Judge Now Decides if Blake Goes on Trial

Times Staff Writers

After nine days of testimony, a Los Angeles judge is expected to decide today whether actor Robert Blake will stand trial on charges that he attempted to hire two Hollywood stuntmen to kill his wife, and then pulled the trigger himself.

Superior Court Judge Lloyd M. Nash also will decide if Blake, 69, is eligible for bail. He has been in jail for 11 months.

"It's an important issue," Nash said as testimony wrapped up Thursday. "I want to deal with it directly."

Prosecutors charged Blake with ambushing his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, while she sat in his car May 4, 2001, near the Studio City restaurant where they had just dined.

The special circumstance of "lying in wait" makes it a potential death penalty case, although prosecutors have said they will not seek execution.

Because it is a capital case, Blake is ineligible for bail. But defense lawyers have argued that prosecutors filed the lying-in-wait allegation solely to keep Blake behind bars pending trial.

The judge earlier denied bail, saying he would not make a decision until he had heard all the evidence during the preliminary hearing.

On Wednesday, Nash instructed Blake's attorney, Thomas A. Mesereau Jr., to be prepared to propose the type and conditions of bail, and specify where Blake would reside, should he be released. Blake has sold his Studio City and Hidden Hills homes while incarcerated.

Blake posted $1-million bail for his co-defendant, Earle S. Caldwell, 46, in the days after their arrests April 18. Caldwell is charged with conspiring with Blake to commit murder.

Prosecutors called 20 witnesses and introduced more than 80 exhibits during the preliminary hearing.

On the final day of testimony, a deputy medical examiner told the judge that gunshot residue was found on Blake's hands, clothes and boots, but could not say whether it came from the weapon used to kill Bakley. A firearms specialist testified that the fatal bullets were fired from a vintage Walther P-38 handgun.

Also testifying was a Los Angeles police detective, who said Caldwell had "bookmarked" computer Web sites that explain how to make silencers.

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