Judge OKs Evidence of Blake's Wife's Past

Bonny Lee Bakley's (search) sordid past can be detailed during the trial of a wrongful death lawsuit brought by her family against actor Robert Blake (search), a judge ruled Wednesday.

The move was a victory for Blake's attorneys, who want to show others had motives to kill Bakley.

In making the ruling, Superior Court Judge David Schacter rejected a request by Bakley family attorney Eric Dubin to bar information about her past, including her practice of selling nude photos of herself.

"This evidence is directly relevant to determine the issue of damages and to Blake's defense," the judge wrote.

Jury selection in the civil case is set to begin Monday. The trial is expected to last at least four weeks.

The lawsuit was filed in 2002 on behalf of Bakley's four children. Blake's former handyman, Earl Caldwell, is also named as a defendant.

Blake, 72, was acquitted in March of charges of murder and solicitation of murder in the 2001 shooting death of Bakley outside a restaurant.

Blake appeared upbeat before Wednesday's hearing.

"Last I checked, I'm doing good," he told The Associated Press. "I'm always in harm's way, and God is always on my shoulder."

During his criminal trial, both sides portrayed Bakley as a con woman who trapped Blake into marrying her by becoming pregnant. Prosecutors conceded Bakley sold nude photos of herself through the mail to lonely men.

On Wednesday, Schacter dealt a blow to Blake's defense by tentatively allowing recordings of conversations Bakley had with friends and relatives. The tapes, which were excluded from Blake's murder trial, allegedly show Bakley was afraid of the actor.

Schacter said he would make a final ruling on the relevance of the tapes after hearing them.

The judge excluded testimony from Blake's first wife, Sondra Kerr, about alleged threats the actor made to her during their 22-year marriage. The testimony was called irrelevant because the couple separated several decades ago.

Schacter declined to exclude jailhouse recordings of Blake talking to visitors, as well as a conversation between Blake and his criminal lawyer during a police interview on the night Bakley was killed. The judge said Blake should have known he was being recorded.

Dubin said the recordings show Blake was working on a criminal defense immediately after Bakley's death, even though he was not charged until a year later.

Blake's attorney Peter Ezzell argued unsuccessfully that the tapes were unduly prejudicial.

"All of his desires to assist in the criminal case are absolutely irrelevant," Ezzell told the judge.