Fox 11 Archives: Robert Blake Acquitted

(FOX 11) It was ten years ago this week that one of L.A.'s more colorful murder trials had a Hollywood ending. Robert Blake – TV's Baretta – was found not guilty of the murder of his wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley. Blake, who began his acting career as a child and later graduated to eccentric tough guy loner roles, maintained that persona during the trial. Each day news cameras followed Blake as he walked to and from the Van Nuys courthouse, constantly puffing a cigarette. Even at 71, he came off as a tough bird no one would want to mess with.

Jurors heard testimony about Blake returning to a Studio City restaurant the night of the murder to retrieve a gun he had left behind – a gun which as it turned out, was not the weapon used in the fatal shooting. Also, prosecutors produced two stuntmen who testified that Blake sought their help in killing his wife. Colorful stuff, but the jury didn't buy it.

After deliberating eight days, the jury acquitted Blake on two counts and deadlocked on a third. Outside the courthouse, he celebrated by borrowing a jackknife and cutting off the electronic ankle bracelet he had been required to wear throughout the trial. When a reporter asked him who he thought had killed his wife, Blake snarled, "Shut up!"

District Attorney Steve Cooley told reporters Blake was "guilty as sin," and called the jurors "incredibly stupid." I'm sure those were 12 votes he lost when he ran for Attorney General five years later. As for Blake, his late wife's children won a $30 million civil suit against him. Later that award was cut in half by a judge. Despite the murder and courtroom drama, the actor, true to his craft, has indicated he'd like to top his career with one big role.

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