LOS ANGELES – Attorneys for actor Robert Blake (search) were targeting how police handled potential evidence in the days after his wife's death, as the actor's murder trial was set to continue Thursday.
The clothes Blake wore when his wife was fatally shot sat uncovered in a patrol car for two days before an investigator took them in for testing, an investigator testified Wednesday.
Detective James Gollaz (search) told jurors that he threw Blake's clothes, which he had collected the morning after the slaying, into a box he grabbed from his squad room and put the box into the trunk of his cruiser.
Blake's attorney, M. Gerald Schwartzbach, attacked Gollaz's handling of the evidence, suggesting his methods opened it to contamination and would make any tests for gunshot residue unreliable.
Blake is on trial for the May 2001 slaying of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley (search), in his parked car near Vitello's restaurant.
The prosecution has not presented any evidence of gunshot residue. The issue was complicated from the outset because the night of the killing, Blake was carrying a gun different from the one that killed Bakley, and which could be responsible for traces of gunshot residue.
Blake said that after dinner he and his wife went to his car on a nearby street and he left her there to return to the restaurant to retrieve his gun, which he had forgotten. He said he found Bakley bleeding when he got back to the car.
Gollaz testified that he was sent to Blake's home the next morning to get the clothing and to talk to Blake if possible. The detective also said he never asked Blake whether the jeans, T-shirt, socks and boots that the actor took off and handed over were the same clothing he had on the previous night.
"I don't specifically remember asking him if it was the same clothing. I hoped and assumed it was the same clothing," Gollaz said.
The prosecution also called more staff from Vitello's, where Blake was a customer for many years.
No witnesses have said they saw Blake retrieving his gun from the restaurant, but some have described him yelling for help on the street near his car and rushing to Vitello's for assistance.
Waitress Robyn Robichaux said that when she served Blake and his wife she saw no animosity and Blake seemed normal. But she said there was a great change when he returned alone.
"His physical appearance had changed dramatically and I thought he was having a heart attack. I'd say he had aged 50 years in 10 minutes," she said.
The prosecution also called three patrol officers who had contact with Blake the night of the killing.
Officer Samer Issa said he encountered a very agitated Blake and tried to calm him. Earlier witnesses had suggested Blake's distress didn't seem real.
"He'd been vomiting, he was very emotional," he said. "He said his wife was in the illegal porn business and she asked him to bring the gun. They had shot at her in Arkansas and he brought it for her protection."
Blake and Bakley wed months before she was killed, and after DNA tests showed he was the father of her baby.
The defense is expected to focus on Bakley's background in arguing that someone else killed her. She has been depicted in pretrial documents as a con artist who took money from men with promises of sex.