The Conspiracy Phase
Lisa Johnson, a former girl friend of Earle Caldwell, took the stand on Wednesday, January 26th, to state that she'd gone to Caldwell's apartment the day after the murder, at Caldwell's request, to remove certain items from his apartment before the police came to search. She said she took a computer, some paperwork, notes, and receipts, some phone numbers, and a box of sweatshirts that he'd gotten from Blake.
Johnson also said she threw away a brown bottle and an Altoids tin which had been in the refrigerator. The Altoids container was filled with clear, brownish-colored rocks that police have speculated may have been drugs Blake intended to plant on Bakley to get her arrested.
Johnson also told the court about a plot to plant drugs on murder victim Bonny Bakley, and said that certain law enforcement officers were in on the scheme. "He told me he was going to Arkansas to plant drugs on Bonny's home or person," she said during direct examination. "He said there were people there who would help him once he arrived. He led me to believe it was either her probation officer or law enforcement officers. I don't remember exactly."
She also said that Caldwell went out of state, but added that she was unable to recall exactly when the trip took place.
During cross-examination, the witness testified that Caldwell never said Blake intended to do physical harm to Bakley and that the Blake assistant seemed surprised to learn that Bakley had been murdered.
She also admitted, in response to questions by Blake attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach, that she'd felt "betrayed" when she removed the items from Caldwell's apartment and noticed an affectionate greeting card from Caldwell's wife among his possessions. That card played a role in her decision to break up with Caldwell a couple of months later, she said.
Roy "Snuffy" Harrison
Roy Harrison, a Hollywood stuntman and a person friend of defendant Robert Blake, had considerably less to say. The prosecution claims that he was the go-between who set up meetings between Robert Blake and two other stunt men, Gary McLarty and Ronald Hambleton, who were ultimately solicited by Blake to kill Bakley.
Harrison said had little memory of arranging the meetings and did not know for what reason Blake wanted to talk to either man. "I've had these surgeries and I don't remember a lot," said Harrison, 71, who walked into the courtroom with the help of a cane.
Harrison told the court he's undergone heart bypass surgery and a valve replacement in 2001, not long after being interviewed by police about the Bakley case. When prosecutor Samuels asked Harrison to refresh his memory by looking over a transcript of his interview with detectives, Harrison countered, "I fell on my head for 30 years and you want me to read?"
Jurors seemed to like the witness, who was of no help to the prosecution. After briefly looking at the transcript, Harrison said he still didn't remember anything. "I was goofier than a beach ball then because of the drugs for my heart," he said.
Blake, who has sat somberly through the proceedings thus far, grinned broadly as Harrison recalled times spent at Blake's home where the two would "talk about old times [and] funny things that would happen on the [movie] sets." The two worked together both on the Baretta series and a later Blake project, Helltown.
Harrison faced a brief cross-examination similar to those of other prosecution witnesses who had been around Blake around the time of the murder.
"Did Mr. Blake ever tell you he wanted to do physical harm to the woman he was married to?" asked Blake's lawyer.
"No, sir," Harrison replied.
"Did he ever ask you to find someone who could help him do harm to his wife?" Schwartzbach asked.
"No, sir," said Harrison.
Bonny Bakley's oldest daughter, Holly Gawron (left), testified on Thursday the 27th about the troubled relationship between her mother and the defendant. Gawron, 24, said she met Blake in 1999 when she traveled with Bakley to California. On that occasion, she said, Blake merely glanced in her direction and asked Bakley, "When the fuck is she leaving?"
Gawron provided some useful insights into the "family" business. In preparation for testimony telling the court about phone conversations between Blake and herself and her mother, she described a telephone system that Bakley had at her Little Rock home. If the phone made one long ring, that would signify that it was a client for Bakley's mail-order pornography enterprise calling. Two rings indicated a call from a friend or relative. And three short rings meant the call was from a celebrity, such as Blake or Christian Brando, who Bakley initially thought had fathered Rose.
The witness then told about answering the phone shortly after her mother had notified Blake she was pregnant. Blake was furious. And when Gawron answered the phone, Blake mistook her for Bakley and allegedly began the conversation with, "You don't know who you're messing with, you bitch." When Gawron told him he was talking to Holly, not Bonny, she testified, Blake told her "Put your fucking mother on the phone."
Gawron also spoke about her mother's eagerness to become pregnant, telling jurors about how she and Bakley worked together to figure out some kind of ovulation detector, a system to calculate when she had the best chance to become pregnant. She added that her mother could only make short trips to California, as they violated the terms of her federal probation (the implication being that she hoped to maximize the chances of becoming pregnant by either Brando or Blake on one of her visits).
Holly Gawron, who has appeared on several television programs since her mother's death, seemed confused and forgetful, prompting one observer in the courtroom to question whether she was "all there."
At one point during cross examination, Gawron was asked if she had read the "wrongful death" lawsuit that had been filed against Blake by the Bakleys. The witness looked blank and stared directly at the family's civil attorney, Eric Dubin (pictured with Bakley sister Margerry at left), who was seated behind Schwartzbach. Dubin looked back and shook his head, indicating that she should answer "no." Swhartzbach noticed that something was up and looked back and forth between the two of them, finally asking Gawron if her attorney was present.
Finally, Gawron answered the question haltingly: "Actually, I'm not sure if I have read it." After being showed a copy, she said she did not recall ever being given the document before, but did say she knew that seeing Blake convicted of murder would increase her chances of collecting a monetary award in the civil case.
The fertility monitor was another subject of a testy exchange between Gawron and the defense attorney. Bakley was simply "trying to find out her most fertile day," Gawron explained.
Schwartzbach: Your mother was trying to get pregnant?
Gawron also talked about her discovery in December of 2000 of a drug stash in her mother's car, which she and her brother, Glenn, later sold to friends. The find was in a fishing tackle box and consisted of two half-size ziploc bags containeing a chrystalized substance and small paper envelopes filled with white powder. She told the court that she tasted the drugs and snorted some of it with her brother. She recognized it has high-quality cocaine, something she freely admitted to using on prior occasions.
Holly insisted, however, that her mother was not a user and didn't know about the find until after it had been sold.
On a projection screen during this part of Gawron's testimony was a photo of the Bakley car, a blue Mercedes with vanity tages that read "1RSKTKR" ("number one risk taker").
Holly Gawron is the older of two daughters that Bakley had before Rose was born. With the younger girl, Jeri Lee, they were the subject of testimony given Monday, the 24th, by private investigator William Jordan. The investigator said he had information that both of the Bakley daughters had been used in prostitution at very young ages. This is confirmed in an FBI report written about an inquiry into an extortion racket being run by Bakley's half brother, Peter Carlyon. In that mid-1990s report is a notation that Holly, along with her mother and an aunt, traveled to California where all three provided sex to a high-paying Bakley client. Holly was 13 at the time.
No questions were asked about Gawron's endeavors as a prostitute, but she did state that she worked in the family business mailing out pornography. "I would buy stamps, write addresses on envelopes and mail them," she explained.
Aside from a contruction manager who testified about how long the dumpster had been placed at the construction site near Vitello's, the other witness of the day was Blake's former wife, the mother of his two adult children, Sondra Kerr-Blake. Described as "sickly" looking and very thin, she related a story about a chance encounter with the defendant soon after news of Blake's marriage to Bakley had been announced.
The witness, who was married to Blake for 20 years, said she saw him and John Solari on Ventura Boulevard in January of 2001, and hugged him, extending to him her congratulations for the new family. Blake grabbed her wrist and pulled her against a wall to talk to her out of Solari's presence.
She testifed that Blake told her, "The baby's real, the marriage isn't."
Kerr also mentioned that she and Blake briefly discussed a reconciliation after he was released on bond in this case.
Late in the day on the 27th, the lead investigator on the Bakley murder case was sworn in. Prosecutor Samuels tried to delay the appearance of Detective Ron Ito until next week, presumably so he could prepare himself for court. But the judge insisted he be called. Court was over for the day before Ito got past the basics of the investigation.
The court was not in session on Friday. And then on Monday, it was announced that there would be a two-day recess because of a medical problem affecting Mr. Schwartzbach. Court will convene again at 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday, February 2nd.