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Juror Sings the Blake Trial Blues

Times Staff Writer

Roberto Emerick, known until Wednesday simply as Juror 11, didn’t realize his selection for the Robert Blake trial would inspire him to new artistic heights.

Hours after he helped acquit Blake of the 2001 murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, the 30-year-old Mission Hills resident appeared on national television publicizing “Judgment Day,” a six-song, 18-minute album he produced over the 12-week trial.

While the air conditioning technician said the songwriting project was therapeutic, he has been stung by criticism that he is potentially profiting from a tragic crime.

Only moments after Emerick plugged his album on “Larry King Live” after the verdict Wednesday, Nancy Grace, a legal commentator for CNN and CourtTV, excoriated the former juror, saying he was “making money off the blood of Bonny Lee Bakley.”

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The next day, Emerick ran into more flak from conservative talk show host John Ziegler. Ziegler blasted him for voting not guilty and putting out the album.

Emerick said his critics have “twisted” his lyrics and motivations. He said he had also received hate mail.

Emerick said that he and his bandmates had already recorded the songs before he was even summoned for jury duty.

Later, as the trial wore on, he needed an outlet to express what he was feeling, he said. In his home studio, he removed the original lyrics and recorded new ones about Blake, Bakley and the celebrity trial.

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“It’s not a statement of guilt or innocence,” he said Friday of the work. “This was a stress management thing for me. This is how I was able to cope with the pressures of being a juror and not having anyone to tell about it.”

On the album, Emerick, who moonlights as the lead singer for a guitar-driven rock band called Mission in the Hills, sings in the first person as Blake.

In the title track he speculates about what the “Baretta” star may have been thinking as he waited for the verdict Wednesday.

Will I wait to see the daylight or

Will I be held until my dying day

My Rosie’s calling in hopes that I can stay

Forgive me Lord, it’s not too late for me

Though the last line can be interpreted to mean Blake was praying for forgiveness for killing Bakley, Emerick said he intended it to mean, “Forgive me in general for everything I’ve done; please help me out now.”

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Emerick, who said he was for acquittal from the beginning of deliberations, said he discussed the songwriting venture with Judge Darlene E. Schempp, who presided over the Blake trial. State law prohibits him from receiving any compensation above $50 for 90 days as a result of his role in the trial. He may not legally advertise a price for the compact disc.

Emerick’s solution: He’s offering free digital audio files for download on the band’s website. The album will go on sale June 14.

Emerick remains sensitive to the criticisms of his attempts at salesmanship on national media outlets.

“Show me all this money that I’m supposedly making,” he said. “I would be afraid of what Judge Schempp would do to me if I did try to sell it.”


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