Blake won't face death penalty

— Prosecutors won't seek the death penalty against actor Robert Blake if he is convicted of murdering his wife, the district attorney's office said Thursday.

Prosecutors will instead seek a sentence of life in prison without parole, the office said.

Blake was charged Monday with fatally shooting his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, after a dinner outing last May. Prosecutors said the 68-year-old actor and his bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, plotted the slaying for months.

Blake and Caldwell have both pleaded innocent. Blake has said that his wife, the mother of his year-old daughter Rosie, was shot while he went back into a restaurant to retrieve a gun he carried to protect her.

Besides murder, Blake is also charged with solicitation of murder, conspiracy and the special circumstance of lying in wait, which gave prosecutors the option of seeking a death sentence.

The decision was announced after a meeting of the district attorney's Special Circumstances Committee, which reviews potential capital cases. District attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said the quick decision was evidence that prosecutors want the case to move swiftly to trial.

"We are very anxious to get this case into court as soon as possible," Gibbons said. "We are ready to go to trial now."

Bakley's sister, Margerry, has said she opposes the death penalty.

"It was the right decision, and they made it early and quickly and ended the speculation," said Harland Braun, Blake's attorney. "This indicates it will be a professional trial and it will be something that the county will be proud of."

Braun said he suspected the committee noted that Blake has no past record of criminal conduct and the nature of the crime.

"You reserve the death penalty for the most egregious cases," he said.

According to authorities, Blake and his bodyguard spent months planning the slaying. Blake allegedly asked two stuntmen who worked with him on the 1970s TV detective show "Baretta" to kill his wife before deciding to do it himself.

Loyola University Law School professor Laurie Levinson said the prosecutors' decision was not surprising.

"Traditionally, this district attorney's office does not seek the death penalty in domestic murder cases," she said. "Also, he has no prior record, he's 68 years old and it doesn't hurt him that he's a celebrity."

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