LOS ANGELES – Robert Blake's (search) prosecutor and defense attorney differed Monday over whether the actor killed wife Bonny Lee Bakley (search), but agreed that the couple's marriage was not a Hollywood-style love match.
"It wasn't a marriage off a Hollywood set. It wasn't about love of each other," Blake's lawyer told the jury. "For Robert, it was about love for a child. For Bonny it was about love of being married to a celebrity."
Defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach (search), answering a powerful opening statement by prosecutor Shellie Samuels, dismissed her claim that Blake killed his wife to rescue his baby daughter, Rosie, from a future with Bakley and from relatives he believed to be disreputable.
"It's true that Mr. Blake told people that the first time he laid eyes on Rosie he knew it was his baby," Schwartzbach said. "It is true he was over the moon about that child, and he continues to be so. That's not a crime."
Both sides focused on circumstances surrounding the marriage and leading up to the murder mystery.
"It was a marriage of convenience that worked for both of them," Schwartzbach said.
The prosecutor disagreed, exclaiming at one point, "He hated her, he hated her!" Samuels asserted that Blake killed Bakley when two stuntmen he allegedly solicited to carry out the crime refused to do it.
Testimony was expected to begin Tuesday after the defense finished its opening statements.
The jury began hearing the case 31/2 years after Bakley, 44, was shot in the actor's car after they dined at his favorite restaurant. Blake, 71, star of the "Baretta" TV series, married Bakley after tests showed he was the father of her baby.
Using video and audio recordings of Blake in jail, Samuels said Blake had wanted Bakley to have an abortion, never wanted to marry her and then campaigned to keep her away from Rosie.
Schwartzbach attacked a key element of the case — the allegation that Blake personally shot his wife. "There is no scientific evidence — no DNA, no hairs or fibers, no fingerprints," he told the jury.
No evidence connects Blake to a murder weapon and "in fact the scientific evidence will indicate to you that Mr. Blake was not the shooter," Schwartzbach said.
He also turned his attention to the two stuntmen.
"Without evidence to support the charge, the prosecution has built its case on the backs of two men who were addicted to illegal drugs at the time they met Mr. Blake — one addicted to cocaine, the other addicted to methamphetamine," he said.
Both men have experienced "auditory and visual hallucinations," he said. "They've heard voices; they've seen things and events that never occurred."
Samuels, however, described Blake as frantic to eliminate Bakley from his life, soliciting stuntmen Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton and Gary McLarty to be hitmen and telling others that he wanted her dead.
"The defendant said he was looking for a heartless thug" to do the job, Samuels told the jury. She played audio recordings of Blake telling a jail visitor: "Rosie is safe. Those monsters will never get her, that other family."
Rosie, now 4, is being raised by Blake's adult daughter, Delinah.
Blake claims the shooting occurred while he returned to the restaurant to retrieve a handgun he carried for protection and had accidentally left behind. Samuels said she will call witnesses who were at the restaurant and will contradict Blake's claim.