LOS ANGELES – The police detective who told actor Robert Blake (search) his wife was dead testified Thursday that Blake responded with a cry, but the officer said "it didn't seem to me to be a sincere cry."
John Michael Coffey (search) was the latest in a string of prosecution witnesses to question the sincerity of Blake's reactions on the night of May 4, 2001, when wife Bonny Lee Bakley (search) was shot to death.
Prosecutors, lacking substantial direct evidence, hope Blake's demeanor will provide them with circumstantial evidence of guilt.
The witnesses have all used similar terminology to describe Blake's demeanor, saying he cried without tears and his howls of anguish seemed forced.
Coffey said he met Blake when the actor was brought from the scene where his wife was shot near Vitello's restaurant in Studio City.
"I went into a room with Mr. Blake and his lawyer," Coffey recalled. "I told Mr. Blake his wife had not made it. She had expired. She was dead."
Asked how Blake reacted, Coffey said, "He backed himself up in his chair and let out a boisterous cry and remained crying. He put his hands to his head."
Asked if he noticed anything unusual, Coffey said, "I noticed he didn't have any tears. It didn't seem to me to be a sincere cry."
On cross-examination, defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach asked, "Were you aware he had been crying at the crime scene for some time before you had seen him?"
"No, I was not," the witness said.
The detective also acknowledged that he did not write in any of his reports that Blake seemed insincere, although he said he discussed it with other detectives at the station.
Schwartzbach noted that those detectives also did not write such comments in their reports.
The prosecution also called a couple who live near Vitello's and were at the restaurant that night.
Andrew Percival and wife Rebecca Markham said they noticed Blake in Vitello's and later saw him alone hurrying past them from the rear as they walked home along the same street where Blake's car was parked. They said he passed them and crossed the street in the direction of the car but after that they heard and saw nothing.
The prosecution has claimed that Blake did not return to the restaurant to get his handgun but merely used that story as an alibi to place himself somewhere else while Bakley was being shot.
Although no one has said they saw Blake re-enter the restaurant to get the gun, the couple's testimony could cast doubt on the prosecution theory because they said he was walking alone from the direction of Vitello's.