LOS ANGELES – Jurors began deliberating Friday in the Robert Blake (search) murder trial after his lawyer ridiculed the evidence in the case and urged them to "end this nightmare" by clearing the actor's name.
The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes before going home for the weekend. They were ordered to return Monday.
In his closing argument earlier Friday, defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach (search) portrayed the prosecution's key witnesses as liars and said police rushed to judgment while bungling the investigation. "They convicted him that night," Schwartzbach said.
"If you do justice, you will end this nightmare for Mr. Blake and you will give him back his life," the attorney told jurors.
Blake is accused of killing Bonny Lee Bakley (search), 44, on May 4, 2001, outside his favorite Italian restaurant in Studio City. The 71-year-old actor is charged with murder, two counts of solicitation of murder and a special circumstance of lying in wait.
If convicted, the former "Baretta (search)" star could be sentenced to life in prison.
Schwartzbach stressed that his client was not responsible for finding his wife's killer.
"Mr. Blake doesn't have a burden of solving this crime," he said.
Schwartzbach also scoffed at the idea that the actor would have killed Bakley in his own neighborhood while she waited in a car parked under a street light.
"I'm going to kill her right by a restaurant that I've been going to for 30 years?" Schwartzbach asked.
The lawyer also pointed out the weapon used to kill Bakley was a 60-year-old handgun that contained only three rounds of obsolete ammunition. Only two of the bullets were used, and Bakley was still breathing when paramedics arrived.
He said Blake wouldn't create such an elaborate plot then leave his wife alive to possibly identify him.
"It is an absolutely absurd scenario," he said.
Schwartzbach also attacked the credibility of the prosecution's two key witnesses, both of whom have admitted being heavy drug users.
Blake maintains someone else killed Bakley when he left her briefly in his car to retrieve a gun he accidentally left behind during dinner at the restaurant. He told detectives he was armed because his wife feared someone was stalking her.
Prosecutors argued that Blake's account didn't add up because nobody saw him retrieve the gun from the restaurant. Schwartzbach said the layout of the restaurant would have made it easy for Blake to slip in, retrieve the gun and leave.
Blake's .38-caliber revolver was not the gun used to kill Bakley.
Prosecutor Shellie Samuels told jurors in her closing arguments that Blake killed Bakley because she was a con artist who tricked him into marrying her by getting pregnant and giving birth to a daughter he quickly became obsessed with protecting from Bakley.
Both sides agree that Blake married Bakley because of their baby, Rosie, and then was determined to keep the child away from a mother who sold promises of sex by mail and whom Blake suspected of using another of her children for pornography.
Schwartzbach argued Blake was willing to put up with Bakley for the sake of their daughter.