Jury Selection Begins in Blake Civil Trial

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Robert Blake (search) lashed out Monday at the lawyer representing the four children of the actor's slain wife, saying they are suing for money and should leave him alone.

"To me it's a deep-pockets affair," said one male potential juror. "I think you ought to leave Blake alone. He's gone through enough. It's sort of like how his wife tried to get in with him and get his money."

The man was among 70 people called for possible service in the civil case 5 1/2 months after a jury in a criminal trial acquitted Blake of charges that he murdered Bonny Lee Bakley (search) in 2001.

The man said he believed Bakley's children are "trying to break him" and he could not understand why they think they are entitled to Blake's money.

"I don't think Blake was even close to the family," he said. He added: "If he was a poor man I don't think they would be going after his underwear."

Other prospects chimed in with similar feelings and plaintiffs' attorney Eric Dubin at one point said to Superior Court Judge David M. Schacter, "Your honor, this is a tough crowd."

Among other prospective jurors was a man who said he was offended because "to me it seems like double jeopardy. He is being tried for the same set of actions twice."

Two others, a man and a woman, said they had no problem with the concept of two trials because it was within the law. The man also noted that he thought Blake was guilty.

"I thought he had a motive, means and opportunity. He didn't offer a reasonable explanation," that man said.

In further questioning, Dubin compared Blake's situation to that of O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted of murder and then was sued for wrongful death. After a number of questions, a male prospect blurted out: "I think you should stop mentioning the O.J. trial. There's no comparison."

Blake and co-defendant Earle Caldwell, his former handyman, watched the proceeding with their attorneys.

Bakley, 44, was shot as she sat in Blake's car outside a restaurant where they had dined. Blake has asserted that he re-entered the restaurant briefly and found his wife shot when he returned to the car.

Blake did not testify in the criminal trial. Caldwell was initially charged in that case but was dropped as a defendant.

In the civil case, the jury needs only to determine that there is a preponderance of evidence to find the defendants liable for damages. In the criminal case, proof beyond a reasonable doubt was required.

Dubin told reporters outside court that the difference in the standard of proof means that "I don't have to put a gun in Robert Blake's hand to show he's responsible."

Dubin said another difference is that he can call Blake and Caldwell to testify.

"It's a different case with Mr. Blake taking the stand," he said.

Dubin acknowledged that Blake offered to settle the case for $250,000 and that he rejected the offer.