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Jurors visit Blake crime scene

A trash bin and a car resembling the one in which Bonny Lee Bakley was shot were placed on a street near Vitello’s restaurant Thursday in preparation for a visit by jurors in Robert Blake’s murder trial.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Jurors in Robert Blake’s murder trial on Thursday saw the places he and his wife had been the night she was killed, including the restaurant booth where the actor says he went to retrieve his gun at the time Bonny Lee Bakley was shot.

Jurors and alternates were taken through Vitello’s in groups of six, led by sheriff’s deputies and followed by Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp and attorneys in the case. They saw the secluded booth where Blake and his wife had sat. A few took notes.

Blake remained in the restaurant’s foyer during the tour, which took about 20 minutes and also covered the kitchen and men’s room.

He sat grimly under a wall of photographs of Vitello’s famous customers. Coincidentally, he was next to a photo of former Police Chief Bernard Parks, who first announced Blake was being charged with murder.

At the tour’s conclusion, one of the restaurant’s owners offered the lawyers pizza. They declined.

Jurors returned to the courthouse after the Vitello’s tour, which took place before the restaurant opened for business. They returned later in the evening to get an indication of what the restaurant’s exterior looked like the night of May 4, 2001, when Blake parked his car outside, escorted his wife inside and had dinner.

Jurors also saw a car resembling the one in which Bakley was shot and the trash bin in which the murder weapon was found on a street near Vitello’s.

Before heading to the scene, the judge told the panelists not to speak to anyone other than the bailiff and not to touch anything or do any experiments.

Blake has said he and he wife left the restaurant after dinner and returned to the car, where he left her while he went back to the restaurant to retrieve a gun he carried for protection and had forgotten.

When he returned to the car, Blake has told police that his wife was in the passenger seat bleeding from two gunshot wounds. He has said he raced to a nearby house, also on the tour, where he pounded on the door to get help.

In front of the car that night was a trash bin that was being used during construction at a home. The weapon that killed Bakley was found amid the debris in the bin, which was returned to the scene for the re-creation.

In court Thursday, jurors again saw the long-nosed Walther P-38 revolver, which was displayed by a criminalist who test-fired it. The weapon Blake said he retrieved from the restaurant was a smaller handgun.

The jury also heard more testimony about gunshot residue even though they were shown Police Department directives that said tests for residue should not be done on a car, clothing or person who was carrying a firearm.

The defense has challenged the relevance of the tests, given those directives.

Criminalists have testified about finding some particles of gunshot residue on clothing taken from Blake, and about how such residue can be transferred from item to item, or from the environment. They have not stated that he ever fired a gun.

Blake, 71, is on trial on charges of murder, soliciting others to commit a murder and lying in wait.