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Blake picks new defense attorney

From Charles Feldman
CNN Los Angeles Bureau

Robert Blake
Robert Blake

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Felony complaint: People v. Blake  (FindLaw document, PDF format)external link

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Actor Robert Blake, facing trial for the murder of his wife, has selected a new criminal defense attorney, CNN has learned.

Sources said Monday that Blake picked Thomas Mesereau Jr. to replace Harland Braun, who quit last month after Blake arranged to do an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer against Braun's advice. The interview was blocked by the sheriff's department.

The legal switch was expected to be approved by Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash at a "substitution hearing" scheduled Tuesday afternoon.

According to his law firm's Web site, Mesereau "has served as counsel in many high-profile trials" involving everything from murder to security fraud and "is a noted defender of the underprivileged."

"He appears often on local Los Angeles television and radio stations and lectures on various topics, including criminal law, civil rights and trial strategy," the Web site says.

He is a 1979 graduate of the University of California's law school and a 1973 Harvard graduate, according to the Web site.

Mesereau served as local counsel to Mike Tyson when the San Bernardino district attorney's office was investigating a rape allegation against the boxer. The charges were never filed.

He would not comment to CNN except to say there would be a hearing Tuesday.

Blake, 69, is accused of killing Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, his wife of six months, who was shot in the head as she sat in the couple's car outside a Studio City restaurant on May 4, 2001. He has been held without bond since his arrest in April.

The former star of the 1970s television series "Baretta" has pleaded not guilty to murder, two counts of soliciting murder, conspiracy and the special circumstance of lying in wait.

Earlier this month, Blake refused to give a jail house deposition in the wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of Bakley's four children.

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