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Mar. 11, 2005. 11:02 AM - Reuters

No Verdict in Robert Blake Trial After a Week

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Jurors in "Baretta" star Robert Blake's murder trial have ended their first week of deliberations without a verdict, increasing speculation they may deadlock over whether the actor shot and killed his wife outside his favorite restaurant.
      The jury, which began deliberating last Friday, is weighing one count of murder with a special circumstance of lying in wait, and two counts of solicitation of murder.
     Blake, 71, faces up to life in prison without parole.
     The panel interrupted its deliberations only once -- on Wednesday to hear testimony from Steve Restivo, co-owner of the restaurant where Blake and his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, dined the night of the crime, and from a couple who saw Blake leaving the restaurant.
     Bakley was shot on May 4, 2001, as she sat alone in Blake's car just over a block from Vitello's Italian Restaurant. Blake says he returned to the restaurant to retrieve a gun he was carrying for her protection and found her fatally wounded.
      Eric Dubin, a lawyer who is closely monitoring the trial because he has sued Blake for wrongful death on behalf of the four children of Bakley, said the length of the deliberations could signal trouble.
      "It means they're hung on one of the three counts or all three," Dubin said.
      Dubin said he was so confident of a quick verdict he had made arrangements for Bakley's oldest daughter, Holly Gawron, to return home to Tennessee last Wednesday.
      "I figured we would be done by then," Dubin said.
      Two jury consultants watching the trial cautioned that although most people think the jury's inaction bodes well for the defense, it is not unusual for a jury to deliberate a week, or even a month, and still vote to convict.
      "The length of time is not as important as the details they're focusing on," jury consultant Marshall Hennington said.
      Jury consultant William DeHaven said he had never seen a panel of such meticulous note takers. "Some jurors have four or five notebooks," DeHaven said.
      Prosecutors said at trial that Blake hated Bakley because she was a con artist who intentionally got pregnant with his child without his consent.
      They said that after Rose Blake was born June 2, 2000, Blake started looking for ways to raise the child without Bakley's involvement.
      After he failed to get her arrested or to convince three Hollywood associates to shoot her, he decided to do the job himself, prosecutors said.
      Blake's defense attorney, M. Gerald Schwartzbach, said it was illogical to conclude Blake would spend so much time planning the murder and then kill Bakley in a place where he could so easily be seen and recognized.

Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

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