Small particles of gunshot residue were found on actor Robert Blake’s boots after his wife’s killing, a criminalist testified Wednesday, but another expert said such traces can be deposited even if a person has not fired a gun.
Steven Dowell, a criminalist for the Los Angles County coroner’s office, told of testing Blake’s clothing and boots for gunshot residue days after Bonny Lee Bakley was found shot in Blake’s car on May 4, 2001.
Blake, the 71-year-old former star of the 1970s TV show “Baretta,” is on trial for murder in the death of Bakley. He had married Bakley shortly before her death after learning he had fathered her baby.
Dowell said the boots and clothes were bundled together in a box. He showed the shiny black leather boots to the jury and said he found “one highly specific particle” of gunshot residue on them along with “several consistent particles.”
He said the majority of particles contained only lead and not the other components of gunshot residue, and could have been produced by environmental factors.
Another criminalist, Debra Kowal, testified she found gunshot residue particles on Bakley’s hands, but said those could have resulted from a firearm being discharged in her vicinity and do not mean Bakley fired a gun.
Although there was no immediate testimony about what was found on Blake’s hands, Kowal said on cross-examination that even if Blake had such particles, they could have come from other sources such as clothing or the gun and holster he was carrying that had no relationship to the crime.
“So a person could have GSR on their hands and not have fired a gun in the recent past, is that correct?” asked defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach.
“Correct,” said the witness.
Kowal also said that a person could pick up the particles by touching items that had been exposed to gunshot residue, such as a sweat shirt, the surface of a booth in a restaurant or the car where Bakley was shot.
Gunshot residue evidence has been problematic in the case because on the night of the killing Blake had a handgun, which he said he carried for protection. That gun was not the weapon that killed Bakley.
The handling of Blake’s clothes and boots has been attacked by the defense, which previously elicited testimony from a detective who said he threw all of the items together into one box and carried them for two days in the trunk of a police car in which he also kept weapons.