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Robert Blake testifies about wife's death

Civil trial opens as actor takes combative tone on the stand
/ Source: The Associated Press

Robert Blake took center stage during his first day of testimony in a wrongful death lawsuit, jousting verbally with the opposition lawyer and eliciting complaints from the judge for his aggressive style.

During colorful, sometimes contentious exchanges Thursday with the judge and the lawyer representing the family of Blake’s slain wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, the actor acknowledged he may have given different versions of what happened on the night Bakley was shot to death.

But he said that was because he is “a human being, not a machine” and had simply erred.

Six months after being acquitted of murder in a jury trial, Bakley’s children are suing Blake, saying he was responsible for their mother’s May 2001 death. Bakley, 44, was killed as she sat in Blake’s car outside a restaurant where they had just had dinner.

The star of the old “Baretta” TV show said he’s dyslexic, cannot read documents and cited his age several times as a reason for his shifting memory.

“I’m 72 years old,” Blake said repeatedly until Superior Court Judge David Schacter interrupted and said, “We already know that.”

Blake frequently interjected his own objections to questions, leaving his lawyer, Peter Ezzell, to protest he wasn’t being allowed to do his job.

Blake then would sustain his own objections, leading the judge to say the actor should let him do his job.

At one point, Schacter quipped that he should provide Blake with a judge’s robe.

Jurors smiled at the exchanges.

When the children’s attorney, Eric Dubin, accused Blake of telling lies to the police, the actor snapped, “Says who? Says who?”

As Bakley’s two adult children, Holly and Glenn Gawron, sat at the counsel table facing him, Blake said he told authorities Bakley’s relatives were “felons and low-lifes.”

At one point Dubin asked Blake about his co-defendant and former handyman Earle Caldwell, who was initially part of the criminal case before charges against him were dropped.

“Would you say Caldwell, who was your handyman, had a hobby of murder?” asked Dubin.

“No,” Blake shouted, “and whoever said that I will say they are rotten, foul liars to the core.”

Most of Thursday’s questioning focused on the daughter Blake had with Bakley, 5-year-old Rosie, who is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The girl is being raised by Blake’s adult daughter, Delinah.

Blake acknowledged he had a written agreement to marry Bakley after a DNA test showed the child was his.

“I came to the conclusion that the very best thing for Rosie, from the time she was 2 weeks old, was for us to get married,” he said.