Christian Brando invokes Fifth Amendment at Blake civil trial

Wednesday, October 26th 2005, 6:15 am
By: News On 6

BURBANK, Calif. (AP) _ Marlon Brando's son, a key figure in the wrongful death case of his former lover and Robert Blake's wife, refused to answer questions in court Tuesday.

Christian Brando's lawyer stood next to the witness box and repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment on behalf of his client to protect him from possible self-incrimination.

Blake's lawyers have pointed at Brando as a possible suspect in the slaying of Blake's wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. Brando, 46, has not been arrested or charged.

Blake is being sued for wrongful death by the family of Bakley. The star of the old ``Baretta'' TV show was found not guilty of murder in a criminal trial that ended earlier this year.

On the witness stand, Brando answered only a few questions, giving his name and birth date and identifying his voice on two tape recordings of phone conversations with Bakley.

``At any time did you meet an individual named Bonny Bakley?'' Blake attorney Peter Ezzell asked.

``Yes,'' said Brando, who then invoked the Fifth Amendment when asked for more details of their relationship.

``Did you become aware that Bonny Bakley had taped her conversations with you?'' Ezzell asked.

``No,'' Brando said.

The tapes, which have been played publicly before, include discussions in which Brando expresses exasperation with Bakley, who was claiming at one point that the baby she was carrying was fathered by Brando.

The child belonged to Blake.

Blake's attorney then played brief snippets from the tapes, and Brando said it was his voice along with Bakley's. He refused to answer a question about his comment on the tape telling Bakley: ``You're lucky somebody ain't out there to put a bullet in your head.''

He also declined to answer questions about whether he hired someone to kill Bakley, if she told him she feared Blake was going to kill her, or if she offered Brando sex with her 17-year old daughter.

Superior Court Judge David M. Schacter allowed Brando to invoke the Fifth Amendment on certain questions but not on others.

Brando did testify that he had served five years in prison for manslaughter in the death of his sister's boyfriend, Dag Drollet.

As he left the courthouse, Brando was asked whether he had any idea who may have killed Bakley. He shrugged, smiled and said, ``probably sitting up in the room there,'' an apparent reference to the courtroom.

His lawyer, Bruce Margolin, said Brando invoked Fifth Amendment protection because ``he didn't want to take part in this charade that somehow implies he's involved in this matter. ... He would prefer to have nothing to do with this matter.''

After hearing the limited testimony from Brando, jurors in the civil trial left on a bus trip to Vitello's restaurant, where Blake and his wife dined the night she was shot to death.

Blake contends that wife Bonny Lee Bakley was shot when he left her in his car to go back inside a restaurant to retrieve a handgun that he carried for protection but had accidentally left in the booth where they dined.

Blake did not testify during the criminal trial but spent seven days on the witness stand in the civil case discussing his relationship with Bakley and other matters.