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Jurors Focus on Blake’s Alibi at Time of Slaying

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Times Staff Writer

Jurors considering whether Robert Blake murdered his wife focused Wednesday on his alibi, asking to hear again testimony from witnesses in the crucial minutes after the couple left a Studio City restaurant on the night of the crime.

Blake told police he left Bonny Lee Bakley in his parked car to retrieve a gun he had mistakenly left behind at Vitello’s restaurant, where they had just eaten dinner. He returned to the car, he said, to find her bleeding from a head wound.

Jurors, who began their deliberations at the Van Nuys courthouse Friday, asked to hear testimony from Vitello’s co-owner Steve Restivo and two restaurant patrons, Andrew Percival and Rebecca Markham, who also lived nearby.

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Blake, 71, is charged with killing 44-year-old Bakley on May 4, 2001, and could face life in prison if convicted. The actor is also charged with soliciting two stuntmen to kill Bakley.

Restivo, who was called both by the prosecution and defense, told jurors that he left the restaurant about 9:30 the night of the slaying, and never saw Blake.

Markham and Percival testified that as they walked from the restaurant toward their home, Blake overtook them, walking quickly from the back of Vitello’s.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Shellie L. Samuels has argued the testimony of the couple helps disprove Blake’s alibi by showing he did not have enough time to retrieve his gun, discover his dying wife and summon help, as he told police.

Bakley family attorney Eric Dubin said that Blake was worried that the couple would discover a dying Bakley, who would identify Blake as the killer. He added that Blake also could have wanted the couple to watch him “act out the discovery of Bonny’s body.”

Defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach has argued that no one knows for sure what happened during the 17-minute interval between the time a waitress ran Blake’s credit card and the 911 call asking for help.

He contends the couple corroborate Blake’s account because they saw the actor returning alone to his car from the direction of the restaurant.

Later Wednesday afternoon, Judge Darlene S. Schempp reprimanded and dismissed People magazine reporter Vicki Sheffcahan for approaching jurors during a break. The reporter offered four jurors her business card. California law prohibits contact with jurors before a verdict out of concern it could influence deliberations.

“You could have done serious damage,” Schempp said, noting she had considered citing the reporter with jury tampering or contempt.


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