BURBANK, Calif. – Jury selection in the civil wrongful death case against Robert Blake (search) moved forward Tuesday after one prospective juror verbally attacked the lawyer who filed the lawsuit.
Several other prospective panelists expressed strong disapproval of the actor's acquittal on charges of murdering his wife.
Superior Court Judge David M. Schacter granted challenges to remove some of the prospective jurors who were the most outspoken during the first two days of questioning, and he and lawyers in the case estimated that a jury would be seated Wednesday morning, followed by opening statements in the afternoon.
The judge dismissed nine people for cause and lawyers then removed five people with peremptory challenges. He also excused a man who was injured in a bar fight Monday night and couldn't return to court Tuesday.
Blake was acquitted in March of killing Bonny Lee Bakley (search), 44, who was shot in his car outside a restaurant in 2001. He and former handyman Earle Caldwell are now the target of a lawsuit filed by attorney Eric Dubin on behalf of Bakley's two adult and two minor children.
Blake has said that he re-entered the restaurant briefly and found his wife shot when he returned to the car.
An unusually acrimonious tone that was set during jury selection on Monday persisted Tuesday, with one prospective juror lashing out at Dubin.
"I have a rather highly tuned ... detector and it's been going off big time since you started" the questioning, the man said. "If I were sitting next to you, I would not want you to be representing me."
Dubin appeared taken aback.
"Wow," he said. "Do you think your dislike for me could affect the children I represent?"
The man said it would not, but Dubin followed up: "Have you ever hated a lawyer as much as me?"
"No," the man said.
The man went on to assert that the lawsuit was "a second swing at Mr. Blake" and to suggest that Blake was not being given a chance to confront his accusers because Bakley's children were not present.
Ultimately, that man was excused. Also excused were a man who protested that Blake should not be forced to endure a second trial; a retired sheriff's spokesman who had helped organize the Sheriff's Department's responses on the Blake criminal case; and several prospects who objected to the civil trial on grounds it was double jeopardy.
The prospective panelists were identified in court only by number.
The suit was brought on behalf of Glen Gawron, 25, Holly Gawron, 24, Jerri Lee Lewis, 12, and 4-year-old Rosie Blake, who is Blake's offspring.