Crime Scene & Investigation
Andrew Percival, Rebecca Markham
On Thursday, January 6th, the prosecution called two witnesses who dined together at Vitello's the night of the shooting. Andrew Percival and his wife, Rebecca Markham, testified that they left Vitello's at about 9:30, but that they stood in front of the restaurant and had a smoke before walking to their home, which was right around the corner from the murder scene.
Neither saw Blake re-enter the restaurant to get his gun, but they took notice when Blake walked hurriedly past them from behind, and heading in the direction of the car. He did not speak.
Neither Percival nor Markham heard the sounds of Blake calling for help after he returned to the car. In fact, the night was unusually quiet, Markham said.
Defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach made reference to the couple in his opening statements when he promised that two witnesses would testify that they saw Blake leaving the restaurant alone - something that tends to confirm Blake's version of events.
The actor has maintained that he and Bakley left the restaurant together around 9:30, but when Blake got to his car he realized he'd left at the restaurant a handgun he carried legally. He briefly left Bakley in the parked car and retrieved the gun, and upon his return discovered that Bakley had been shot. He left the restaurant a third time - this after Sean Stanek called 911 - when he went back looking for a doctor. That time, he left with a nurse, Teri Lorenzo-Castaneda.
The prosecution contends that Blake didn't return to the restaurant the second time, that he instead ambushed Bakley. Because both Percival and Markham recall Blake being alone as he passed them outside the restaurant, it appears to confirm Blake's story that he went alone to Vitello's to retrieve his gun during the time the murder was committed. Thus, though the couple was called by the prosecutor, their testimony will be critical to the defense.
Det. Mike Coffey
Detective John Michael ("Mike") Coffey headed the homicide division at the North Hollywood police station, and was present in the hours after the Bakley shooting. On the witness stand Thursday, Coffey said that he was the one who notified Blake that Bakley had died. In keeping with the prosecution's theme of indifference or hatred toward Bakley, Coffey testified that Blake seemed to be faking his shock and sorrow at hearing that Bakley didn't make it.
"He let out a boisterous cry and stayed like that, in that mode, crying for about 30 seconds," Coffey testified. But he added, "It didn't look to me to be a sincere cry." The detective explained that he didn't see any tears.
Under direct examination, Coffey said that he didn't initially consider Blake anything more than a "possible suspect." But, he continued, the actor "became more of a suspect during my conversation with him."
Was this because of Blake's reaction to the news of Bakley's death?" Shellie Samuels asked. "Yes," the detective replied.
On cross-examination, however, a different impression was created. "As of the time Mr. Blake left the North Hollywood station," defense counsel Schwartzbach asked, "[you] did not feel you had sufficient information to determine who was the perpetrator of the crime, correct?" Coffey responded, "Correct." And he further testified that, even though police asked him to undergo a gunshot residue test, he did not consider Blake to be enough of a suspect to tape record an interview with him.
The matter of recording an interview would be one that becomes more important with the introduction of additional testimony.
Sgt. Melvin Patton
The first to arrive at the crime scene on the night of May 4th, 2001, Sgt. Melvin Gary Patton was called to the stand to describe Robert Blake's behavior in the aftermath of the shooting.
Blake, Patton said, was sitting on a curb near the car when police arrived. "I noticed that (Blake) was highly emotional," the officer testified. ""He was being sick to his stomach."
But Patton also conceded that Blake had asked about Bakley's, and blamed himself for the shooting. "He stated that this was all his fault," said Patton, "that his wife had told him that she had been threatened and she had asked him to carry a gun."
Patton also removed from Blake's pocket the firearm that he carried legally. It was not the murder weapon.
Jurors had the day off on Friday, the 7th of January, as the judge heard motions concerning evidence to be brought out at trial. The defense failed in a bid to mention before the jury the fact that Judge Schempp had earlier ruled that Blake's Constitutional rights had been violated by the presence of a crime writer, Miles Corwin, during a search of his home. But Blake's side won a significant victory when the judge excluded evidence concerning "untraceable" weapons that might have been in the possession of Blake's assistant (and former co-defendant) Earle Caldwell.