Robert Blake hires another attorney to represent him in murder trial

Monday, March 1st 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Robert Blake appeared in court Monday with a new lawyer _ his fourth since he was charged with murdering his wife three years ago.

M. Gerald Schwartzbach, 59, has practiced criminal law for more than 35 years. In his best-known case, he won the acquittal of a lawyer accused of murder for his alleged part in a 1971 prison escape attempt by a Black Panther.

"I'm convinced of Robert Blake's innocence. I'm confident he's going to be acquitted at trial," Schwartzbach said outside court.

Blake's first two attorneys resigned after the actor pursued media interviews against their advice. His third attorney stepped down Feb. 5, on the eve of what was supposed to be the start of Blake's trial, because of "irreconcilable differences" with his client.

The trial is now scheduled to begin Sept. 9.

Blake, the 70-year-old star of the 1970s TV series "Baretta," is accused of killing 44-year-old Bonny Lee Bakley in 2001. She was shot to death in their car outside a restaurant where they had dined.

Schwartzbach was asked whether he hesitated to take Blake's case after the actor's history of problems with other lawyers.

"This is a very interesting and challenging case and I think many experienced lawyers would look forward to being involved in it," he said.

Blake, who is normally talkative outside of court, avoided questions from the media.

Schwartzbach represented Stephen Bingham, a lawyer accused of smuggling a gun to Black Panther George Jackson at San Quentin Prison. Jackson used a gun in an abortive escape attempt and was killed along with three guards and two other convicts.

Bingham fled the country and lived abroad for more than 13 years but came back and was acquitted of murder and conspiracy in 1986.