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Blake Jury Is Asked About Alleged Signal by Brando

October 27, 2005|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

The judge in the Robert Blake civil trial quizzed a Burbank jury Wednesday about a report that Marlon Brando's son had signaled them as he left the witness stand that he believed the actor had killed his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.

The unusual examination was sparked by an unnamed juror, who told court personnel that Christian Brando pointed to Blake and mouthed the word "guilty" after Brando's testimony Tuesday in a wrongful-death lawsuit against the former "Baretta" star.

Those familiar with the questioning said some jurors told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David M. Schacter they thought Brando was gesturing at Blake's defense attorney, Peter Q. Ezzell. At least one juror said Brando had mouthed the word "guilty," while another believed he had shaped the phrase, "He killed her."

Brando's lawyer, Bruce M. Margolin, said he had been unable to reach his client to ask about the jurors' reports.

Schacter allowed testimony to resume after saying he would leave it up to the lawyers to submit arguments about what, if any, action to take against Brando. Ezzell said he would seek a contempt order.

Blake, 72, was acquitted of murder charges earlier this year in the death of Bakley, who was shot to death May 4, 2001, near Vitello's restaurant in Studio City. Blake is being sued in civil court by Bakley's family members, who hold him responsible for her death.

Brando has long been associated with the case, despite the fact that Los Angeles police investigated and cleared him of any wrongdoing, because of his relationship with Bakley. Bakley said Brando was the father of her baby daughter until a paternity test showed the child was Blake's. Blake eventually agreed to marry Bakley and help raise the child.

Ezzell had called Brando as a witness to shore up the suggestion that another of Bakley's many romantic liaisons might have been responsible for the killing. Bakley was a convicted swindler who ran a lonely hearts club scam and once was ordered to stop sending nude photographs of herself to inmates in Pennsylvania.

Eric J. Dubin, lawyer for the Bakley family, said Brando was "a wild card" who never should have been allowed to testify because both sides knew he planned to invoke the 5th Amendment before the jury.

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