Blake lawyer blames killing on Brando son

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

— Robert Blake's defense blamed Marlon Brando's son, Christian, in a court hearing Tuesday for the slaying of Blake's wife and said that the younger Brando was currently a fugitive.

Blake's attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr., said Brando fled and a warrant had been issued for his arrest. Outside court, Mesereau said Brando was wanted for a probation violation in Washington state.

"We think there's a compelling case -- far stronger -- that (Brando) did it than that Mr. Blake did it," Mesereau said.

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

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

Much of Tuesday's hearing dealt with arguments over the admissibility of evidence, including a phone conversation Brando allegedly had in which a female acquaintance claimed she overheard him say Bakley deserved to have a bullet put through her head.

Judge Darlene Schempp said she would not allow testimony by the acquaintance, Diane Mattson, because the witness had a "credibility issue." But Schempp said she would allow Blake's attorneys 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 killing of his sister's lover, was out of the country. Brando pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in that case.

After his release from prison in 1996 he 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 declined to rule on whether Blake's attorney could introduce a taped conversation between Blake and Bakley in which the actor expresses unhappiness over her 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, demanded by Blake, showed the baby was Blake's.