Thursday, March 17, 2005
Charged with murdering his wife, the jury acquitted Blake due to lack of evidence. He was also charged with two counts of soliciting to have his wife Bonnie Lee Bakley killed. The jury acquitted him on one count, and the judge dismissed the second after the jury became deadlocked in an 11-1 vote.
He was greeted by a crowd of cheering supporters outside the courthouse. The star of the television series Baretta crushed out one of his trademark cigarettes and spoke to the gathering, thanking his lawyers and private investigators who he described as, “This small band of dedicated warriors that saved my life.”
In a speech that lasted 30 minutes, he talked of having to spend $10 million for his defense and said that he was now a poor man who needed a job. The 71 year-old actor also said he was ready to “cowboy it…Get in a motor home or van, feel the wind in my hair and find a little bar in Arizona or someplace.”
The prosecution, which did not seek the death penalty, painted Blake as caught in a loveless marriage with Bakley. Tricked into marrying her by his love of their daughter Rosie, now 4, they claimed that he had felt trapped by a woman who had a history of being a low-life grifter. They alleged that Blake, frustrated after trying to find someone to kill his wife for him, killed her himself. They also claimed that he was the trigger man who, after dining with his wife in their favorite restaurant, put two bullets in her head as the two of them sat in their car outside.
The jury foreman in the trial, Thomas Nicholson, described the prosecution case against Blake as “flimsy.” He said “they could never connect all the links in the chain. We couldn’t put the gun in his hand.” Blake’s defense team was also able to successfully discredit witnesses who testified on the solicitation charges.