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Blake defense blames Brando's son for murder

Attorney says he can make 'compelling case' vs. Christian
/ Source: The Associated Press

Robert Blake’s defense has singled out Marlon Brando’s son, Christian, in the slaying of Blake’s wife, calling the younger Brando a fugitive from justice.

“We think there’s a compelling case — far stronger — that (Brando) did it, than that Mr. Blake did it,” Blake’s attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr., said Tuesday.

During a court hearing, Mesereau said Brando fled and had a warrant out for his arrest. Outside the courtroom, he said Brando was wanted for a probation violation in Washington state.

Cowlitz County court officials in Kelso, Wash., said Wednesday there was no outstanding warrant for Brando. They confirmed he has been on probation since June in a driving-under-the-influence case, probation officials said, but refused to discuss his status, saying records were confidential.

Mesereau said his investigators talked to officials in Washington state and were told a warrant was being issued for his appearance. Brando pleaded guilty to manslaughter for killing his sister’s lover in 1990 and was released from prison in 1996.

Blake, 70, is charged with shooting his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, to death as she sat in a car outside Vitello’s Italian restaurant in Studio City where the two had just had dinner in 2001.

The former star of TV’s “Baretta” told authorities he left Bakley alone in the car to retrieve a gun he carried for protection and had accidentally left behind in the restaurant. He said he returned to find her mortally wounded.

Much of Tuesday’s hearing revolved around a phone conversation Brando allegedly had in which a female acquaintance of his claimed she overheard him say Bakley deserved to have a bullet put through her head.

Another hearing was set for Thursday. Jury selection is expected to enter its final phase Feb. 17.

The judge said Tuesday she would not allow testimony by the acquaintance, a woman named Diane Mattson, because the witness had a “credibility issue” with the court. But Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp said she would allow Blake’s defense attorney to question a former stuntman about whether he ever fielded such a call from Brando.

Efforts to locate Brando or a representative for comment were unsuccessful.

Los Angeles attorney Robert Shapiro, who represented Brando in the 1990 case, was out of the country.

After his release from prison, Brando received permission to move to New Hampshire and later had several Washington state addresses. A call left with the answering service for Seattle attorney John Henry Brown, who represented Brando there, was not immediately returned.

District attorney’s spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said prosecutors have no indication of any parole violation by Brando in Los Angeles County, and haven’t tried to find him because he is not a witness in their case.

The judge also declined to rule on whether Blake’s attorney could introduce a taped conversation between Blake and Bakley in which the actor expresses unhappiness over Bakley’s pregnancy.

Brando’s involvement in the case has long been a subject of speculation because Bakley was romantically involved with Brando before she met Blake. When she gave birth to a baby girl, she at first said it was Brando’s child. But DNA tests determined the baby was Blake’s child.