Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Who Murdered Bonny Lee Bakley?

Preliminary Trial Highs and Woes

Superior Judge Darlene Schempp
Superior Judge Darlene

During a Halloween 2003 hearing, Superior Judge Darlene Schempp threw out conspiracy charges against Blake and his bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, sighting that the evidence "is so speculative that it carries little weight," Court TV reported in an October 31, 2003 article. The article quoted Caldwell as saying, "a great weight has been lifted." However, the judge decided to uphold the murder charge against Blake, even though Blake's lawyer Mesereau believed there was insufficient evidence with which to charge him. Mesereau planned to support his argument with the testimony of approximately 670 witnesses that he lined up for the upcoming trial scheduled for February 9, 2004.

Even though it was publicly announced during the first week of January that the jury selection process in the Blake case would take place in February, the public was never notified when the process actually began a month earlier. According to a January 9, 2004 Court TV article, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Superior Court suggested that the earlier than expected jury selection process was "not a deliberate attempt to deceive anyone, particularly the media" but was probably conducted without notifying the public to protect prospective jurors' identities. The article also stated that further measures were implemented to protect jurors, including identifying them by a three-digit numerical code instead of by their names.

Robert Blake
Robert Blake

During the selection process, jurors were handed a 133-question survey that gauged their attitudes about the case and the criminal justice system, John Springer reported in a January 13, 2004 Court TV article. The questionnaire was formulated to prevent biased jurors from being selected to participate during the trial. Even though the defense and prosecution were able to agree on many of the jurors, they were unable to come to an agreement concerning what would be heard during the trial.

On January 30th, the defense team filed "a mountain of motions" in opposition to the prosecution's proposal to limit what the jurors could hear about during the trial, including unsuccessful forensic tests conducted by the prosecution and Bakely's "illicit conduct," Springer said in a January 30, 2004 Court TV report. The article suggested that the defense wanted jurors to know about Bakely's "drug use, a mail-order pornography business and a conviction for felony identity theft," as well as the failure of the prosecution to forensically prove that an oily substance found on the gun alleged to remove fingerprints, was motor oil. What the defense didn't want the jury to hear and tried to prevent was that Blake had a troubled first marriage and had undergone thirty years of therapy because of abuse by his father and "hatred of his mother," Springer further reported. 

Yet, it would be a long time before jurors would hear anything. During the first week of February, the trial abruptly stopped when Mesereau decided to drop Blake as his client claiming "irreconcilable differences," UPI stated in a February 5, 2004 article. Mesereau was the third lawyer to work for Blake and leave.

According to prosecution spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons who was quoted by Linda Deutsch in a February 6, 2004 Toronto Star article, the unexpected departure of Blake's lawyer meant that the jury selection had to be "scrapped" and the entire process had to begin a new. Moreover, Gibbons said that it also meant that, "the new lawyer will have to digest reams of evidence in a short time," Deutsch reported. The trial date was moved up to September 9, 2004.

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