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Blake witness list an epic 670 names

By Harriet Ryan
Court TV

Robert Blake
Robert Blake

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VAN NUYS, California (Court TV) -- "Baretta" actor Robert Blake is hoping a cast of hundreds will help him beat murder charges at his February trial. The television star's lawyer submitted a jaw-dropping list of 670 potential witnesses Friday that had even the judge doing a double take.

"Wow," a stunned Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp said as she leafed through the thick document during a brief morning hearing.

The court did not immediately release the list, but Deputy District Attorney Shellie Samuels noted the difference between her 164-person roster and Blake's, and told the judge, "I am not sure who these other 450 people are."

Blake is accused of shooting his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, May 4, 2001. If convicted of murder and two counts of solicitation, the 70-year-old actor faces life in prison without parole.

Blake and his bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, originally faced an additional count each of conspiracy to commit murder, but last month a judge threw out those charges, exonerating Caldwell and raising questions about the strength of the prosecution's case against Blake.

"I was very pleased and very lucky that the system worked," Blake said Friday about that decision. "I had lost faith in that."

The prosecution witness list includes Caldwell and 40 police witnesses, as well as Marlon Brando's son, Christian, a former lover of Bakley; Blake's adult daughter Delinah; and two stuntmen who claim Blake tried to hire them as hit men. The defense has suggested that Christian Brando may be behind the killing of Bakley, a con artist who pursued affairs with famous men.

Blake, dressed in a blue jacket, tie and black jeans, seemed relaxed during the five-minute hearing, even greeting Samuels with a hearty nod and "hello." Outside the courthouse, he gave an impromptu press conference while smoking a cigarette. He held hands with an unidentified blond woman.

Blake said he was happy to be alive and quoted an "old cowboy saying" about flowers: "It's better to be picking them than pushing them up."

He is free on $1.5 million bail but remains under house arrest. When a reporter asked him if he would be doing any work before his trial, set to begin Feb. 9, he held up his ankle to indicate his electronic monitoring device.

Blake's lawyer, Thomas Mesereau Jr., and prosecutor Samuels met behind closed doors with Schempp to hammer out the questionnaire for potential jurors.

Mesereau would not discuss the witness list with reporters but said he was eager for trial. "They have no case ... they have tried every forensic test imaginable and they can't come up with anything."

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