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Jury selection continues in Blake trial

Nearly 700 potential jurors excused for hardship reasons.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Robert Blake’s lawyers are looking for jurors who love a good mystery and may be open to conspiracy theories while prosecutors are seeking conservative, common sense people who make quick decisions, according to legal experts.

Three and a half years after Blake’s wife was shot to death outside a San Fernando Valley restaurant, the search for a jury to hear the murder case against the former “Baretta” star gets under way in earnest Monday with potential jurors facing the beginning of individual questioning by lawyers.

More than 100 prospective jurors remain from the original pool.

Nearly 700 prospects were turned down because of hardship, some saying the estimated five-month trial would affect them financially and personally. Next, about half of the roughly 200 who said they were able to serve were dismissed for their strong feelings on issues including abortion and the question of Blake’s guilt or innocence.

Jury consultant Richard Gabriel, president of Decision Analysis, said the defense will be looking for people who are “sensational minded,” readers of tabloids and viewers of cable TV.

“You want people who are open to alternative theories, people who are conspiracy theorists, people who will nitpick the evidence and create their own reasonable doubt.”

On the prosecution side, said Gabriel, who is not working on the case, “They are looking for quick decision makers, conservative people who will use common sense.”

Loyola University law professor Laurie Levenson said the ideal defense jurors would be people who read mysteries.

“The defense wants people who love a good whodunit and want to find their own solutions,” she said. “The prosecution looks for people who are not star struck and who don’t believe in conspiracy theories. They want a jury much like the Scott Peterson jury — people who are comfortable with circumstantial evidence.”

Peterson was convicted Friday of murdering his pregnant wife and her fetus. His jury now must decide whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.

Levenson noted that in recent months Blake’s case has been eclipsed by those of other high-profile defendants including Peterson, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jackson.

“It has gone off the radar for many people, but now it’s likely to come back,” she said.

Blake, 71, star of the “Baretta” TV series and the movie “In Cold Blood,” is charged with murdering his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, whom he married after DNA tests showed he was the father of her baby.

Blake has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder, two counts of solicitation of murder and a special circumstance of lying in wait. Key witnesses are two elderly stuntmen who claim Blake asked them to murder his wife.

Bakley was killed on May 4, 2001, outside Vitello’s restaurant where the couple had dined. Police did not arrest Blake until a year later. He went to prison during his preliminary hearing but was later released on $1.5 million bail and has been living under house arrest.