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Bail Denied for Blake, Held Since April

Ruling: Judge says prosecutors showed enough evidence that actor killed his wife. Defense lawyer will ask high court to reconsider.

October 10, 2002|JEAN GUCCIONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles County judge denied bail for Robert Blake on Wednesday, saying that prosecutors presented adequate proof to show that the actor killed his wife last year in an ambush near a Studio City restaurant.

Superior Court Judge Lloyd M. Nash said he would reconsider Blake's motion for bail after the preliminary hearing, now set to begin Dec. 11 in Van Nuys.

Blake's attorney, Harland W. Braun, said he would ask the state Supreme Court next week to override Nash's decision and grant bail to the 69-year-old defendant.

"I don't think that is what the Supreme Court had in mind," Braun said outside the Van Nuys courthouse. Last week, the state high court ordered Nash to hold a hearing to determine whether Blake was entitled to a bail hearing.

Blake has been held without bail at Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles since his April 18 arrest in the murder of Bonny Lee Bakley, 44. The former star of the 1970s television series "Baretta" has pleaded not guilty to murder, two counts of soliciting murder, conspiracy and the special circumstance of lying in wait.

Without the capital murder charge, Blake would be eligible for release. He faces life in prison without parole if convicted.

In court, Deputy Dist. Atty. Patrick Dixon argued that the evidence against Blake is substantial. He said Blake asked two retired stuntmen to kill Bakley, and when they refused, the actor told one of them he would do it himself. Blake also suggested a scenario for killing his wife that is stunningly similar to what occurred.

Dixon said Blake told a stuntman that his wife could be killed while waiting in a parked car, possibly near a restaurant, like Vitello's in Studio City.

Bakley was shot twice on May 4, 2001, inside Blake's car a few blocks from the restaurant. Blake told police he left Bakley in his car and returned to Vitello's after dinner to retrieve a handgun he left. When he got back to the car, he said, he found Bakley bleeding from the head.

"She was taken by ambush. She was taken by surprise," Dixon said. "Robert Blake is the person who did this."

But Braun said prosecutors lacked physical evidence linking Blake to the crime. He also charged them with providing "misleading" evidence.

After the shooting, police found a 100-count box of 9-millimeter cartridges with three missing at Blake's home. Three 9-millimeter shells were found at the crime scene, but Braun said they did not match the ones found at Blake's home.

"It would be incredibly incriminating evidence if they matched the gun," Braun said outside court. Earlier, he suggested to the judge that someone was trying to frame Blake.

Braun also rejected tests that show Blake had gunshot residue on his clothing. He cited a police report stating that "the presence or absence of gunshot residue on surfaces other than bare hands is unfounded and possibly misleading."

And Braun discounted the prosecution's effort to link a German-made World War I-era pistol found in the home of Blake's co-defendant, Earle S. Caldwell, with the murder weapon, a German-made World War II handgun.

Outside the courthouse, Irvine attorney Eric J. Dubin, who represents the Bakley family, said he plans to depose Blake in the next few months--probably from inside jail--in the wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of Bakley's four children.

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