BURBANK, Calif. – An attorney representing the children of Robert Blake's (search) slain wife pleaded with jurors Thursday to find the actor liable for her death, but Blake's attorney said there was not enough evidence connecting him to the slaying.
Eric Dubin said in closing arguments that Blake was responsible for the death of 44-year-old Bonny Lee Bakley (search), who was shot in the actor's car in May 2001 outside a restaurant where they had just dined.
The 72-year-old Blake, who married Bakley in November 2000 after tests showed he was the father of her baby, Rosie, was acquitted of murder in March after a criminal trial.
Bakley's children then sued Blake in an attempt to have him found civilly liable and to win damages. Blake's former handyman Earle Caldwell is a co-defendant. Closing arguments concluded Thursday, and jurors were expected to get the case Friday.
Dubin alleged that in an eight-month span before Bakley died Blake tried to distance himself from her and then attempted to hire two former Hollywood stuntmen to kill her.
"It's too much to say he didn't do it," Dubin said. "He did it. I wish he didn't, but he did."
Despite a background that included a mail-order business that conned men out of money by selling nude photos, Bakley didn't deserve to die, he said.
Defense attorney Peter Ezzell countered in his closing argument that there wasn't enough evidence connecting Blake to his wife's killing.
"The motive is missing from what we have heard over the past two months," Ezzell said. "The evidence remains unclear whether the plaintiffs' claim is that Mr. Blake killed Miss Bakley or someone else did."
Blake has repeatedly denied killing his wife. He claims he left Bakley in the car to go back inside the restaurant to retrieve a handgun he carried for protection but accidentally left in their booth, then found her shot when he went back out to the car. There was no testimony that anyone saw Blake return to the restaurant.
Dubin said Blake was less than a model husband the night of Bakley's killing, noting that the actor didn't call 911 immediately from Bakley's cell phone after finding her shot, didn't tend to her injuries and didn't accompany her to the hospital. Dubin alleged that once Blake killed his wife, he was overcome with fear, prompting him to vomit at the scene.
"Killing a woman freaked him out more than he thought," Dubin said. "He overestimated his acting abilities."
Ezzell argued that if Blake had shot his wife to death why wouldn't he make sure he was noticed when he went back to the restaurant.
"If he was trying to set up an alibi, he did a lousy job at it," Ezzell said.
Ezzell also referred to a taped phone call between Bakley and Blake in December 2000 in which the actor said he wanted to remain married to her. On the tape, Blake told Bakley that he didn't want a custody fight over Rosie, now 5.
Dubin, however, reasoned that Blake and Caldwell wanted Bakley killed in order for the actor to have sole custody of Rosie.