Blake jury won't hear taped calls by actor or Christian Brando

Thursday, October 14th 2004, 8:15 pm
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Jurors in Robert Blake's murder trial will not hear recorded phone calls of the actor urging his future wife to get an abortion or of the late Marlon Brando's son suggesting she was lucky someone hadn't put a bullet in her head, the judge in the case ruled Thursday.

Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp said both tapes were irrelevant and noted that Blake, in his call, frequently referred to Bonny Lee Bakley as ``honey'' and ``sweetheart'' and appeared more conciliatory than threatening.

In a pretrial hearing, Schempp said that Christian Brando, while sounding angry, made statements that had no relevance to the 2001 killing of Bakley. Bakley had recorded the conversation, in which Brando confronted her after a tabloid article named Blake as the father of the child that Bakley had told Brando was his.

Blake married Bakley months before her death after DNA testing showed that Blake was the father of the baby, Rosie.

The judge said of Blake: ``Certainly he had a right to be angry, just as Mr. Brando had a right to be angry at what she did. She used people, obviously.''

Blake, 70, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Bakley, 44. His trial is scheduled for Nov. 1.

The former ``Baretta'' star told police he found Bakley shot in their car after he went back into the restaurant where they had just dined to retrieve a gun he carried for protection.

Defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach had sought to use the profanity-laced tape of Brando to help convince jurors that other people may have wanted to kill Bakley. He used elaborate charts Thursday to draw connections between Brando and a group of methamphetamine addicts and former stuntmen, including stuntman Ronald ``Duffy'' Hambleton.

Hambleton, who worked with Blake in movies years ago, was a star witness in the preliminary hearing that resulted in Blake being held to answer the murder charge.

Schwartzbach said Hambleton, who testified that Blake offered him money to kill his wife, ``has a bias and motive to focus attention away from his own involvement and on Mr. Blake.''

The judge said that the defense will be permitted to question Hambleton about his alleged bias and could call other witnesses to impeach him. But she declined to allow a full ``third-party culpability defense'' outlining Schwartzbach's theory.

Schempp's rulings appeared to minimize references that may be made to Brando during the trial. She said his conversations with Bakley were too remote in time and that he had an alibi for the night of the slaying.

In another ruling, the judge said author Miles Corwin must appear at a hearing Tuesday to testify about his role in the search of Blake's home the night of the killing. Corwin was accompanying homicide detectives during a yearlong project to research a book.

Corwin's attorney said he might raise the possibility that Corwin is covered by the reporters' shield law. But Schwartzbach said Corwin had signed an agreement with Los Angeles police saying he could be subpoenaed as a witness and could be considered an agent of the police that night.