January 5, 2005
LOS ANGELES - Prosecutors in Robert Blake's murder trial focused on the actor's demeanor after his wife was found dying of gunshot wounds to suggest that Blake was putting on an act.
Witnesses testified Tuesday that Blake cried out for help for his wife, wailed hysterically and vomited on the sidewalk, but some insisted his actions didn't seem genuine so they didn't take him seriously.
"It seemed forced," said Mary Beth Rennie, a hospital administrator who cited Blake's demeanor as the reason she and her doctor boyfriend, who came upon the scene soon after the shooting, did nothing to assist Bonny Lee Bakley.
Rennie said she and Dr. James Michael McCoy, the first people to hear Blake yelling for help, hid by a tree and didn't intervene because "It didn't seem genuine or real."
She acknowledged, though, that she told detectives Blake was "hysterical" and "frantic."
Blake, 71, maintains that after the couple dined at Vitello's restaurant on May 4, 2001, they returned to their car and he then left Bakley to go back to the restaurant to retrieve a handgun he carried for protection and had left behind. He said he returned to find her mortally wounded. The murder weapon - a different gun - was found in a nearby trash bin. It contained no recoverable fingerprints.
The actor is charged with murder, lying in wait and soliciting two stuntmen to murder Bakley, 44. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
Defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach's cross-examination of Rennie hammered away at the absence of any action by her or McCoy.
"Did you say to Dr. McCoy that maybe they could use your help?" Schwartzbach asked.
"I never said anything," she responded.
Also Tuesday, jurors were told they'll be taking a field trip to Vitello's. The prosecutor has asked that they visit at about the same time of night that Bakley was shot.
Another witness, George Brumbly, a waiter at Vitello's who has known Blake for many years, said Tuesday that the couple's visit that night appeared normal until Blake returned yet again screaming for help.
"His eyes were open wide. He was panting, breathing heavily and he asked for a doctor," said Brumbly, who located a nurse.
"I said to Mr. Blake, 'Come on, Robert, I have a nurse,'" he recalled, adding they raced out into the street. By then, he said, emergency vehicles were approaching and Blake pointed them toward the car.
A firefighter-paramedic testified of finding a woman in very critical condition. Lawrence M. Jackson said he was focused on his patient and paid little attention to Blake.
"I remember looking over at one point. He was sitting on the curb and he had vomited," he said.
Wednesday's witness list includes the waitress who served Blake and his wife and other employees and diners who were present on the fateful night.