Blake’s Co-Defendant Is Silent

Times Staff Writer

Robert Blake’s co-defendant sat silently Wednesday in an Irvine law office as his attorney repeatedly advised him against answering questions about the May 2001 slaying of the actor’s wife.

Earle Caldwell did not even put on a microphone for a videotaped deposition in a civil wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Bonny Lee Bakley’s four children -- an early indication that he did not plan to respond verbally to any of the questions.

Caldwell occasionally rolled his eyes as the plaintiffs’ attorney, Eric J. Dubin, asked him about his alleged role in Bakley’s fatal shooting May 4, 2001, outside a Studio City restaurant, where she and Blake had dined. He rarely looked at the video camera.


Caldwell, who worked as Blake’s handyman and later as Bakley’s bodyguard, is charged with conspiring with Blake to kill her. He was arrested in April and released a few days later after Blake posted $1-million bail.

Besides conspiracy, Blake is charged with murder and two counts of soliciting murder. The 69-year-old actor, best known for his role in the 1970s television series “Baretta,” has been held without bail at Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles since his arrest in April.

Blake was deposed last week in the civil case. He too refused to answer Dubin’s questions, but began the videotaped deposition with a prediction that he would die in custody and a plea to his attorneys to let him publicly defend himself.

In the videotape viewed by reporters of the nearly two-hour deposition Wednesday, Caldwell uttered just four words. After consulting with his attorney, he identified himself for the videotape and later said “I do” when asked if he swore to tell the truth.

Dubin asked Caldwell about several criminal allegations made by authorities, including one that he tried to kill Bakley during a camping trip to Arizona but got physically ill and could not pull the trigger.

The attorney also inquired about a list seized from Caldwell that police allege was a “to do” list for the crime. Caldwell told authorities at the time they found the list -- which included two shovels, a crowbar, old rugs, duct tape and swimming pool acid -- that he was gathering those items to repair a pool.

Later, Dubin asked, “Mr. Caldwell, are you willing to go to jail for 40 years for a crime that Mr. Blake committed?” He did not respond.

But his criminal defense attorney, Arna H. Zlotnik, read her standard response, advising Caldwell against answering any questions and invoking his constitutional right to remain silent.

Dubin said Wednesday he again will ask Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David M. Schacter to postpone discovery in the civil case until after Blake’s criminal trial. Blake’s legal team had previously opposed such a stay.

Blake’s legal team has a couple of incentives for going forward with the civil case, Dubin said. First, they may use the civil proceedings to depose potential witnesses in the murder case.

Secondly, homeowners insurance typically pays the legal costs of defending against negligence suits, including those for wrongful death, as long as the alleged acts were unintentional, Dubin said. If Blake were convicted of murder, the insurer would not pay legal fees in any subsequent civil case or any settlement or judgment.