Prosecution fails to tie evidence in Blake hearing

Thursday, March 13, 2003

— The prosecution rested Wednesday in Robert Blake's preliminary hearing after a gun expert testified that ammunition found in the actor's home differed from the bullets used to kill his wife.

Also, a criminalist was unable to tie Blake to the weapon through gunshot residue.

The defense opted to present no evidence. Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash said he would hear from attorneys on both sides today before ruling on whether the case will go forward and whether Blake, jailed since April 18, will be released on bail.

Blake, the 69-year-old former star of TV's "Baretta," is charged with murder, solicitation of murder and conspiracy in the 2001 shooting of Bonny Lee Bakley. Earle Caldwell, Blake's handyman-bodyguard, is charged with conspiracy.

Bakley, 44, was shot in the couple's car near Vitello's restaurant, a Blake hangout where they had just dined. Blake claims he found his wife wounded after he went back into Vitello's to get a gun he carried for protection and accidentally left behind.

The weapon used to shoot Bakley, a World War II-era 9mm Walther P-38, was found in a trash bin parked at the crime scene.

Kurt Spies, a police firearms expert, positively identified the P-38 as the gun that killed Bakley. But contrary to what police had initially suggested, Spies said the bullets used did not match ammunition found in Blake's home.

Coroner's criminalist Steve Dowell was cross-examined on the results of gunshot residue tests performed on Blake's hands and his clothes.

The tests were complicated by the fact that Blake was carrying a .38-caliber handgun the night of the killing. Dowell acknowledged there are various ways in which particles can linger on old clothes, transfer among clothes or even be transferred from the hands of the victim.