Robert Blake's defense seeking jurors who love a good mystery, open to alternative theories

Monday, November 15th 2004, 11:09 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Jury selection began Monday in the murder trial of Robert Blake more than three years after the former ``Baretta'' star's wife was shot to death outside a California restaurant.

The actor, appearing solemn and dressed in a dark suit, faced prospective jurors in court for the first time as the judge explained the various charges against him.

Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp dismissed 140 prospective jurors who had been prescreened by attorneys for possible bias and other factors that would disqualify them, including language difficulties. The selection process then moved into the individual questioning phase.

Schempp said jurors would be questioned individually by lawyers instead of being interviewed in a large group.

Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty in the slaying of Bonny Lee Bakley.

Jury consultant Richard Gabriel, president of Decision Analysis, said the defense would be looking for people who are ``sensational minded.''

``You want people who are open to alternative theories, people who are conspiracy theorists, people who will nit pick the evidence and create their own reasonable doubt,'' he said.

On the prosecution side, Gabriel, who is not working on the case, said: ``They are looking for quick decision makers, conservative people who will use common sense.''

Blake, former star of the ``Baretta'' TV series and the movie ``In Cold Blood,'' married Bakley after DNA tests showed he was the father of her baby.

The 71-year-old actor has pleaded not guilty to murder, two counts of solicitation of murder and a special circumstance of lying in wait. Key witnesses are two elderly stuntmen who claim Blake asked them to murder his wife.

Bakley was killed on May 4, 2001, outside Vitello's restaurant where the couple had dined. Blake, who was not arrested until a year later, went to prison during his preliminary hearing. He was later released on $1.5 million bail and has been living under house arrest.

The trial is estimated to last about five months.