Judge throws out part of case against Blake

Actor's handyman tied to the killing is released

November 01, 2003|By Jean Guccione and Anna Gorman | Jean Guccione and Anna Gorman,LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES - In a setback to prosecutors, a judge threw out part of the capital murder case against Robert Blake yesterday, ruling that the evidence "carries very little weight" toward proving the actor conspired with his handyman to kill his wife.

Blake, 70, still faces a murder charge and a possible sentence of life in prison without parole for allegedly shooting Bonny Lee Bakley two years ago outside a Studio City restaurant where they had dined.

But the dismissal of a felony charge before trial is rare and could indicate problems ahead for the prosecution, according to criminal defense lawyers who have been following the case. The judge also threw out the entire case against Blake's handyman, Earle S. Caldwell.

"The momentum has shifted," attorney James Blatt said. "It shows a weakness in their case. The first major victory was getting bail. The second major victory is getting the case against Caldwell dismissed."

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp said yesterday that she could not find "strong suspicion" that Blake and Caldwell made any agreement or overt acts - necessary for a criminal conspiracy - to kill the 44-year-old Bakley, mother of Blake's youngest daughter.

"I think the evidence there is so speculative that it carries very little weight," the judge said in a ruling that let Caldwell walk out of the Van Nuys courtroom a free man.

Prosecutors may re-file the criminal charge against Blake and the case against Caldwell or appeal Schempp's ruling. Head Deputy District Attorney Patrick Dixon said he will review the ruling with his superiors, who would decide within a few days whether or not to re-file the charge.

Dixon said he didn't believe the dismissal of the case against Caldwell would affect Blake's prosecution. He is still charged with murder with two special allegations - that he ambushed his wife and personally used the murder weapon - and two counts of soliciting former stuntmen from his Baretta television show to kill Bakley. The trial is set to begin Feb. 9.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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