Writer Must Testify in Blake Case

Times Staff Writer

A judge Thursday ordered author Miles Corwin to testify about his presence at a police search of actor Robert Blake’s Studio City home after Blake’s wife was shot to death three years ago.

A lawyer for Corwin, a former Los Angeles Times reporter who spent a year with Los Angeles police researching a book, had argued that as a journalist, he was shielded from testifying. He said he would not appeal.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp ruled that Corwin must testify at a pretrial hearing next week so she can determine if he played any role in the police search. A hearing is set for Tuesday.


Departing from decisions in other recent cases involving news-gathering by journalists, Schempp ruled that Corwin had waived his shield law rights.

Schempp cited a five-page agreement that Corwin signed before beginning a year with extensive access to detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department’s robbery-homicide unit for his book.

The agreement stated that Corwin understood “that his work product may be subject to subpoena and production in either criminal and/or civil litigation” and acknowledged that, “by his involvement in homicide investigations, [he] becomes an ‘agent’ of the Police Department.”

The decision came less than two weeks before jury selection was expected to begin in Van Nuys in the trial of Blake, who starred in the hit television series “Baretta.” Blake has pleaded not guilty to murder.

Blake’s attorney, M. Gerald Schwartzbach, said police violated his client’s constitutional rights by taking the unauthorized visitor into his home as part of the police search team. He asked the judge to throw out all evidence from the search.

Corwin’s attorney, Al Wickers, argued that his client was “purely an observer.”

“He didn’t touch any evidence,” Wickers said. “He did not gather any evidence.”

During the daylong hearing, there was little agreement between the prosecution and defense, except that Corwin should take the stand.


Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Shellie Samuels called it “reprehensible” that Corwin would hide behind the state shield law that protects journalists from being called as witnesses in judicial proceedings.

“The police went out of their way to help him write a book and make lots of money,” she said. “He’s not protecting any source.... We’re not asking him where did he get his information. If he was at a crime scene, he should have to testify.”

Schwartzbach said that Corwin’s book, “Homicide Special: A Year With the LAPD’s Elite Detective Unit,” was “a one-sided distortion of the facts ... clearly intended to assist the Los Angeles Police Department at trial.”

He repeated an earlier accusation that detectives knew Corwin’s book would sell more copies if it ended with the arrest of Blake, a celebrity, in the death of his wife.

Blake, 71, faces life in prison if convicted in the fatal shooting of his 44-year-old wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, on May 4, 2001, near the Studio City restaurant where the couple had eaten dinner.