Jury Deliberations

The First Week

The jury officially started deliberating the fate of Robert Blake on Friday, the 4th of March 2005, just before 2:30 p.m., California time. They were out at ten minutes before 4:00. The first order of business, of course, would be to choose a foreman. The process of getting to know each other surely began on the first trial date and continued through scores of lunch and smoke breaks afterward. But now it was different. For the first time, they would be allowed to talk to each other about the case - about Blake, Rosie, Bonny, and the LAPD.

The following Monday, jurors arrived at 9:00 a.m. and began tallying up the points for either side. As one juror would explain later, they literally covered three walls of chalk board with notes and points from the trial, interpretations, ideas, questions, and possible conclusions. Outside, an assortment of onlookers gathered, including "Mike," a man with a cockatoo like the one who played "Fred" in Blake's memorable "Baretta" series. Mike conceded that he had a soft spot for Blake and told Court TV reporter Lisa Sweetingham, "I'm here to show my support, 'cause he didn't do it."

As the rest of the week went by with no sign of a verdict, reporters caught glimpses of jurors when they regularly stepped out of the building to smoke cigarettes. The talking heads on television were left to guess - with each passing day are the chances better for Blake, as the conventional wisdom goes? Or have they considered the two solicitation charges and waited 'til the last to decide guilt or innocence on murder? Speculation included just about every imaginable possibility. And solid news sounded something like this:

[March 7th, 3:00 p.m.] The jurors are taking a break. About half are standing outside in the sun, talking and smoking cigarettes. One female juror is having an animated cellphone conversation about 100 feet away from the others. Two female jurors use the time to take a leisurely walk. They all head back in after about ten minutes. Lisa Sweetingham [Court TV]

In due time, juror profiles became available. The panel consisted of five women and seven men.

Who Are The Jurors?

Of the five woman, one was a 43-year-old African-American, Louisiana born, married with three children. She said on her questionnaire that she felt honesty was the most important qualification a juror could bring to deliberation. The second woman, a 78-year-old retired librarian, said she likes to watch television and enjoyed Robert Blake's acclaimed Baretta series in the '70s. She acknowledged during jury selection that Blake seems to care a lot about his children and that Bakley didn't have a very nice reputation. The third woman on the panel was a Hispanic who cared little for newspapers, magazines or books, but who emphasized that open-mindedness was a necessary qualification to be on a jury. The fourth woman was also Hispanic, a mother of three, and an employee of a law firm who took copious notes during the trial. The fifth and final female sitting in judgment of Blake was of Phillipine descent, 24 years of age, who declined to release her employment information to the public. It was her first time serving as a juror.

The seven male jurors included a white man in his 50s or 60s who allowed little information about his life to be divulged to the press. He did admit to reading "girlie" magazines during voir dire. Another male juror was 28 years of age and of mixed Hispanic-white ancestry. He works as a "management assistant" for the city of Los Angeles, and has a wife and two daughters. The fourth, a 50-year-old white truck driver, served on three previous juries and said that he considered Blake an "okay actor." Serving with him was a retired 66-year-old white male, unmarried, who had served twice before as a juror and was not particularly fond of Blake, but promised to keep an open mind. These were joined by a 29-year-old maintenance man for the public school system with a 12-year-old daughter and an admiration for both Paul McCartney and President Bush, as well as 53-year-old married father of two who works as a computer program analyst and a former counsellor at a home for boys. The seventh male juror, the foreman, was a 66-year-old immigrant from Gateshead, England, the owner of a rifle who stated that he considers the Pope one of the people he looks up to, with Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and Stalin being those he least admires.

But still there was no news.

By the third day of deliberations, Tuesday the 8th, some of the media began to sense that a verdict was near. Nothing happened. But the following day, the 9th, at least saw some action: Jurors requested a read-back of the testimony of Steve Restivo, owner of Vitello's, as well as that of Rebecca Markham and Andrew Percival, the couple who stood outside the front door of the restaurant to have a smoke at approximately the time that Blake says he returned to retrieve his handgun. The requested testimony was read after the lunch break. And at 4:00 p.m., deliberations end for the day.

The fifth day was another day when smoke breaks were the only news - except for the brief appearance of a male porn star in the courthouse on a matter unrelated to the Blake case. Clearly the reporters were beginning to go stir-crazy. On March the 11th, day six of deliberations, reporters noticed the fact that some of the jurors are dressed a bit better than usual - a hint that they might expect later that day to be talking to television cameras about their verdict. It was a false alarm. The jury retires for the weekend.

Week Two

Monday the 14th of March arrives. It's the jury's seventh day out, Prosecutor Shellie Samuels drops by to chat with bored reporters. She says she's keeping busy working other cases while waiting for the Blake verdict, and lets everyone know that she has never lost a murder case that went to trial. The Blake trial is her 50th. The one just before it resulted in a plea agreement and never went to trial, she adds. She seems optimistic about the outcome of the Robert Blake case. The verdict is still two days away.

On the eighth day, the media finally has something to report. Apparently, jurors also asked for some other evidence, but the press never learned about it at the time. Among those things rumored to be on the jury wish-list are the nine enormous notebooks containing letters and notes about Bakley's infamous "sex business." Since they weren't officially entered into evidence, they can't be given to jurors. And a deputy says the request wasn't an offical one anyone - presumably just a remark by a curious juror.

But on the next day, Tuesday the 15th, jurors have two specific requests - they want to hear parts of the testimony of two witnesses - Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton and Miles Corwin. Corwin is the reporter who tagged along with Detective Ron Ito (pictured at right) and his investigators during witness interviews and caused a major controversy when he was introduced as a "colleague" rather than a writer. He has since written a book about several LAPD cases, including the Bakley murder. The jurors also asked about video footage shot by television crews the night of the murder, which also was not entered into evidence.

Day nine begins with some confusion. Part of the Hambleton testimony jurors wanted read had been stricken from the record. In an attempt to find the part in question, they asked for still more, but never got what they were looking for. The problem is that the court is not allowed to tell jurors when part of a requested testimony has been stricken, so in this case they were left completely confused.

It Ends

On Marcy 16th, at 1:28 p.m., there's a sudden increase in activity at the courtroom, according to a daily news blog by Lisa Sweetingham on CourtTV.com. Sweetingham writes: "The hallway outside Judge Schempp's courtroom is electric. Reporters are here in full, all of Blake's defense team is here, Samuels is here, as are Detectives Ito, Tyndall and Eguchi. Ladies and gentlemen, the moment we've been waiting for could be upon us! No official word yet from the judge. The courtroom doors are still locked."

Then comes word that a verdict has been reached. It's 1:36 p.m. The court announces that the jurors have reached a verdict on counts one and three, but are hung on count two - the solicitation charge involving Ron "Duffy" Hambleton. The verdict will be read at 2:30. The courtroom promptly fills up, and reporters deluge on the eighth floor chamber and six deputies are called to duty to enforce a lottery seat-assignment system. It is 2:32 p.m., California time, when the jurors file into the courtroom.

Ominously, not one of them looks at Robert Blake.