BURBANK, Calif. – Robert Blake (search) asked that people respect him and his family as he testified for a final time in a wrongful-death trial, offering an "olive branch" to a lawyer who has confronted the actor about his slain wife.
The 72-year-old "Baretta" star was called to the stand Wednesday by his attorney, Peter Ezzell. Blake spoke for 20 minutes about how he has held his tongue in the face of sharp criticisms since his 2001 arrest for allegedly killing his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley (search).
Blake was acquitted of murder in March, but Bakley's children are now suing him for damages, claiming he was liable for her death. Closing arguments were expected to begin Thursday.
Blake said he is no longer angry at police for trying to pin Bakley's murder on him. However, Blake had choice words for his critics, including attorney Eric Dubin, who represents Bakley's children.
"I'm praying that everyone respect me and I will respect everyone else," said Blake, who added that he had a "self-imposed gag order" for the past four years. "My fervent hope and prayers are that when this is over that everyone get on with their lives."
Blake said he was offering an "olive branch" to Dubin, who feuded with an irritable Blake over six days of testimony. Dubin said he believed Blake threatened him during Wednesday's testimony when the actor said he would "come into their lives and teach them manners" if people didn't abide by his wishes.
"I don't know if there is any ambiguity to it," Dubin said outside the courtroom. "I don't take what he said lightly."
Blake said he was only trying to convey a simple message.
"I just wanted him to know my absolute desire that when it's over, it's over," Blake said during a recess. "But if someone disrespects my family, I'm going to deal with it."
When pressed further about his statements, Blake replied, "I'm not into hypotheticals."
Bakley was found shot to death inside Blake's car near an Italian restaurant where the couple had dined on May 4, 2001. His attorneys argued others might have wanted to kill Bakley because she ran a mail-order business in which she used nude pictures of herself and promises of sex to get money from men.
Blake married Bakley after she became pregnant and subsequent tests revealed the actor was the father of Rosie, now 5. Dubin has sought to portray Blake as someone who was trying to get rid of Bakley at any cost.
But in a phone conversation recorded by Bakley in December 2000, Blake said he wanted to make amends with her and didn't want to start a custody feud over their daughter.
"You know I want to stay married to you," Blake said on the tape. "I don't want to do a custody, sue for tons of money and nobody winds up with anything but a lot of heartache and misery. It's the rest of my life. It's the rest of your life."