LOS ANGELES – Robert Blake's (search) lawyer claims newly discovered evidence points to a conspiracy among friends of Christian Brando (search) to murder Blake's wife, who taunted Brando with a picture of the baby he thought was his but turned out to be Blake's.
Attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach filed a voluminous motion Wednesday seeking to present evidence at Blake's upcoming murder trial showing that other people, including one of the prosecution's star witnesses, conspired to kill Bonny Lee Bakley (search).
"The ... evidence suggests that Ronald 'Duffy' Hambleton, one of the prosecution's two central witnesses, was in fact at the heart of the plot against Bonny Lee Bakley — a plot in which defendant Robert Blake did not participate," Schwartzbach said in the motion.
The motion outlines a complex series of relationships among Brando, the son of the late actor Marlon Brando (search), two former stuntmen and two transients. One of the stuntmen, Jerry Lee Petty, and one of the homeless men later committed suicide, the motion said.
At a preliminary hearing, Hambleton testified that he had been solicited by Blake to kill Bakley. He and a second former stuntman, Gary McLarty, testified that Blake was trying to hire a hit man to kill his wife.
Schwartzbach said newly interviewed witnesses have described a gun owned by Hambleton that fits the description of the weapon used to kill Bakley, and that Hambleton's son drew a picture of the gun.
No one has linked Blake to the gun and the motion said that gunshot residue tests showed the actor did not have residue on his hands consistent with someone who had fired a gun.
The motion referred to three newly discovered witnesses, including one who would testify that Hambleton offered him $10,000 for an unspecified "job," later telling him it was for Bakley's murder.
The issue of Brando's possible link to the killing was first raised in court last February when Blake's former attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr., tried to present testimony from an acquaintance of Brando, Dianne Mattson, who said she overheard a phone conversation between Brando and someone named "Duffy" in which there was discussion of putting a bullet through Bakley's head.
Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp refused to allow the testimony, saying that Mattson had "credibility issues."
In the interim, the defense has re-interviewed Mattson and found a number of other witnesses who corroborate her and add information, the motion said.
"The ... evidence permits the inference that Ms. Bakley's murder was orchestrated by Mr. Hambleton," either at Brando's urging or in an effort to curry favor with him, the motion said.
Mattson said that Brando received an express delivery package from Bakley in mid-April of 2001, a few weeks before she was killed. The package contained a photograph of Blake with the baby Brando had thought was his. The motion said Brando has acknowledged he considered it "a slap in the face" and "insulting."
Prosecutors interviewed Brando soon after the killing and cleared him of any involvement.
Blake, 70, is charged with killing 44-year-old Bakley on May, 4, 2001. The couple married just months before Bakley was killed. He has pleaded not guilty.
Bakley was found shot to death in their car outside an Italian restaurant where they had dined. Blake told police he found his wife mortally wounded after he went back to the restaurant to retrieve a handgun he carried for protection.
Schwartzbach asked for a hearing so the judge can consider whether to admit the new evidence at the murder trial scheduled for Nov. 1.