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Robert Blake has court date

Actor expected to be arraigned Monday in wife's slaying

Blake
Blake is led into Los Angeles police headquarters Thursday.  


LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- After four days in a city jail, Robert Blake will face charges Monday that he tried to hire someone to kill his wife and, failing that, shot and killed her himself.

Los Angeles police arrested the 68-year-old television and film actor early Thursday evening after compiling what they deemed "compelling and significant" evidence that he shot and killed his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, outside a north Hollywood restaurant last May.

Police said they will present their case to the Los Angeles District Attorney's office Monday morning, likely followed by an arraignment that afternoon.

Authorities plan to charge former "Baretta" star Blake with two counts of solicitation of murder and one count of murder with special circumstances -- a charge that could lead to the death penalty.

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 BLAKE CHARGES
  •  Murder with special circumstances
  •  Solicitation of murder (2 counts)
  •  Murder conspiracy

While an actual trial is likely months away, the case has been played out publicly in recent days, with police asserting the utmost confidence they can prove Blake killed Bakley, and his lawyers proclaiming his innocence.

Since Blake's arrest -- and to some extent since last May -- his high-profile attorney, Harland Braun, has taken the offensive, questioning Bakley's integrity, saying she was "out to get pregnant," ran a "25-year con game" and had many people "out to get her."

"Harland Braun stood ... from the very beginning to put the victim on trial," said University of Southern California law professor Erwin Chemerinsky. "This is a woman who trapped Blake into marriage, a woman with a questionable past. It's a way to create reasonable doubt as to who killed Bonny Bakley."

A thorough, 11-month investigation by Los Angeles police produced 35,000 pages of documentation, more than 900 pieces of evidence and a firm, self-assured stance proving that, as Los Angeles police Capt. Jim Tatreau said, "Robert Blake shot Bonny Bakley."

"That they would come forward and say ... 'we can put the weapon in his hand and we believe he shot his wife' [is] very interesting," said Tom Lange, a former LAPD detective and a lead investigator in the O.J. Simpson case. "They must be highly confident in their evidence."

Blake bodyguard and handyman Earle Caldwell is in jail on charges of conspiracy to commit Bakley's murder. Braun said Caldwell's attorneys told him police have tried to pressure Caldwell into turning on Blake, telling him he could go home if he cooperated.

Blake
Braun has portrayed Blake, here hugging his daughter at his wife's funeral, as a devoted father.  

Besides this tactic, Lange said it was likely a conscious choice by police to arrest both men on a Thursday evening. The rule that a suspect may be released within 48 hours unless charges are filed doesn't include the weekend, Lange said, giving police more time to sort through their evidence and reshape their case.

When the decision on Blake's guilt or innocence finally goes to the jury, Chemerinsky said Braun's strategy to target Bakley could prove to be the difference.

"On one hand it's a way to raise reasonable doubt, arguing other people had motive to kill her," Chemerinsky said. "On the other hand, there is a dead woman and the real danger is that the jury may sympathize with the victim and turn around on the defendant and defense counsel."

Blake first won fame as a child star in "Our Gang" comedy shorts but is perhaps best known as the Emmy-winning star of the 1970s television crime drama "Baretta."

-- CNN correspondents Thelma Gutierrez and Frank Buckley contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 






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