Blake Hires Yet Another Attorney

Robert Blake (search) appeared in court Monday with a Northern California attorney who said he will represent the actor in his murder trial and is confident that their professional relationship will endure.

M. Gerald Schwartzbach became the fourth lawyer to represent Blake since he was charged with murdering his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley (search), three years ago.

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

Blake's first two attorneys, Harland Braun and Jennifer L. Keller, both resigned after Bl made Feb. 5 on the eve of what was to have been the start of his trial.

Blake, the 70-year-old star of the old "Baretta" (search) TV show, is accused of killing Bakley on May 4, 2001. She was found shot to death in their car outside a restaurant where they had dined. Blake married Bakley, 44, after she gave birth to a baby girl he had fathered.

Schwartzbach, 59, of Mill Valley, has practiced criminal law for more than 35 years. His most notable case was representing Stephen Bingham, a lawyer who was charged in connection with a 1971 riot at San Quentin Prison (search) in which he was accused of smuggling a gun to Black Panthers member George Jackson.

Jackson used an automatic pistol in an aborted 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 charges in 1986.

Schwartzbach was asked whether he had any hesitancy 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. He declined to say how he met Blake, only saying mutual acquitances brought them together.

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

Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp said Monday she was pleased that Blake had a new lawyer and scheduled another hearing for March 22 at the request of Deputy District Attorney Shellie Samuels, who insisted that she wants to litigate an issue involving Mesereau.

She maintains Mesereau lied about the prosecution's handling of the evidence in a hearing before he left the case. Schempp said if there were complaints about Mesereau they should be taken to the state bar and not to her court.

But Samuels persisted, saying that the matter involved evidence crucial to the case. Schempp agreed to reconsider after Schwartzbach studies the records and is able to respond.

The trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 9.