LOS ANGELES – Robert Blake's (search) attorney urged a judge Thursday to allow a jury to hear evidence about an odd assortment of people who may have conspired to kill the actor's wife.
Attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach used elaborate charts to draw connections between the late Marlon Brando's (search) son Christian and a group of methamphetamine addicts and former stuntmen.
"They are all links in a chain that demonstrate (stuntman Ronald) 'Duffy' Hambleton was at the center of a conspiracy to murder Bonny Lee Bakley (search)," the attorney said during a pretrial hearing.
Hambleton, who worked with Blake in movies years ago, was a star witness in the preliminary hearing which resulted in Blake being held to answer a charge of murder.
Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp previously rejected the third-party culpability defense, but Schwartzbach raised new arguments since then. She was expected to rule on them later Thursday.
Schwartzbach, who took over Blake's defense this year, tracked down a group of potential witnesses he said were involved in a murder plot. He argued that their testimony could convince a jury that there is reasonable doubt as to Blake's involvement in the killing.
He alleged that the conspiracy developed because Christian Brando was angered about being duped by Bakley into thinking he fathered her daughter Rosie when Blake actually had.
Schwartzbach presented the judge a chart showing quotes from a recorded phone call in which Christian Brando told Bakley she should feel lucky someone had not put a bullet through her head. The tape was not played during the hearing.
As for Hambleton's testimony that Blake offered him money to kill his wife, Schwartzbach said, "He has a bias and motive to focus attention away from his own involvement and on Mr. Blake."
Deputy District Attorney Shellie Samuels argued vehemently against allowing the evidence
"This is all so confusing and irrelevant. None of this has anything to do with this murder," she said.
"There could be such a thing as coincidence and there could be stringing together a lot of unrelated facts. ... It has to be a much more direct link to the murder than someone thinking someone should have a bullet in her head," the prosecutor added.
The question of who fathered Bakley's baby was resolved through a DNA test.
The phone call in which Christian Brando berated Bakley was recorded by Bakley.
"It's not my kid," he said. "And you get me all charged up thinkin' I got a baby..."
In a profanity-laced tirade, Christian Brando spoke of Bakley's embezzlements from other men and said, "You're lucky. You know, I mean, not on my behalf but you're lucky somebody ain't out there to put a bullet in your head."
The prosecution contends there is no evidence Christian Brando took any steps to carry out any threat in the months between the statements and the killing.
Blake, 70, is charged with murdering Bakley, 44, on May, 4, 2001. The couple married just months earlier. He has pleaded not guilty.
Bakley was shot their car outside a restaurant where they had dined. Blake told police he found his wife mortally wounded after he went back to the restaurant to retrieve a gun he carried for protection.