Blake's Lawyer Blames Murder on Christian Brando
By Howard Breuer
Tuesday, February 3, 2004; 10:44 PM
VAN NUYS, Calif. - An attorney for accused wife murderer and actor Robert Blake said in court Tuesday that they could make a "compelling case" that the real killer was Marlon Brando's son, Christian Brando.
But a judge in the 70-year-old "Baretta" star's upcoming trial said the defense could not call a controversial witness to help prove that claim.
Blake, who has pleaded innocent, could go to prison for the rest of his life if he is convicted of murdering 44-year-old Bonny Lee Bakley near Vitello's restaurant in the Los Angeles suburb of Studio City in May 2001.
Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau, during a pretrial hearing in the case, suggested that Christian Brando -- who has been romantically linked to Bakley -- was enraged when he learned the baby she was carrying was Blake's and not his. The girl, Rose, is now 3 and being cared for by Blake's daughter.
Mesereau was seeking permission from the judge to call as a witness Diane Madsen, who has said she overheard Brando telling an acquaintance named "Duffy" over the phone that someone should put a bullet in Bakley's head. Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton is one of two Hollywood stuntmen who have testified that Blake solicited them to murder his wife.
"We think there's a compelling case he did this," Mesereau said of Brando adding that, unlike Blake, he had killed before. "He did, in fact, put a bullet in his late sister's late boyfriend and went to prison for 10 years."
But Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp refused to allow Madsen to testify, saying she was not credible as a witness. The judge said Blake's attorneys can ask Hambleton if Brando also solicited him to commit murder.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Shelly Samuels dismissed Brando as a suspect, saying he had an alibi for the time of the murder and adding: "He doesn't even have a motive. He was kind of relieved the baby wasn't his."
Schempp said she will hold a separate hearing to decide whether Blake's lawyers can try to blame the murder on a suspected serial robber blamed for muggings outside Vitello's.
Outside court Blake, who delighted camera crews Monday by borrowing a street musician's guitar and crooning "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," was more subdued. As reporters crowded around, the onetime child star simply chomped on a hot dog.
"Everybody I love is well and safe. I've been blessed all my life," Blake said, adding that the hardest thing about the trial was "wearing a suit and tie."
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