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Blake Had Little Gun Residue

If the actor had shot his wife, he would have had more particles on his hands, expert testifies.

February 23, 2005|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

A forensic expert testified Tuesday that Robert Blake would have had more gunshot residue on his hands than police tests found if he had shot his wife.

Celia Hartnett, lab director for Forensic Analytical of Hayward, Calif., told a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury in Van Nuys that the actor's hands would have had nearly 100 gunshot residue particles -- more than 20 times what authorities detected.

Harnett, who is being paid $40,000 by the defense, said her private lab conducted three test firings of the murder weapon, a Walther P-38 that police recovered in a commercial trash bin the day after the slaying in 2001.

With the tests as a baseline, the lab used a formula to estimate how much residue would remain on the shooter's hands 2 1/2 hours later, accounting for normal activity and no hand washing with soap and water.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Shellie L. Samuels had argued that the gun-residue tests were inconclusive. Blake, she said, could have removed particles by running his hands through his hair and over his clothing, or by handling drinking glasses.

Blake, 71, is accused of shooting 44-year-old Bonny Lee Bakley on May 4, 2001, after he and Bakley had dined at a Studio City restaurant. If convicted on murder charges, the Emmy-winning star of the '70s show "Baretta" could face life in prison.

Blake told police he discovered his wife shot and bleeding in his car after he returned to the restaurant to retrieve a handgun he said he had forgotten there.

But prosecutors contend Blake tried to hire two stuntmen to kill his wife and fatally shot Bakley himself when they refused. Samuels has built her largely circumstantial case around witnesses who said Blake was obsessed with gaining custody of their child, now 4 years old, and with getting Bakley out of the picture.

Other prosecution witnesses testified they saw Blake act oddly the night of the slaying by failing to aid his dying wife and by appearing to feign grief by crying without shedding tears.

The defense, which has argued that the stuntmen have faulty memories as a result of habitual drug use, could rest as early as today with testimony from Blake's adult daughter, from a pastor who talked with Blake in jail and from a tabloid reporter.

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