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Lawyer calls Blake custody agreement 'abusive'

By Lisa Sweetingham
Court TV

Court TV:  Case coverageexternal link

VAN NUYS, California (Court TV) -- Bonny Lee Bakley was so determined to marry a celebrity, a witness testified Tuesday in Robert Blake's murder trial, that seven months before her shooting death, she signed a temporary custody agreement with Blake that her attorney warned her was a "set up for disaster."

"In my 25-year career, I've never seen an agreement as abusive and controlling as this," divorce lawyer Cary Goldstein told jurors, holding a copy of the document Bakley signed on October 4, 2000, as a condition for Blake's agreeing to marry her.

Goldstein said the agreement stipulated that Bakley would have monitored visits with the couple's daughter; her family and friends would not be allowed on Blake's property without written permission; and if either spouse caused the marriage to be called off -- for instance, if Bakley was incarcerated -- then custody of their daughter would revert to the other spouse.

Goldstein said that when he refused to take part in the "lopsided" agreement, Bakley hired another attorney who would.

Blake and Bakley married in November 2000. Several witnesses have testified that Blake only agreed to marry Bakley to retain custody of their infant daughter.

In the custody agreement, the child is referred to as "Christian Shannon Brando," the name Bakley gave her at birth because she was uncertain if the baby was fathered by Blake or Christian Brando, the son of the late actor Marlon Brando.

DNA tests confirmed the baby was Blake's. Her name was legally changed to Rose Lenore Sophia Blake a month before Bakley was murdered.

Goldstein, who specializes in palimony, said he also refused to sign a prenuptial agreement Bakley entered into that stripped her of any legal rights to Blake's property or income.

Outside the courthouse, Goldstein told reporters Bakley wanted to marry Blake despite fearing for her life.

"Bonny wanted to marry a celebrity and she did," Goldstein said. "But she told me one time, if anything happens to me, Blake is responsible."

He also called the custody agreement, "a scheme for Blake to take the child from Bonny and not have to pay child support."

Blake's adult daughter Delinah has permanent custody of Rosie, now 4.

Forensic dead end

Jurors also heard from a gun shot residue expert who was recalled to the stand to complete his testimony from last week.

Prosecutor Shellie Samuels appeared to sum up the lack of forensic evidence in the case when she asked the witness whether the results of gunshot residue tests conducted on Blake's hands were "basically a wash."

"Is there any way to say whether those [particles] came from handling his own gun or firing another weapon?" Samuels asked Collin Yamauchi of the LAPD Scientific Investigation Division.

"You can't tell," Yamauchi said.

"There's no way?" Samuels asked.

"There's no way to say," he said.

Yamauchi testified that the gunshot residue (GSR) test can only confirm that particles are present. It cannot determine how those particles got on Blake's hands.

Yamauchi is one of several GSR experts who have testified that the sticky residue, which is expelled when a gun is fired, can easily transfer from surface to surface and may stay on clothing for years.

Blake, 71, was carrying a licensed .38 special revolver on the night Bakley, 44, was shot to death as she sat in the passenger seat of Blake's parked car.

Blake's hands tested positive for a small amount of GSR particles on the night of his wife's death, but the defense contends the results are consistent with the actor having handled his own gun, which was not the murder weapon.

During the state's case, now in its fifth week, Samuels has produced photos of Blake on the night of the murder -- in which the actor is seen holding his stomach, putting his hands on the grass and touching his hair -- in an attempt to show how he may have wiped away the GSR particles in the two and a half hours before his hands were tested.

On Tuesday, however, Samuels appeared to support what the defense has painstakingly suggested during hours of cross-examination of GSR experts: that the presence of GSR on Blake's hands cannot include or exclude Blake as the shooter.

Sweater silencer?

Detectives testified they found the murder weapon -- a Walther P-38 9 mm pistol -- in a garbage container near the crime scene. However, no witnesses heard gunshots fired the night Bakley was shot.

Yamauchi told jurors that lead detective Ronald Ito requested that two sweaters found in the backseat of Blake's car be tested for GSR, because Ito wondered if one of the sweaters may have been used as a silencer.

Yamauchi said the sweaters tested positive for GSR particles, but that they could have been contaminated when the murder weapon was fired, because GSR can expel from the sides of a gun and travel up to 15 feet away.

Jurors also heard briefly from Blake's former Studio City neighbor, Katherine Doehring, a defense witness called out of order because of scheduling conflicts.

Two to three weeks before Bakley's murder, Doehring testified, the actor approached her on the street and asked if she had seen "a blond man in a large black vehicle" parked by Blake's home for what the actor claimed was hours at a time.

During a motion hearing on Monday, prosecutor Samuels argued that the defense could not go into the substance of Blake's conversation with Doehring because it was hearsay. She said it would have the effect of allowing Blake's words about an alleged stranger watching his home to come into evidence without the benefit of putting the actor on the stand to question him about it.

The judge agreed, ruling that Doehring could say what Blake asked her and what her answer was, but could not say anything more about his comments about the strange "blond man."

However, after Doehring told jurors what Blake asked her, the defense did not ask what her answer was, essentially leaving the issue hanging like a mystery for the jurors.

During the motion hearing, attorneys revealed that Doehring, who was a teenager at the time, reportedly told Blake she had not seen anyone strange parked in front of his house.

Robert Blake is charged with one count of murder with the special circumstance of lying in wait and two counts of soliciting two stuntmen to murder Bonny Lee Bakley. He faces life in prison if convicted.

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