LOS ANGELES – A lawyer trying to quiz Robert Blake about his wife's slaying said Wednesday that the actor's deposition erupted into an argument with his own criminal defense lawyer, who threatened to quit if Blake discussed the case.
Eric Dubin, who represents the family of the slain Bonny Lee Bakley in a wrongful-death suit, emerged from the jail where Blake was undergoing a deposition and said that he was willing to call the whole thing off but that Blake's civil lawyers refused.
Neither Blake's criminal defense attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr., nor civil attorney Peter Ezzell, left the jail during a break. The Sheriff's Department refused to allow a pool news reporter inside on grounds the room was too crowded.
"The deposition started with Mr. Blake begging to talk to the American public," Dubin told reporters. "Mr. Mesereau threatened to quit on the spot. He would not let him even give his birth date. Mr. Blake was basically in tears, begging his lawyer to let him talk."
Dubin said that Blake, who is awaiting trial on charges of murdering his wife, talked about his frustration at sitting in jail unable to tell his story.
"He told Mr. Mesereau it would be on his shoulder if he [Blake] died in prison without being able to tell his side," Dubin said.
Blake, 69, is accused of shooting Bakley to death in his car near a Studio City restaurant where they had just dined on May 4, 2001. Bakley, 44, had given birth to his daughter Rosie in 2000 and they married five months later.
Blake lost his first criminal defense attorney, Harland Braun, because of his insistence on doing interviews.
Braun was replaced by Mesereau and Jennifer Keller. But Keller said Tuesday she was seeking to withdraw due to Blake's insistence on doing an interview with Barbara Walters.
Keller said there had been an agreement when they took over the case that Blake would do no interviews before his criminal trial.
Dubin indicated that Blake did not actually invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, but every time a question was asked, Mesereau would interrupt and say, "As an agent of Mr. Blake, I instruct him not to answer."
Dubin said that during the first 90 minutes of questioning he offered to suspend the deposition and all further depositions in the civil case until after the criminal trial.
"I've offered to stop right now," said Dubin. "It's clear to me nothing is going to come out of this for the Bakley children. ... I want to put this on hold. We can stop right now. So far, I'm being refused."
Blake's civil lawyers have not said why they want the deposition to go forward before the criminal trial, putting them at odds with Blake's criminal defense lawyers.
Keller said Tuesday that Blake was visited by Walters last week and was arranging an on-camera interview when Keller and Mesereau found out about it from the Sheriff's Department.
"When I came into the case it was on the assurance that no interviews would be given without my knowledge," Keller said. "But Mr. Blake insists on setting up interviews and he has an entertainment lawyer, Barry Felsen, who is facilitating these things for him. ... The criminal lawyers are not in control of the case."
Felsen did not immediately respond.
Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash scheduled a hearing for Friday on Keller's motion to withdraw. She said that if ordered to stay she would appeal.
"Mr. Blake feels frustrated," Keller said. "He feels he's kept silent and feels he has been pilloried by the police and in the press. He feels if he could get his side of things out he could get a level playing field."