were working for a potential killer?" asked Mesereau. "I think I talked him out of it," replied Welch. In preliminary hearings in California, police officers are allowed to testify what witnesses and interview subjects have told them—normally verboten under hearsay rules. Thanks to the hearsay exception, Sergeant Charles Knolls of the Los Angeles Police Department was able to testify about what a diner witnessed at the Italian restaurant that Bakley and Blake visited shortly before Bakley's death. Hairdresser Michael Dufficy first recognized Blake that evening because he had a full head of hair, testified Knolls. Blake was, in fact, pulling at that full head of hair with both hands, and had an "odd" expression on his face. Dufficy, according to the officer, also saw the "nervous" Blake head into the bathroom—and when the hairdresser later made his own visit, he noticed that someone had vomited pasta and spinach into the wastebasket. Then came the turkey baster. On cross-examination from Mesereau, Knolls told the court about his discussions with Bakley's ex-husband, Paul Gawron, who said he had inside knowledge of Bakley's lonely hearts scheme. According to Gawron, Bakley surfed from husband to husband (he knew of five), and wasn't beyond using pregnancy as a means of snaring a mark. She even once tried impregnating herself with sperm she dumped into a turkey baster, Gawron said. Bakley's shady side-business of mail-order pornography is expected to form the backbone of Blake's defense should the case go to trial. Mesereau continued plumbing Knoll's conversations with Gawron, eliciting that Bakley once hired financial investigators to inspect Blake's financial background. Of course, if Blake is found not guilty, he could still grab a page from his days as a TV cop. Consider the first Baretta episode ever: "He'll Never See Daylight Again." The synopsis: "Baretta vows revenge on the hoodlum whose thugs murdered his girlfriend."
February 28, 2003 (Source: CourtTV.com) Stuntman testifies Blake offered him $10,000 to kill his wife
VAN NUYS, Calif. — A veteran Hollywood stuntman who acted as a double for Robert Blake on the hit 1970s crime show "Baretta," testified Thursday in Blake's preliminary hearing that the actor offered him $10,000 to "pop" his wife in a bizarre set-up similar to her 2001 murder behind an Italian restaurant. "He would go back to the car and leave," testified Gary "Whiz Kid" McLarty. "What happened, happened, you know?" McLarty was the second witness to testify that Blake sought help killing Bonny Lee Bakley, his wife of almost six months. But Blake's defense attorney tore into the stuntman, exposing a checkered past and ripping him for gunning down an ex-convict in 1991. The stuntman also admitted he had used cocaine and that he came forward with his story about Blake only after Bakley was killed. "I think he broke down as a witness," said Blake's lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, Jr., outside the Van Nuys, Calif. courthouse. "We're just going to keep chipping away at their credibility. We're one step closer to Mr. Blake walking today." Prosecutors claim Blake, 69, wanted Bakley out of the picture after the small-time grifter allegedly tricked him into impregnating her and coerced him into marriage. They say he shot Bakley behind Vitello's — one of Blake's favorite restaurants — as she sat in his car with the window rolled down. Blake is charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and solicitation of murder and could face life in prison. McLarty, a self-taught stuntman who has performed "thousands" of stunts over 40 years in the business, met Blake through a friend and stunt coordinator who shared roots in the "motorcycle days" of drag racing. In March 2001, McLarty said that friend, Roy "Snuffy" Harrison, arranged for him to meet at Du-Par's, a Sheraton Oaks, Calif., restaurant. After making small talk, the two men returned to Blake's Studio City residence. There, Blake explained his problem: He'd met Bakley in a jazz club, had sex with her, and she turned up pregnant, and now she was "beating him out of some money." After showing McLarty a stack of letters his wife used in her lonely hearts mail-order pornography scheme and flashing a glossy photo of Bakley naked the actor moved from problem to solution: Could McLarty get a silencer? "I don't even own a gun," said McLarty (though he later clarified that he did own a small-caliber gun for "shooting ground squirrels.") "Well here's a gun right here," Blake told him, opening a zippered bag to reveal a pistol. "Sure is..." McLarty testified he told Blake. Blake and McLarty made their way outside, where Blake suggested the first of four schemes to kill his wife, who had taken up residence in the two-story guest house behind his home. "He started showing where one might come in at night," testified McLarty. "He said to go up the stairs and pop her." Other schemes unfolded as the men continued talking. One involved following the couple to Laughlin, Nevada, and crouching down in the brush by a river behind a casino for Blake and Bakley to walk by. In another, McLarty could simply follow them home from Laughlin, and when Blake pulled over for a road-side pit stop, Bakley could "be disposed of." The final solution was to gun down Bakley, then 44, behind a restaurant while Blake went inside. McLarty didn't say no that day. "He said that he wanted to pay $10,000 dollars," he testified. "I said 'Why don't you just call me?'" But when Blake did call three days earlier [which phone records introduced Thursday corroborate], the stuntman had a change of heart. "That girl didn't do anything to me," he said he told Blake. "I don't have eyes for anything like that. Just your notoriety alone would be a problem. And click, he hung up." Blake's attorney, Mesereau, turned McLarty's rough-and-tumble life as a stuntman inside out during his vigorous cross-examination, plumbing the witness' violent past for disparaging details. In 1991, McLarty shot and killed a houseguest, Daniel Deppe, who was wanted for battery and oral copulation with a 21-year-old woman. McLarty admitted that he hid the weapon and lied to police about his role in the killing until it was deemed in self-defense. Why, then, asked Mesereau, did McLarty shoot and hit his victim six times? "Was that self-defense?" asked the lawyer. "Six shots?" "When somebody's coming at you like that — this guy was like 6 foot 4 and 350 pounds —yes," replied McLarty. That same year, McLarty was busted for possession of a gun, a pillbox full of cocaine, and some hypodermic needles. The needles, he offered, were for his diabetic son. "Was he using the cocaine?" shot Mesereau, sparking a contentious exchange. "No," returned McLarty. "Were you?" "Yes," McLarty admitted. "When did you last use it?", asked the lawyer. McLarty paused. "A few months ago," he decided. McLarty, the "Whiz Kid," is only the first of many associated with the stunt industry to testify against Blake — and he's not the only one with a nickname. Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton could take the stand as early as tomorrow, and it was Roy "Snuffy" Harrison who arranged for Blake to meet with McLarty in the first place. Thursday morning, Mesereau also appeared to fluster William Welch, Blake's longtime private investigator and the other witness to testify that the actor wanted help killing his wife. Welch admitted he did not reveal Blake's solicitation attempt during his first police interview and tried to explain that he was worried about attracting media attention. But Mesereau pointed out that Welch did provide investigators other nuggets the media might well have seized upon, from details about Bakley's mail-order porn business to the battle with Blake over the paternity of their child. The lead investigator on the case, LAPD Detective Ronald Ito, testified Thursday about documents he had collected including a series of letters from Bakley to Blake discussing their contentious, and thoroughly-negotiated marriage. Before the start of Thursday afternoon's proceedings, Superior Court Judge Lloyd M. Nash asked Blake if he was feeling well enough to continue with the hearing. The judge said the 69-year-old had stumbled, and appeared to be ill. As sheriffs deputies surrounded the confused actor, he could be heard whispering to his attorney, "this is worse than jail." Blake, however, appeared well enough to reel off an impromptu monologue. "I'm fine, I'm in the pink," said Blake, standing to address Judge Nash. "I've waited 11 months to get here and I'm not going anywhere. Jail has taken enough blood to fill a battleship. I feel at ease, sir."
February 26, 2003 (Source: CourtTV.com) In secret recording, Blake accuses wife of lying to him about pregnancy
VAN NUYS, Calif. — In a chilling recording played in a Los Angeles courtroom Wednesday, actor and accused murderer Robert Blake may have unwittingly provided a motive for the May 2001 shooting of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley: She trapped him into impregnating her with his baby. "For the rest of your life you'll have to live with that and for the rest of my life I'll never forget it," Blake says on a taped phone conversation secretly recorded by Bakley in late 1999. "'Cause that's the truth. I don't miss anything." The prosecution played the recording at the beginning of the preliminary hearing to determine whether the state has enough evidence to try Blake, 69, for murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and solicitation of murder. Prosecutors have said they do not intend to seek the death penalty. During the 10-minute recording, Blake and Bakley spar emotionally, painting a bleak portrait of their intermittent relationship. Bakley tearfully admits she hoped a child would bring them closer together. But Blake insists she had ulterior motives, and pressures his future wife to have an abortion. Bakley taped the conversation shortly after learning she was pregnant. "The one thing in the world you know I was terrified of was getting anybody pregnant," Blake says. "And you did it deliberately. Why? Not because you want to be with me. It has something to do with some crazy [stuff] that's going on in your head that you want Robert Blake's baby for whatever weird, twisted reason, and that's all on you, baby, and you have to live with that." "You swore to me, you promised me, you promised," Blake says during the strained conversation. "You said, 'Don't worry, Robert. No matter what, I will have an abortion. You never have to worry about me getting pregnant. I'll take the pills, I'll have an abortion.'" Moments later, he says, "That was all a lie — and not a little lie. That's a big lie. That's the kind of lie that God looks down and says, 'Hey, wait a minute. Wait a minute.' That's a big, awful, mean, vicious lie. They don't get any worse than that. They don't get any worse than that." Bakley eventually gave birth to the couple's daughter, Rose, in June 2000. They married after the child was born. Prosecutors claim that Blake plotted for months to kill his wife and even tried to hire two former stuntmen from his hit TV series "Baretta" to do the job. But when that plan failed, they say Blake decided to act alone and shot Bakley, then 44, behind a Studio City, Calif. restaurant because he wanted to gain full custody of the child. The defense argues that because of Bakley's sordid past, which included a Penthouse magazine spread and a series of spurned men who she enticed with lusty ads placed in mens' magazines, any number of people could have wanted her killed. The defense argued unsuccessfully to keep the tape from being played. A California law bans illegally obtained evidence from being introduced at court. (Bakley made the recording without Blake's knowledge). But Superior court judge Lloyd M. Nash said the rules of the preliminary hearing, during which all "relevant" evidence can be admitted, trumped all other concerns. Bakley's sister, Margerry, and her daughter, Holly Gawron — both in court Wednesday — were brought to tears by the tape, which was passed on to the National Enquirer by Bakley's ex-husband after her death and later obtained by detectives investigating her murder. Dressed in a blue pinstripe suit, Blake sat slouched in his chair for much of Wednesday morning. He passed a note to his attorney, Thomas Mesereau, Jr., upon entering the courtroom. He remained slumped to the right of his chair with his head bowed during much of the testimony. Blake's bodyguard Earle Caldwell, who was also in court Wednesday, is charged with conspiracy to commit murder for helping Blake plot Bakley's death. He faces 25 years to life in prison. Deputy medical examiner Jeffrey Gutstadt, called as the first prosecution in Blake's preliminary hearing, testified that Bonny Lee Bakley died of a gunshot that went through her right cheek and into her brain and another shot that entered her body through her right shoulder. He said he concluded the shot to the cheek was fired in a slightly upward direction, and he noted that there were no defensive wounds on Bakley's arms. Wednesday evening, Blake's interview with Barbara Walters will air on the ABC program "20/20." In the interview, his first for television since his April 2001 arrest, Blake professes his innocence and suggests that one of the men burned by Bakley's lonely hearts scheme might have killed her. His wife, he tells Walters, "destroyed a lot of lives."
March 12, 2003 (From CourtTV) Forensic evidence crumbles as prosecution nears end of hearing
VAN NUYS, Calif. — Forensic evidence linking Robert Blake to the gun that killed his wife crumbled Tuesday when a criminalist testifying in Blake's preliminary hearing for murder admitted that a "hobby or occupation" involving guns was enough to produce a positive test for gunshot residue. "It could be from that association and not necessarily the recent discharge of a firearm," testified Steven Dowell, a scientist with the Los Angeles County coroner's office. Dowell, a prosecution witness, helped Blake's attorney call into question evidence that prosecutors hoped would place the murder weapon — a vintage 9mm Walther P-38 handgun — in Blake's hands the night of May 4, 2001, when the actor's wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, was brutally gunned down. Another LAPD criminalist said he conducted the test on Blake's hands despite a published instruction not to test for gunshot residue on individuals who have handled guns because he wanted to "err on the side of caution." Blake turned over a registered .38-caliber revolver — not the murder weapon — to police before his arrest, and had a collection of firearms at his Studio City home. "They violated all of their policies when they conducted these forensic tests," said Blake's lawyer, Thomas Mesereau Jr., outside the courthouse Tuesday. "For one reason: To win a high-profile case." Eric Dubin, the civil lawyer for two of Bakley's surviving relatives, supported the forensic evidence when speaking outside court. "The reality is he's coated in gunshot residue," said Dubin. "How many things can we call a coincidence in this case?" Blake is charged with murder, conspiracy and solicitation, and has been kept in Los Angeles County Jail since his April 18, 2002, arrest. Dowell testified on direct examination that lead particles found on Blake's hands were "consistent" with gunshot residue, but left the link to the murder weapon tenuous at best. "I cannot exclude them as having come from the family of gunshot residue particles," said the expert. Under cross-examination by the tenacious Mesereau, Dowell admitted that the lead particles weren't necessarily from a gun, and that the evidence could not be considered "highly specific." Lead is only one of a trio of chemicals used in gunshot residue analysis, Dowell testified. The other two, barium and antimony, were not found on Blake's hands. Dowell also cast doubt on positive gunshot residue tests performed on Blake's clothing, noting that, in some cases, gunshot residue can remain in clothing for a year or longer. The night of May 4, 2001, Blake and his new wife had just finished dinner at the Studio City restaurant, Vitello's, when Bakley was shot. Prosecutors say Blake walked Bakley to the car, then shot her before covering the murder weapon in oil to hide prints and dumping it in a nearby Dumpster. Another criminal expert, Michael Mastrocovo, testified that the oil covering the gun did not match oil on the hood of Blake's car and that no matching substance was found on Blake or his clothing. Moments after Bakley was killed, the actor knocked on the front door of a nearby house pleading for help, a detective testified Tuesday. "You gotta help her, you gotta help my wife. She's bloody and she's beaten. Oh my God," Blake said to Sean Stanek, the homeowner, according to Detective Robert Bub, who interviewed Stanek as part of the investigation. Stanek had been working at his computer, dressed in a bathrobe, when Blake arrived. The film director ran to Blake's Dodge Stealth, where he found Bakley slumped over in the passenger seat, catatonic and with her right shoe removed. Stanek's statements, delivered by Bub under a hearsay exception for preliminary hearings, helped Blake's defense portray him as genuinely distraught at Bakley's demise. According to Bub, Stanek cradled Bakley in his arms until the paramedics and police arrived, when he turned his attention to Blake. "God, God, I knew this was going to happen," Blake said to him. Also on Tuesday, Mesereau criticized Bub for holding back statements he collected from the staff of Vitello's that could have helped Blake's defense. Blake's waitress that evening, Robin Robichaux, allegedly told Bub there was "definitely" time for Blake to walk Bakley to the car, return to the restaurant to retrieve the gun he said he had left behind, find Bakley shot and return to the restaurant to ask for a doctor — his alibi for the murder. "Oh yeah, there's plenty of time for that," she allegedly told the flat-topped detective. Robichaux and both Joe and Steve Restivo, co-owners of Vitello's, told Bub that Blake and Bakley had a congenial dinner. "They were in a good mood," said Joe Restivo. "You could see them smiling, talking, chatting, laughing." Mesereau also chastised the detective for failing to interview most of the busboys at Vitello's that evening, which might have corroborated Blake's claim that he left his gun behind at the dining table. Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash will decide after closing arguments whether enough evidence exists for a full trial. Deputy District Attorney Gregory Harris told Nash that the prosecution hopes to resolve its case Wednesday. Defendants typically mount only affirmative defenses — a claim of self-defense, for example — at preliminary hearings, which Mesereau indicated he does not plan to do.
March 13, 2003 (From CourtTV) Blake ordered to stand trial but granted bail
VAN NUYS, Calif. — Actor Robert Blake may have to answer to a jury of his peers for allegedly gunning down his wife nearly two years ago — but he'll be a free man until then, a Los Angeles judge ruled Thursday. Blake's stoic expression, a constant throughout this 10-day, 20-witness proceeding, melted into surprise as Superior Court Judge Lloyd M. Nash announced he would grant the accused murderer $1.5 million bail. Moments before, Nash ruled there was "sufficient cause" presented during the preliminary hearing to hold Blake over for trial for the May 4, 2001, murder of Bonny Lee Bakley. "He had the time, the opportunity, and the motive to commit the shooting," said Nash. Blake will stand trial for murder, conspiracy, and solicitation. The real issue Nash struggled with, he said, was bail. Blake has been held at the Los Angeles County Jail since his arrest on April 18, 2002. Nash's ruling Thursday sent the jurist into untrodden legal territory, in making Blake a (relatively) free man. Nash ordered that upon release, Blake be confined to one residence and wear an electronic monitoring device. He will also be required to surrender his passport. The judge's bail decision hinged on the implications carried by the special circumstance of "lying in wait" facing Blake. The circumstance, a form of ambush, is often attached to murder cases to allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty—but prosecutors have said they will seek life in prison without parole for Blake. During Thursday's hearing Nash denied Blake's request to dismiss the "lying in wait" allegation. California law renders special circumstance murder defendants ineligible for bail, but Nash said he felt "boxed in," and invited lawyers to help him distinguish between a "capital case" and a "capital crime." Blake's defense attorney, Thomas Mesereau, Jr., argued that Nash could hold Blake over on lying in wait but still grant him bail because the burden for bail—that the "facts are evident or the presumption great"—is higher than the burden for a preliminary hearing—that there is a "strong suspicion" that the crime was committed. Then Nash, in a move that elicited gasps of surprise from the courtroom and left Blake near tears, agreed to grant bail. Prosecutors indicated they do not plan to appeal the bail ruling outside the courthouse Thursday, and said they still considered the judge's ruling a victory. "The judge held the defendants to answer on all counts today," said deputy district attorney Patrick Dixon. "We're going to trial—that's what's really important." Blake, 69, entered the courtroom Thursday morning dressed in the same purple-pinstriped suit he wore throughout the nine previous days of the preliminary hearing. He pointed firmly to the Court TV television camera with his index finger before thumping his chest defiantly with his closed right fist. Prosecutors claim the former "Baretta" star wanted the small-time grifter out of his life after Bakley forced him into a child and a marriage. Blake and his lawyer suggested that Bakley's mail-order pornography business and alleged credit card scams could have given another man reason to want her dead. During the preliminary trial, a private investigator and two Hollywood stuntmen testified that Blake asked them to "whack," "pop," and "snuff" his wife, Bakley. "This was a lying-in-wait, execution-style murder," said the prosecutor, Dixon, in a brief closing argument, "and the defendant did it because he couldn't talk anybody else into it." Blake will be arraigned on March 27. An alleged accomplice to Blake's crime, Earle Caldwell, will also stand trial on conspiracy charges, Nash ruled, even though the judge admitted the evidence against Blake's longtime handyman might not convince a jury.
Robert Blake's life is to be spared if he's found guilty of killing his wife Bonny Lee Bakley last year. Prosecutors have announced they won't be seeking the death penalty - instead they'll push for Blake to get life imprisonment without parole.
(Sources Include: The Los Angeles Times
The San Diego Union-Tribune
The San Francisco Chronicle
The New York Daily News
The New York Post
The Associated Press
The National Enquirer
Good Morning America Reuters