Robert Blake's plot to kill Bonny Lee Bakley
In the un-humbled opinion of one, Poetic Justice...
AND JUSTICE FOR ALL
"What do you think a life is worth?"
The erstwhile BARETTA dodged a bullet at his criminal trial, but on Friday, November 18, 2005, jurors in the civil trial found Robert Blake responsible for the evil murder of Bonny Lee Bakley. Repulsive defense arguments suggesting the victim's life had no worth were completely rejected.
Blake's bodyguard - handyman - chauffeur - pool boy, Earl S. Caldwell, was not held accountable for his deep involvement in the conspiracy to kill Bakley on May 4, 2001 -- but in a 10 to 2 vote, the L.A. County jury found Blake financially liable. Sending a powerful message about the worth of Bonny Bakley's life, they assessed an extremely high damage amount.
Scum of the earth, scam artist, low-life, wife-murderer, Michael Gubitosi was ordered to pay Bonny Bakley's children 30 million dollars.
"It's a good day for justice."
-- superhero, Eric Dubin
Lonely Heart Attack
"You swore to me. You promised
me. You promised . . .
You said, 'don't worry Robert, no matter what, I'll have an abortion.' That was all a lie. Not a little lie. That's a big lie. That's the kind of lie that God looks down on and says, 'Hey, wait a minute. Wait a minute.' That's a big, awful, deep, vicious lie. They don't get any worse than that."
-- Blake's recorded phone conversation with Bakley
November 15, 2005
On his seventh and last day of testimony, Robert Blake's nine man / three women jury saw the bitter old has-been at his worst. Having backed himself into a guilty corner, Blake began to make open promises of revenge. He threatened all those who had dared to testify against him. "I will enter their lives and teach them some manners," the defendant snarled.
Blake would later tell reporters that it wasn't really a threat. During a recess he said, "But if someone disrespects my family, I'm going to deal with it."
Jurors also heard Blake repeatedly threaten Eric Dubin. "Don't get cute with me, chief, or we're going to start talking about your personal life," Blake vowed. "I know a lot about you, and what I don't know I can lie about."
"Is that a threat?" Dubin asked, and Blake blasted back:
"It's not a threat, it's a promise!"
The jurors themselves witnessed the insane, murderous rage of the bully that lurks beneath the actor's gruff but harmless public mask. They heard him. They saw him with their own eyes -- not "Baretta" or "Robert Blake" -- but Michael Gubitosi, the pathetic killer clown who repeatedly promised to murder Bonny Lee Bakley and finally did.
"And he who remembers this when he sees any one whose
vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to laugh;
He will first ask whether that soul of man has come out of the
brighter light, and is unable to see because unaccustomed
to the dark, or having turned from darkness to the day
is dazzled by excess of light.
-- from Plato's Republic
October 8, 2005
The fight was fun for a few rounds, but by his fourth day of his testimony, Robert Blake had completely run out of punch lines. Having ticked through his entire repertoire of snappy come-backs and boilerplate barbs in the first couple of days, the Old Buzzard spent most of his last afternoon on the stand in a permanent slouch -- quietly mumbling responses to Eric Dubin's heavyweight interrogation.
In his final hour under oath -- under questioning from his own attorney -- the Emmy Award-winning actor explained to jurors that he was just an innocent, lonely old man who was tricked into marriage by Bonny Bakley. In hushed tones, Blake said, "I didn't have much of a life. My kids were grown and gone. I was very, very single -- a loner."
Day One he couldn't shut up, but by Day Four, Blake could barely raise his voice above a whisper to speak in his own defense. Ironically, his answers were so soft and muddled, the court reporter he'd previously commanded to read back testimony, twice had to command Blake to speak up.
Then, moving beyond irony to something approaching poetic justice, Robert Blake became one of a very few people during this entire sorry saga to illuminate some of the true personality of the much maligned dead victim. Regardless of his motives for doing so, Blake revealed to jurors that Bonny Lee Bakley was an extraordinary person. He described her as talkative, cunning, smart and charming. "Bonny liked to talk . . . She was extremely intelligent. I would guess her IQ at 150."
In spite of himself, the Old Buzzard also testified
about something that no one else -- including prosecutor Samuels -- was ever
willing or able to place on the official record. "I loved Bonny and I
always prayed that God would find a way to sneak in there and get a little
light in her life," Blake offered. "I thought that a great deal of
her life would just kind of fall off as baggage."
Even a broken old clock is occasionally right, and at that one moment -- Blake got it just right.
Bonny Lee Bakley is not the sum of her shortcomings and her baggage, she is the total of her glorious potential. Bonny was a brilliant woman with an indomitable spirit who fought against the darkness to bring inspiration and laughter, love and life to this world.
Whether or not she herself deserved to have just "a little light" in a long, desperate life of sexual violence and emotional abuse, is subject for prayer. Legally speaking, Bonny Bakley was a human being. She deserved to live her life.
"I will get on the phone and talk to Rosie and Larry King
will have a hook-up so that everybody in America can hear
me talk to Rosie . . . Don't let it look like a performance."
-- Robert Blake to his publicist
Pimp My Trial
October 3, 2005
No, that isn't the ghost of Rooster the Pimp sneaking up behind Robert Blake -- it's O.J. Simpson celebrating the haunting 10th anniversary of getting away with murdering his wife Nicole.
Many of the articles about Blake's second day on the stand mention that it happened on the eerie October 3, 1995 anniversary of Simpson's acquittal.
Before Robert Blake's criminal trial, he brainstormed with his publicist about other 1970s TV stars who could be cast as friends spontaneously speaking out in his defense. In a taped phone call from jail, Blake instructs: "You call another one and say, 'Would you come to the courthouse with us one time and afterward go out and talk to the public?'"
A galaxy of faded stars made the wish list of witnesses in the court of public opinion, including Suzanne Pleshette ("Bob Newhart Show"), Lindsay Wagner ("Bionic Woman"), and Gavin MacLeod ("The Love Boat").
It's dreadfully obvious why Blake never mentioned O.J. Simpson ("Juice on the Loose," "Naked Gun," "Roots," "A Killing Affair," "No Place to Hide"). There's seemingly no end to similarities between the two homicidal has-beens:
Both initially had successful careers, but refusing
to leave the limelight gracefully, descended into a world of made-for-TV
mediocrity, stubbornly re-surfacing in the dim glow of B-list projects as
a distorted cliche of their former self.
Both are control freaks who went to extreme lengths
to terrorize and torture their wives.
Both men have an entitlement problem which causes them
to place the value of their pride above the value of another human being's
Both are notorious liars, universally suspected of
criminality and universally shunned.
Both men, while acquitted of criminal murder charges, are certainly guilty of murdering the memory of their slain wife, abusing the trust of family and associates, and bringing shame and disgrace upon the very nation that once supported and celebrated them.
BLAKE UNDER OATH
"Well, if he [Dubin] can get dramatic, I can get dramatic. I get paid to do it."
"You have an elaborate imagination, sir."
"Counselor, get yourself together."
"Don't put words in my mouth, junior."
"Objection! . . . Sustained!"
"Sometimes he [Ezzell] talks when he shouldn't, and sometimes he don't when he should."
"I never said I don't know how to use one [cell phone] . . . I said I don't like to use them."
"We got married to get to know each other and see if we could make it together."
"It was the best thing for Rosie."
"Liar! . . . That's a lie!"
"I could easily have been venting and saying things. When I'm angry, I run my mouth."
"Don't get cute."
"[William Welch] was a member of robbery homicide for 19 years and he mysteriously retired one year before his pension and nobody has ever found out why. I have only one or two facts that make me believe he may be in the cops' pockets."
"There's a whole gang of stuff that I never said to you, boss, a whole gang of stuff."
"There were some strange things happening in front of my house that concerned me . . . Stunt guys, men and women, they take care of their own . . . I told Duffy what the problem was, and it was my understanding that he'd take care of it."
"Duffy said if he was going to do the job - intimidate whoever it was hanging out in front of my house - Duffy didn't want any connection with me in case there was any trouble with the police. He said, 'Nothing can revert back to you if I have to get a little tense with somebody.'"
"I gave her [Bonny Bakley] $125,000 or $135,000 over a short period of time."
"I had the intention of giving her all the money she needed, so she wouldn't have to be in her business anymore."
"There aren't many women who will simply sleep with you and get on the bus, if you know what I mean . . . With Bonny, pathetically, a part of me required that, you know, 'Help me make it through the night, and I'll see you later.' "
"I guess I figured if something was going to put me in the bone orchard it wouldn't be venereal disease. I'm not comfortable with condoms anyway. Sex doesn't go well."
"I loved Bonny, and I always prayed that God would sneak in there and get a little light in her life."
"She could get a rock to follow her down the road if she wanted to. She could charm the eyes out of a rattlesnake."
"There was a clear understanding that Rosie belonged to me and Bonny. She was ours, and we were going to raise her."
"She introduced her as her daughter and kind of teased around and said, 'Well, I guess you probably think she's a lot prettier than me. You'd probably like to see her more than me.' Holly left the room. And Bonny said, 'You know, you really could have sex with her. She's the right age.' . . . We just dropped the whole subject."
"I was an old man, and here was this woman who offered me up her own daughter [Gawron]. I just couldn't see any good coming out of it at all."
"When Rosie was two weeks old, I promised God. Rosie had changed my life, and Bonny had given me Rosie. It would be my pleasure to give her a good life."
"I just felt different about a lot of things. There was just a whole big rush of emotion. I held her and pretty soon me and Bonny were walking down the hallway. But I wasn't me and she wasn't Bonny there were just two people who had a baby. I felt blessed. I felt young. I felt that God had given me a new lease in life. Like a light comes on."
"Rosie had saved my life and changed my life and gave me a reason to live, and I had Bonny to thank for that. It would be my pleasure for Bonny to have a good life for the rest of her life."
"I started feeling affection and fondness for Bonny, and a while later I admitted to myself that I loved her. She had given me the greatest gift that anyone could have ever offered me on the planet."
"I shook Bonny with my right hand and said, 'Wake up, toots. And I saw drops of blood from her nose and maybe a little bit from her mouth."
"That blood was not there [on the car console]. I'm not blind. The light was on. That blood was not there."
"Is it true I had no blood on my clothes following the night of the killing? I think that was what was determined by the, uh, forensic, uh, yadda-yadda."
"It never occurred to me [to drive back to Vitello's]. And it probably wouldn't have been a good idea any way, because you'd have to double-park."
Japanese film maker,
remarkable 1950 movie,
ROSHOMON, examines the elusive nature
of truth by telling one story with four different plots. The central incident
involves the rape of a woman (Machiko Kyo) and the murder of a man (Masayuki
Mori), possibly by a bandit (Toshiro Mifune).
My Own Private Roshomon
Combative Blake Takes Stand
September 29, 2005
It's difficult to tell from news reports exactly how jurors reacted to the first day of testimony from accused wife-murderer, Michael James Gubitosi -- AKA Robert Blake.
Were they amused when he dodged a cascade of questions coming fast and furiously from Eric Dubin? Asked whether he originally told police he deliberately put his revolver on the floor under his table at Vitello's, not on the seat, Blake ducked for cover.
"I have a vague recollection of that mess," he testified. "I was doing the best I could. If I said 'under' instead of 'on' -- shoot me."
("No, thank you," Dubin responded.)
Was the Bakley family's jury shocked as the old TV star repeatedly ordered the court reporter to read back his statements?
One account says "jurors gasped" when during the third hour of testimony, Blake lost it and pounced on both Dubin and his own attorney, Peter Ezzell.
Speaking over Ezzell's objections, Dubin asked, "How many times would you say you changed your story on the night your wife was murdered?"
"Let me answer that, boss," Blake told Ezzell.
"I think I'm kind of a little bit in my own 'Roshomon,' but I'm going to get it done. If you ask me a question that may sound simple to the whole world about how many versions there are about this, I'd have to say there are versions -- because I'm 72 years old . . . I'm not a machine and I'm dyslexic . . . It's not like a script and an actor."
At one point Dubin asked, "Would you say Caldwell, who was your handyman, had a hobby of murder?"
"No," Blake shouted, "and whoever said that I will say they are rotten, foul liars to the core."
Were jurors finally as disgusted as Judge David Schachter must have been when forced to intervene?
DUBIN: "You having fun?"
BLAKE: "I beg your pardon, sir."
JUDGE SCHACHTER: "Stop!"
But the show must go on. In fact, Blake has just begun, so I hope the jury is relaxed and taking it all in very carefully. Baretta is expected to be on the stand until the end of next week with fascinating new versions of his murder every day.
The Wrongful Death
of Bonny Lee Bakley
"Regardless of what she did for a living, Bonny loved her kids and her kids loved her. I ask you to listen to her kids and not the lawyers."
-- Eric Dubin, opening statement
"It's because of Bonny that Rosie was born. It was her will, her conviction, not mine, her dedication that brought Rosie into this world, and for that I thank God and I thank Bonny. I stand here before God and I make this pledge that as long as he gives me breath I will do everything I can to make our daughter Rosie's life the best I can."
-- Robert Blake, May 2001
The wrongful-death suit against Robert Blake lists Bonny Bakley's four children as Glenn Paul Gawron and Holly Lee Gawron from a previous marriage, daughter Jeri Lee Lewis, and Rose Lenore Sophia, her daughter with Blake.
BLAKE SHOT IN CAR
On Thursday, September 1, 2005, just before opening statements in his civil trial were to begin, Robert Blake was shot in the front seat of his car. Slumped to the side, a camera man caught the Hollywood has-been just as he was beginning another nightmare.
"Bakley's history of pornography, prostitution and fraud as a way of life were simply staggering . . . and they would have set a horrendous example for any child."
-- Peter Ezzell
"Robert Blake will tell you he was shocked tremendously by what he saw."
-- Peter Ezzell
The Civil War Begins
August 24, 2005
Prosecutor Shellie Samuels was unable to convince jurors that Robert Blake's laughable story about momentarily leaving his wife to retrieve his gun and returning to find she'd been shot was a painfully ridiculous lie. Samuels failed to get the triers of the facts to appreciate the fact that the ever-smiling Blake had, for months, gleefully plotted to murder his hated wife, only to weep and wail like a little lost puppy once she'd been murdered.
Perhaps the prosecutor lost her case because she portrayed the defendant's wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, as someone who deserved to be killed.
Whatever the reason for juror's doubts about the infamous actor's grade-B murder plot, their "Not Guilty" verdict didn't bring an end to Blake's legal battles. He's now the subject of a wrongful death civil lawsuit brought by Bakley's family.
Eric Dubin, the lawyer for the victim's family, recently made a promise to BARETTA'S fans: "I'm going to wipe that smile off his face." He said the family felt Bonny, portrayed in court as a low-life grifter, had been murdered twice -- "once in the car and once on the stand."
The civil case will certainly be an up-hill battle, but unlike the criminal trial, the incline won't be nearly so steep. For one thing, the verdict in a civil trial is based on the "preponderance of evidence," a far lower standard than a criminal trial where a case must be proven "beyond reasonable doubt." Another difference is that the jury's verdict doesn't have to be unanimous.
Also of course, in the civil trial -- Robert Blake will not be able to hide behind his lawyer's performance. He'll be forced to take center stage himself and testify to what he knows about his wife's brutal assassination.
In what amounted to dress rehearsals for the upcoming court battle, Eric Dubin spent over eight hours questioning Blake in late May. It was all caught on camera and apparently the tapes feature more dramatic moments than an entire season of "SERPICO." During the deposition, the Old Buzzard rants, raves, twists and shouts while repeatedly denying he whacked his wife. At one point, after several demands for Mr. Dubin to "shut up," BARETTA threatens, "don't get cute with me!"
"He definitely was abusive toward me," Dubin told reporters. "But that's okay. I represent four kids whose mom was murdered. I could care less if Robert Blake wants to call me names."
Like so many lawyers before him, M. Gerald Schwartzbach has quietly dropped out of the picture. In his role is Blake's newest attorney, Peter Ezzell (eh-ZEL'). By my count, Mr. Ezzell is lawyer number 6 -- and so far, he's not had an easy time of it. Superior Court Judge David Schachter has denied requests by Ezzell for a gag order in the case and also refused to seal records.
Eric Dubin insists he's ready to do battle. "Robert Blake realizes the importance to his future acting prospects of not being proven a murderer in a court of law," Dubin said. "He also wants to avoid the stigma that O.J. Simpson got after his civil conviction."
Assuming there will be no further delays, the civil war begins August 29.
co-defendant, Earle Caldwell
"But the truth is not always
easy to find and not always easy to accept.
. . . Sometimes judgment is turned away backward, justice stands far off,
and truth is fallen in the street."
-- David Rimmer
On March 16, 2005, after nine days of deliberations, a Los Angeles County jury returned a verdict declaring Robert Blake Not Guilty of the first degree murder of Bonny Lee Bakley.
District Attorney Steve Cooley said the jurors who acquitted Blake were "incredibly stupid."
"Quite frankly, based on my review of the evidence, he is as guilty as sin. He is a miserable human being," Cooley said. M. Gerald called Cooley's comments "small-minded," and juror Chuck Safko said: "To hear him say we aren't a smart jury is sour grapes. They didn't have a good case. Their case was built around witnesses who weren't truthful."
Juror, Roberto Emmerich, didn't miss a beat. Within 24 hours of acquitting Blake, Roberto began promoting his new music CD based on Bonny Bakley's murder, at the unfortunately named website: "LiveOnWebTV.com".
on "Good Morning America" March 22,
| WALTERS: "One
of the reporters asked you, 'who do you think DID kill Bonny Lee Bakley'
and you said 'shut up.' I gotta ask you that. Do you have any idea who did
BLAKE: "What I meant by, 'shut up' is -- I mean, I would like to have everybody stop killing Bonny -- now. Everybody's making a buck on Bonny. It's like America now is -- fill your rice bowl any way you can -- they're still picking Princess Diane's bones."
WALTERS: "But do you have any idea who did it, Robert?"
BLAKE: "Somebody. . . she led that kind of life where she made a lot of enemies, and, and, and -- somebody -- somebody who's father was taken for a ride or something like that. I don't know. I don't know."
Town Without Pity
March 7, 2005
As of this writing, Bonny Lee Bakley is still dead. She's still buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery serving out the instant death penalty she was given on May 4, 2001. So it's a mystery why, during her otherwise first-rate closing argument in the Blake trial, Deputy District Attorney Shellie Samuels chose to prosecute Bonny Bakley.
Calling her a "small-time grifter" echoes a few other unfortunate, victim-bashing statements Samuels has made throughout the trial.
If the DA would like to prosecute Bonny that's her prerogative -- but it'll have to be in absentia. Considering the amount of hate-filled, patriarchal rhetoric lodged against Bonny in newspapers, television shows and internet chatrooms, Shellie Samuels could probably get a quick guilty verdict and have a mock burning of Bakley at the stake.
In the meantime, Samuels needs to get a conviction out of the seven-man, five-woman jury empanelled to try CA v Robert Blake.
Exhibiting an encyclopedic handle on the facts in
her case, prosecutor Samuels spent three hours summing up the exotic evidence
lodged against Blake in her blunt, forceful style. Readily admitting she
had no eyewitnesses or direct physical evidence linking the tough-guy actor
to the cowardly ambush of Bonny Bakley, Samuels asked jurors to focus on
the circumstantial evidence supplied mainly by Robert Blake through shocking
testimony to cronies, cohorts and hired help.
Like credits rolling at the end of a movie, DA Samuels reviewed Blake's many murderous stunts as attested to by "a cast of characters straight out of central casting," and concluded the first part of her PowerPoint presentation by arguing, "the people have proven what they promised."
And then -- bowtie in collar and hat in hand -- 5th
understudy defense attorney, M. Gerald Schwartzbach, set sail on a long-winded,
final filibuster. The M. apparently stands for Marathon Monologue.
Blake's reserved, soft-spoken, lawyer reluctantly stepped into the spotlight
-- and then stayed there for two days, emoting about everything from sloppy
police detectives to groomed witnesses.
At one point, Schwartzbach said Blake's plots to whack, snuff and pop his wife, as relayed by men named, "Whiz Kid" and "Duffy," were simply ridiculous.
"If these guys actually were telling the truth, we ought to have an insanity defense," Schwartzbach cleverly quipped. Although spoken in jest, he may have hit on something. It's too bad Schwartzbach wasn't counseling Blake two years ago when the defendant stood before Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp and pled innocent to all charges.
When he finally finished singing Robert's praises, tap dancing on Bonny's coffin, and delivering melodramatic speeches about malignant witnesses -- Schwartzbach got down on one rhetorical knee and begged. M. Gerald's bespectacled eyes filled with tears as he recounted Blake's heartache and hardship since the night his wife was shot in the brain. Adding to Robert's horror, he said, were foolish police rushing in to judge -- rushing in to destroy him.
O, the pain! O, the suffering! Oh, the evidence?
"Maybe you think 'He might have done it,' maybe 'He probably did it,' but it hasn't been proven to you beyond a reasonable doubt," the defense attorney said. "All I ask you to do, is to do justice. And I respectfully submit: If you do justice you will end this nightmare for Mr. Blake and you will give him his life back."
Schwartzbach made no mention of the man who "probably did it" giving Bonny her life back -- but he seemed desperate enough to promise the jury anything if it meant they'd come up with an excuse to nullify and return a verdict other than GUILT.
Kiss My Rebuttal
When the prosecutor rose to give her 75-minute rebuttal,
Schwartzbach turned his chair away in disgust.
DA Samuels easily countered the weak razzle-dazzle of her opponent's arguments with as many of her matter-of-fact power points as she had time for, then she pointed directly at the defendant and his absurd alibi.
Schwartzbach sat with his back to Shellie Samuels the entire time, as if to indicate that the State's prosecutor was unimportant to him. Of course, Samuels was standing at the jury box, so Blake's defense lawyer -- perhaps unwittingly -- also conveyed the message that the jurors were unimportant to him. Based on the quality of his closing argument -- that may well be the case.
If Schwartzbach's body language spoke louder than words, his client's phony posing was a nightmare scream of guilt.
Sympathy for the Buzzard
There was a joke circling around a few weeks ago:
Did you hear Robert Blake tried cosmetic surgery? He wanted to get the guilty
look off his face.
Referred to by some as the "Old Buzzard," Robert Blake sat perched at his defense table in a permanent slouch throughout the week of closings. Other than the constant pick, pick, picking at his white hair, the Emmy Award winning has-been sat motionless -- staring blankly into space.
Robert Blake was never a very good actor. He can mock it up and do the schtick, but it's all mugging and masking. It isn't real. Despite six decades in front of a camera, Blake's acting fails to convince -- mostly because as you watch him, you know he's watching himself. He thinks he's really good, which makes him both a bad actor AND a bad audience.
The wide-eyed, haunted gaze, motionless torso, and absent-minded hair stroking, is a standard in the industry. (Really bad actors add a palsied hand shake.) Blake's courtroom character is supposed to recall King Lear -- a role often played with a distant gaze and hair pulling. Shakespeare's aged King cries out:
"I am a man more sinned against than sinning."
Blake may not know it, but the bizarre character he's trying to play is also a standard in murder trials. Without a doubt, the best actor in this category was cross-dressing, millionaire dermatologist and wife-killer, Dr. Richard Sharpe. Now THERE was hair-picking!
The bizarre buzzard mannerisms are designed to elicit pity and perhaps a measure of fear, but the reality here is -- very few people feel pity for Robert Blake. Wedged between Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson, very few are paying any attention to him at all.
Blake has said he worries he'll only be remembered for playing Baretta. His worries are over -- in that respect at least. If Blake is remembered at all, it will be for the stalking, plotting, ambushing and shooting of his wife and the mother of his child.
It's most fitting that after a miserable lifetime making mediocre movies, Michael Gubitosi would finish with one, last, really big flop: the premeditated murder of Bonny Bakley.
"And if you pity the defendant, your pity is misplaced anyway."
"If you have learned anything in this trial, you have learned that family is important to him."
"Shellie is rolling with the punches. I think [Schwartzbach] doesnt know how to improvise."
-- Eric Dubin, lawyer suing Blake on behalf of Bakleys children
Robert Blake's plot to kill Bonny Lee Bakley
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