Witness says Blake vomited all the time
Defense challenges claim accused actor's behavior was unusual
By Lisa Sweetingham
VAN NUYS, California (Court TV) -- Prosecutors in the murder trial of Robert Blake allege that the defendant's behavior on the night his wife was slain -- including evidence that he vomited before and after Bonny Lee Bakley's death -- point to the actor's guilt.
But during cross-examination of a defense witness Friday, jurors were told that the actor commonly vomited his meals.
"Did he always throw up after eating?" Deputy District Attorney Shellie Samuels asked Blake's former personal assistant Daryn Goodall.
"Always," Goodall said. "After dinner, always."
Goodall, a set decorator, said he worked for Blake from 1988 to the early 1990s and that the actor would vomit in his presence, sometimes "in the gutter and on the grass." He testified that, while he may have discussed the issue with Blake, he could not recall an explanation and assumed the actor did it to control his weight.
Actress and event planner Pamela Hudak testified that she had a two-month romantic relationship with Blake in 1991 and lived in his guesthouse in 1995 and 1997 in exchange for light housekeeping.
Goodall and Hudak, two witnesses who had knowledge of Blake's personal habits, were called by the defense Friday to refute prosecution claims revolving around Blake's alleged pre-planning of Bakley's murder, including his banking habits.
Prosecutors say Blake was withdrawing small sums of cash before Bakley's murder to quietly pay a hit man. A stuntman previously testified that Blake offered him $10,000 to kill his wife, and a detective testified that he found $10,000 in $100 bills in Blake's dresser drawer during a search of the actor's home.
Hudak and Goodall both testified that, during the time they worked for Blake, the actor kept large sums of money around his home because he preferred to use cash.
Hudak said she had seen three-inch rolls of hundred-dollar bills wrapped in rubber hands and envelopes filled with cash in Blake's dresser drawers.
Bakley was shot to death May 4, 2001, as she sat in the passenger seat of Blake's car, which was parked about a block and a half from Vitello's Italian restaurant, where the couple had just dined. Prosecutors allege that Blake's decision to park on a side street instead of the restaurant parking lot was part of his plan.
But Hudak and Goodall both testified that they had been to Vitello's with Blake several times and that he never used the parking lot, preferring side streets.
Blake claims he had nothing to do with his wife's death and that someone else shot her when he briefly stepped away.
The 71-year-old actor faces life in prison without parole if convicted of his wife's murder.
Baby-sitting at the Blake home
Hudak, who said she maintained a "dear, deep friendship" with the actor, told jurors she met Bonny Lee Bakley twice.
The first meeting was in late 1999, when she accompanied the couple to a gynecologist's office, where Bakley was confirmed pregnant, Hudak said.
She characterized the conversation in the car ride to the gynecologist as "uncomfortable." Bakley had a "stilted" and "scattered" conversational style, and she liked to talk about famous men she had romantic relationships with, including Christian Brando and Dean Martin, according to the witness.
"She seemed very interested in talking about celebrities she knew," Hudak testified.
Prosecutors say Blake killed his wife of six months in a desperate attempt to retain custody of their infant daughter, Rosie.
Hudak told jurors that in the fall of 2000, Bakley visited Blake's Studio City home. Blake asked Hudak to watch 3-month-old Rosie, and then left with Bakley, returning alone an hour later, the witness said.
Hudak said she became "concerned" about the baby's condition during the brief time she spent with her.
"She did not seem well," she said, adding that the baby's skin appeared wrinkled and dehydrated, and that she had a "bad scalp condition and severe diaper rash."
Hudak could not recall during cross-examination if she ever asked Blake if he had taken the child to a doctor.
Witness' use of cocaine examined
Jurors also heard from a drug expert, whose testimony about the behavioral effects of chronic methamphetamine and cocaine use was meant to undermine the credibility of the two stuntmen who claim Blake solicited them to murder Bakley.
Gary McLarty and Ronald Hambleton -- the state's star witnesses -- testified that Blake separately asked them to kill his wife shortly before her murder. Both men allege Blake suggested a variety of similar scenarios of how to do the job, and showed them a gun that could be used in the killing. Both say they refused to take part.
But the defense claims that the stuntmen suffered from delusions and hallucinations due to long-term drug abuse. McLarty's wife and son testified for the defense this week that McLarty suffered paranoia and delusions due to decades of cocaine use, and that he believed satellites were tracking his movements.
Two of Hambleton's former drug-using friends previously testified the stuntman was a chronic meth user who believed he was being watched by people dressed as trees and a 4-foot-tall horned animal that sneaked around his property.
Dr. Ronald Siegel, a psychopharmacologist on the faculty of UCLA Medical School, testified that long-term use of these drugs can cause individuals to have false beliefs and delusions.
For instance, while short-term cocaine use can cause one to perceive flashes of light in his peripheral vision, chronic use escalates to "those aren't little flashing lights -- those are satellites that are tracking me," Siegel said.
Siegel said that Hambleton's alleged "tree people" hallucination was "typical" among chronic meth and cocaine users.
"In the hills of Los Angeles, we have people going out every night shooting at bush people," Siegel said.
Prosecutor Samuels, however, took issue with the fact that the witnesses who testified about Hambleton's hallucinations were themselves chronic meth users who were also on drugs during the time they claimed they witnessed his bizarre behavior.
"So, how do you know who to believe?" Samuels asked Siegel.
"I'm glad I'm not sitting on the jury. They have to decide that, I can't," Siegel responded, adding that he would have to directly examine the witnesses to give an informed opinion.
Siegel's testimony, while inconclusive with regard to the stuntmen, was punctuated with bizarre personal stories that kept the jurors and courtroom observers amused.
For instance, he delved into his extensive background studying drug-induced behavior, including training monkeys in the basement of UCLA to smoke crack cocaine some 13 years before the term "crack" became part of the lexicon.
Siegel said that, at the time, he felt it was important that his methods were safe and practical, so he got in the animal's cages, "played monkey," and chewed the cocaine-based gum the researchers devised for their experiments.
Jurors appeared to be taking notes during the expert's testimony, as well as cracking smiles at one another.
Although the court is closed Monday, there was speculation among courtroom personnel that Blake may take the stand next week. The defense would not confirm that.