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Blake Lawyer Says He Might Not Be Ready

The actor's fourth attorney wants to try case this fall but may need more prep time.

June 19, 2004|Jean Guccione | Times Staff Writer

Actor Robert Blake's lawyer said Friday that he might not be ready to begin the long-awaited celebrity murder trial in September as planned.

M. Gerald Schwartzbach, who took over Blake's defense in March, said he and his client are both motivated to try the case this fall but that more preparation time might be needed.

"Mr. Blake wants to see this case go to trial as soon as possible," the Mill Valley lawyer told a court hearing in Van Nuys. "He wants to be vindicated as soon as possible."

But prosecutor Shellie L. Samuels challenged that assertion, saying the 70-year-old will remain free on bail as long as his trial is delayed.

"If he gets convicted, he will go into custody and never come out," Samuels said outside the courthouse.

A new trial date, if one is sought, could be set by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Darlene E. Schempp as early as Blake's next court appearance July 16.

The former "Baretta" star is facing life in prison on a charge that he fatally shot his 44-year-old wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, on May 4, 2001, near a Studio City restaurant where they had dined. He also is charged with soliciting two former stuntmen to kill Bakley.

Schwartzbach said he may need a delay because of the large amount of evidence in the case. The Los Angeles Police Department's yearlong murder investigation produced more than 60,000 pages, 300 audiotapes and an unspecified number of videotapes, prosecutors and defense lawyers say.

Trial had been set to begin in February. But with less than two weeks to go, Blake's then-lawyer, Thomas A. Mesereau Jr., quit, citing "irreconcilable differences" with his client. The trial was reset for Sept. 9 to accommodate Schwartzbach, Blake's fourth attorney.

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