Greta Van Susteren Interview With Robert Blake's Lawyer

This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, April 19, 2002. Click here to order the entire transcript of the show.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight On the Record: He says he didn't do it, but police say he did. Actor Robert Blake, busted for the murder of his wife. But was it the star of "Baretta" who pulled the trigger, or was it a hired gun who put a bullet in Blake's wife's head? And what of his wife? Close friends say she wasn't exactly the girl next door.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was a degenerate. Give me a break with this. These are Jerry Springer rejects.


ANNOUNCER: Did this woman cause Blake to commit the crime?

VAN SUSTEREN: First, let's go straight to jail. Fox's Anita Vogel, who is outside the Los Angeles jail where Blake and his bodyguard are being held tonight for the murder of Bonny Lee Bakley -- Anita.

ANITA VOGEL, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Greta, it's going to be a long couple of days for Robert Blake, as he waits out the remainder of the weekend behind me in the LA Central Jail. Police say they will wait the weekend, take a look at the case, review things a little more before announcing on Monday about charges in this case.

Now, in the last 24 hours, we've seen the arrest of television actor Robert Blake in connection with the murder of his wife, 44-year-old Bonny Lee Bakley. Police say Blake is the trigger man. They believe he shot his wife to death outside a Studio City restaurant because he wanted out of a bad marriage.

Now, today the LAPD announced they searched three locations, the Hidden Hills home of Robert Blake, the apartment of his bodyguard Earle Caldwell, who has also been arrested in connection with this crime, and another location in the desert. They say they recovered additional evidence, including guns, papers and computers.

Also today, the LAPD responded to allegations by Robert Blake's attorney that the police department is conducting an investigation after the fact and that they should have brought Blake in for questioning again before arresting him. Here's what the LAPD had to say about that.


CAPT. JIM PATREAU, LAPD: We had a statement from Robert Blake the night of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a somewhat lengthy statement. We didn't feel that it was necessary to talk to Robert Blake again. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) strategy of the case and the way it develops.


VOGEL: And now, again, police said Monday they will have an announcement about charges in this case. Now, for Blake, that will likely include first degree murder and solicitation of murder. As for his bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, he will likely be charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Now, if those charges are filed on Monday, Greta, we will likely see an arraignment Monday afternoon.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anita Vogel, thanks very much.

Joining us from Los Angeles is Robert Blake's attorney, Harland Braun. Harland, thanks for joining me.


VAN SUSTEREN: Harland, I want to talk about the tape we just saw of the police, who said -- they denied that they should have interviewed your client again, that you said that they should have before they made the arrest. What's your reaction to that?

BRAUN: Well, because if I were the police detective in charge of this case and I had investigated a case for 11 months, why would you not ask your suspect to come in and give you a statement? Either the lawyer, me, would deny the right to give a statement, and then you could always say, "Well, he wouldn't give us a statement," and if he does give a statement, then you have all this evidence that you've accumulated, and you could then ask him questions about it to incriminate him.

So there was absolutely no reason for them not to at least make the request of me to bring Mr. Blake in or to question him again. After all, he gave a four-hour statement to them right after the murder. So I thought it was just good -- would be just good police procedure with no downside risk, and I was surprised that they didn't make at least the request.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you agree that they didn't have to. I mean, they were not obliged to do so, it's just something you thought they should do.

BRAUN: I mean, doesn't it make common sense? Why don't you just ask? If you think the man is guilty and you've got all this evidence and you can get him on the record in contradictions, aren't you much better off? If I were the D.A., I'd be upset with the Los Angeles Police Department for not inviting Mr. Blake in. And I'd be very upset with...


VAN SUSTEREN: And if I were you, Harland, knowing that the police had targeted my client, I wouldn't have let him go in to talk. You don't let -- you don't let guilty or innocent clients go in to talk to police when they are the target, at this point.

BRAUN: Yeah, that's the general rule, but I've broken that rule on a number of occasions. I've had people testify before grand juries that are not indicted. I've had people go in who they were ready to file on, and they discovered they were innocent and there was an explanation. So I know what general rule is, but I go on a case-by-case basis.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you had a chance to see your client since he's been locked up?

BRAUN: I've seen him twice. I saw him this afternoon and I saw him last night. And he's fairly philosophical and pretty calm. Mainly, he's concerned about his -- the future of his children. He's concerned that his Delli (ph) and Noah, his older children, will be too defined by this situation. He wants them to get on with their lives. And he's very concerned about Rosie, obviously. He's very concerned that the Bakley family will try to gain custody over her and raise her in an environment, in a family that he considers immoral.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is he in a special -- is this special handling, is that right, because of who he is?

BRAUN: Yes. Obviously, he's being segregated in the Los Angeles county jail. They're putting him in the infirmary just to segregate him. But other than that, he's living in pretty Spartan conditions right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Harland, I wanted to focus on some pieces of the evidence or information, and I want to, you know, correct me or tell me -- explain it for me. First of all, the question -- was there any -- were residue tests taken of his hands and his clothing the night of May 1st, when she was murdered?

BRAUN: Yeah, there were residue tests, TSR (ph) tests, taken of him by the police department. The problem with that is that the residue test itself says you cannot use it on anyone who is in possession of a gun. And of course, he did have a gun, so those would be inherently inconclusive. His clothes were taken by the police department the next morning. He was still in the same clothes from that night, so they took those clothes in. And I understand they've tested him. I have no access to the test results.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you talked to the D.A. and asked for the test results?

BRAUN: No, I have no right to any evidence right now. There's not even charges been filed. I mean, it's hard for people to understand this, but he was arrested without a warrant. They had what we call a "Ramy (ph) warrant," where they had a right to break into the house, but they did not. There has been no charges filed. There was no arrest warrant issued. And the district attorney is going to receive the evidence, believe it or not, on Monday morning to determine whether or not what they're going to file.

Now, that's an awful lot of pressure on them. I'm sure they would rather have decided this before the arrest, but for whatever reason, the Los Angeles Police Department decided to jump the gun.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Harland, I don't know the procedure in California, but in Washington, D.C., if the police really don't like you, they arrest you on Friday night because you can't get to court till Monday, so that you sit, you know, in the jail until Monday morning.  Is -- was -- is that the way it is in California, or would he -- if he were arrested on Monday, would he have to wait till Wednesday or Thursday to get to court?

BRAUN: Well, he has to stay in two court days. So in effect, does give them two extra days to look at the evidence or keep you in custody. You know...

VAN SUSTEREN: So that's not unusual.

BRAUN: If that's...

VAN SUSTEREN: So it's not unusual that...

BRAUN: No, and you know...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... he's picked up on a Friday night. Or I mean, on a Thursday night, rather.

BRAUN: Right, but -- but if they had picked him up on a Monday, they would have till Wednesday. So you know, this is too important a case. If they were that petty that they picked Thursday because he was going to do two more days, we're going to really ignore that. And I hope they're not that petty.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, special circumstances. The police say that there are special circumstances, lying in wait, which would make him eligible for the death penalty, if convicted. Have you had any discussion with the prosecution about the special circumstances? And do you realistically think that will be part of the charge?

BRAUN: No, but you know, I did speak with someone much more important, Robert Blake, about that. And you know, he said, "Look, I'm 70 years old. I've had -- and I've lived in my lifetime 140 years. And so let's not talk about the death penalty. Let's talk about the merits of the case and defend the case, and not worry about the death penalty," because we really -- a murder case in this state, you're never going to get out anyway. I think I would prefer the death penalty to a life imprisonment, and I think there are a lot of people that would.

VAN SUSTEREN: Harland, I found it so peculiar that your client parked about a block and a half away from the murder -- from -- form the restaurant. I've actually seen the restaurant. And instead of parking in the parking lot adjacent -- why didn't your client park in the parking lot or use valet that night?

BRAUN: Well, if you actually look it, have been out there, it's really -- when they say a block and a half, it's actually like a half a block. Part of the reason is, is because he was a -- he regularly went there. There was street parking. I've done it myself. And you don't want to get your car tied up and not be able to get it out. He parks distances that would be consistent with what I do. I think people are making a big deal out of that, and if they go out there and looked at the exact distance, would realize it's of no significance.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, any idea -- the police said yesterday -- last night in the press conference that they intended to ask the D.A. to charge two counts for soliciting someone to commit murder, which -- which, of course, raises my attention. There are two people out there who -- who may lead back to your client on that. Do you know anything about it?

BRAUN: Interesting thing -- no, I don't know much about that. I've heard rumors about it. But so here they've got a case where they say he's the trigger man, that he pulled the trigger, and then he solicited two people that what, didn't do it? And then they charged Earle Caldwell, his -- his assistant, with a conspiracy, and they admit that Earle Caldwell wasn't even in Los Angeles that night?

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what that...

BRAUN: That makes a very weird...

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what, though? You -- well, you could think of it as weird. On the other hand, you could think he went to two people, maybe three people, and he got turned down, so he did it himself. I mean, you could look at it that way, too. I mean, that could be one of the theories.

BRAUN: Yeah. We to -- we have no evidence -- we have no access to any discovery because there's no case. So as soon as we can look at those statements by those people, then I can express opinion about it. It's hard to express an opinion about something I've never seen.

VAN SUSTEREN: Harland, a lot of people say that there's been trashing of the victim and that that's the defense strategy. How do you respond to that?

BRAUN: Well, you know, I don't -- I think -- I mean, I love Rosie. I mean, I've been around her for a year, almost. This is Rosie's mother. So I feel a little badly about it in that respect. But the fact is, is that when you're looking for a murderer who killed someone, the background, character, and the history of the victim is a clue as to who may want to kill this person.

Now, it also cuts the other way, doesn't it, because the prosecution's going to say it's because of who Bonny Bakley was, is that Robert couldn't stand her anymore and couldn't remain married to her and found her abhorrent. So that evidence about Bonny will come in, either into the prosecution's case or the defense case, not to unfortunately -- not to besmirch her, but it's a fact.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Harland, thank you very much for joining us this evening. I hope you'll come back as this case threads its way through the court system.

BRAUN: Okay.

Click here to order the entire transcript of the April 19 edition of On the Record.

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