Conceding that Robert Blake’s celebrity status will generate great public interest in his murder trial, a judge nevertheless refused on Monday to permit TV coverage during testimony.
Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp is allowing television cameras in the courtroom during opening statements, closing arguments and the verdict.
But she said she fears that if witnesses watch the testimony of those preceding them into court, it could affect what they say.
“You can’t expect that witnesses won’t watch,” she said. “And witnesses on the stand for two or three days might go home and watch their own testimony and decide to change it.”
The former “Baretta” is charged with shooting his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, to death as she sat in a car outside a restaurant where the two had just had dinner in 2001.
Blake, 70, 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.
The judge rejected arguments from media attorney Kelli Sager and Court TV representative Fred Graham, who said that the case will be covered in the print media and that witnesses can obtain the same information there.
Sager also said that in hundreds of cases that have been televised, witnesses are told not to watch and try to abide by those instructions.
“I would hope they try,” said the judge, “but I have my doubts.”
Schempp said the public interest would be adequately served by having 25 reporters in the courtroom as well as one or two still cameras throughout the trial, which is scheduled to begin after a final round of jury selection that starts Feb. 17.