The Plaintiff Begins


The first witness called for the Plaintiff, the Bakley estate, was Steve Eguchi, one of several LAPD detectives who worked the criminal case. Egushi gave his background, stating that he had just been promoted to detective six months before the Bakley shooting. After the witness told or arriving at the crime scene shortly after midnight, Dubin showed him a photograph of the murder weapon, the ancient Walther. But again, he was over-eager, forgetting to ask to have the photo admitted into evidence before asking about it. Once again, he was reprimanded by the judge.

Sondra Kerr

Another witness called to the stand by Eric Dubin was Sondra Kerr Blake, the former wife of Robert Blake and mother of his two adult children, Noah and Delinah. She testified that she had encountered Blake on Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles in 2000, just after Blake's "marriage" to Bakley. Kerr said she congratulated Blake on his new marriage and the birth of his new daughter. Blake, she said, and he replied that he would call her with the real story.

Dubin also tried to get Kerr to tell a story about her belief that Blake once plotted to have her killed in the 1970s at the very same Benedict Canyon home where Sharon Tate was slaughtered by followers or Charles Manson. But it didn't work. The judge, apprently finding her claim bizarre and irrelevant as well, refused to allow it. (1)

Earle Caldwell

Further testimony went little better. On the 12th of September, Dubin questioned Blake's former bodyguard, Earle Caldwell (in photo at left(, and asked if the first time he got to know Bonny Bakley was when Blake got custody. Judge Schacter, looking puzzled, turned to Caldwell and asked him, "Do you understand the question?" After several other bungled questions from Dubin, the judge began asking him to try again or else gave him help framing the questions so they made sense.

Caldwell had his own attorney during the trial - Gary Austin (photo, lower right), who is part of the same law firm as Carl Douglas of O.J. Simpson "dream team" fame.

The real points of the day were made during cross-examination. Caldwell told the court that he had never owned the defective Walther handgun that was used to shoot Bakley, and said that if he had, he would have known how to fix it. Finally he was asked, "Did you kill Bonny Lee Bakley?" Caldwell answered, "No, Sir!" Then it was: "Did you have a part in killing Bonny Lee Bakely?" Again Caldwell responded, "No, Sir!"

Attorney Gary Austin

Later that day, Dubin used a visual presentation that included the word "kidnapping." There was an objection, and Dubin admitted he had no idea whether or not the word was part of a complaint Bakley filed after she had brought the infant Rosie to California. He offered to spend his lunch break looking it up, but ended up removing the word "kidnapping" from his display.

Many of the old crew from the criminal trial made appearances in the civil case. For instance, Mary Beth Rennie, the companion of the doctor who hid in the bushes rather than help the bleeding Bonny Bakley, insisted that Blake acted strangely when she saw him after the shooting. But she admitted that while she couldn't be sure his tears were real, he vomited twice, she related, and the vomit was definitely real.

Criminalist Steven Dowell testified, as he did in during the preliminary hearing and later in criminal court, that the tiny amounts of gunshot residue present on the actor's hands could have come from handling his own firearm or even from a collection of toy guns Blake had on display at his home.

Also putting in appearances were the two Hollywood stunt men who claimed Blake had asked them to kill Bakley. Gary McLarty, who had a mental breakdown and was admittted to a psychiatric hospital a few months before testifying in criminal court, was visibly upset by questions that referred to his lengthy history of "heavy" drug use. But he also admitted, when asked if in fact he had never once been asked by Blake to harm Bakley, he conceded, "That's correct." After his day in court was over, a reporter observed him in an argument with Eric Dubin, who had called him as a witness for the plaintiff. McLarty reportedly told Dubin, "I should have never fucking come in the first place."

Holly Gawron

Finally, it was Holly Gawron's turn. Gawron (pictured at left) is Bakley's oldest daughter, born in 1981. Other than Holly and Rosie, Bakley has two other children, Glen Gawron, two years older than Holly, and a girl born in 1993 whom Bakley named Jeri Lee Lewis, pretending the aging singer had fathered her. Gawron insisted that - despite Bakley's open pornography dealing, her near-constant absence from home, and her willingness to marry any vulnerable older man with seizable assets - that her mother was a "prim" person who behaved herself properly.

But the line that caught the attention of reporters was this one: "It's hard to explain my mother," Gawron said. "She was a strange person."

For the most part, the civil trial was a scaled-down version of the criminal trial that ended in an acquittal for Blake in March of 2005. But this time around there were fewer witnesses. And none of the cast of characters seemed to have improved over time. In fact, under Dubin's fumbling, awkward questioning, few of them said anything even removely benefitial to the Bakley estate.











NOTES

(1) Bo Rosser, Court TV Online, Blake's ex-wife details rocky marriage, a chance encounter, 2 September 2005.