Thu, Dec 23, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Robert Blake's defense airs `Barbara Walters' interview

AP , LOS ANGELES

In an unusual move, Robert Blake's attorney had the former Baretta star testify on his own behalf during opening statements at his murder trial by airing a videotape of an old Barbara Walters interview.

The interview, which occurred while Blake was in jail, showed an emaciated, grim figure in an orange jail jumpsuit, his eyes rimmed in red as Walters quizzed him about his relationship with his slain wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, who was the mother of their baby, Rosie.

In the tape shown Tuesday by defense attorney Gerald Schwartz-bach, Walters asked whether Blake was having troubles in his marriage and had been planning to divorce Bakley. Blake said he was not, and was trying to work things out with her.

"What was the down side?" he asked Walters. "I'm an old man. I have no life. I'm hanging around jazz clubs. God gave me the gift of the century. I always thought my life was a home run. But now I had the chance to hit the ball out of the universe."

He went on, "It's about Rosie. From the second I touched Rosie, it's all about her. The greatest gift in the world and I'm going to try to mess it up?"

In her opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Shellie Samuels also used an excerpt of Walters' interview, which she claimed was proof that Blake was lying about his relationship with Bakley and had planned her murder.

Bakley was shot on May 4, 2001, in the actor's car, which was parked 1 1/2 blocks from Vitello's restaurant in the Studio City section of Los Angeles. The couple had just dined in the restaurant, where Blake had been a customer for so many years that one of the menu items is named after him.

Blake claims his wife was shot while he returned to the restaurant to retrieve a handgun he carried for protection and had accidentally left behind.

Before concluding his opening remarks, Schwartzbach said he would call an expert to say there was no gunshot residue on Blake, and he said he would prove police were negligent in their investigation because they were dazzled by Blake's celebrity.

"The arrest of Robert Blake was driven by the desire for fame," he said.

Schwartzbach said detectives agreed to let a book author come with them the night of the murder because they knew he would write about them and they craved the attention.

Schwartzbach showed pictures of writer Miles Corwin at Blake's home with investigators and then a posed picture of the three main detectives around a chair holding a picture of Blake.

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