Seals, Sharon, Vitello's & Eric Dubin
Impeachment testimony dominated the second day of the defense case as two witnesses from Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton's inner circle were called to testify to drug activities on Hambleton's Lucerne Valley compound.
Donna Lorraine Sharon, who for a period of about ten years either lived on Hambleton's property or frequented it on a regular basis, testified that the elderly stunt man used methamphetamine every day and that he frequently hallucinated. He kept meth in a dining room china hutch, in kitchen cabinets, on a medicine shelf, and even in a bowl on the dining-room table beside some jelly beans, Sharon recalled.
She also testified that Hambleton behaved strangely when under the influence of the substance. "He would become very talkative. He'd get paranoid. He had a habit of picking sores on his face. He always thought people were watching, following him," Sharon said. She recalled how he stay up for days on end while using meth, talking about "tree people" that he imagined were trying to get him. "He thought there were people out in the desert dressed like sagebrush or Joshua trees," Sharon told the court.
Sharon also spoke about an incident when Hambleton was convinced that a large, horned animal was outside the house waiting for him. "One night they went out and dug a hole," she continued, "but they never found it."
And the arrival of dawn wouldn't dispel Hambleton’s nighttime delusions, either, said the witness. "He’d just stare out a window, looking through binoculars for hours."
Another long-time Hambleton associate, Keith Seals, also enjoyed living rent-free at Hambleton's place, and partied with the same meth-using crowd. Seals, a former drug dealer who has served time for possession, sale and manufacture of drugs, was most recently released from prison in October 2004. On the witness stand, he described how meth was made in an empty pool house at Hambleton's desert residence. Using projected photos of the property, Seals showed jurors where the drug was manufactured and described the process used to cook the substance in a coffee pot. He testified that he shared the drug and profits from drug sales with Hambleton.
"We'd give each other drugs, get each other high," Seals said of Hambleton. "It was the basis of our relationship." And he explained how he would stay at Hambleton's when not serving jail time for "when I was running from the police." He said that he last saw Hambleton before his started serving his recent prison term. That was prior to the alleged solicitation from Blake.
...And Back to Studio City
The defense also recalled to the stand two witnesses who had testified during the prosecution's case - Steve Restivo, co-owner with his brother of Vitello's Italian Restaurant, and Robin Robichaux, the waitress at Vitello's who served Blake and Bakley on the night of the murder.
Both identified from photos a crime writer, Miles Corwin, who had accompanied LAPD homicide detectives during their investigation of the case, and said that he had been present during several interviews with them about the case. Both also confirmed that Corwin was never identified as a writer, and that they had assumed he was an investigator with the LAPD.
Miles Corwin testified as a prosecution witness on the 18th and 19th of January. Prior to the trial, presiding Judge Darlene Schempp ruled that Blake's Constitutional rights had been violated by Corwin's presence during a search of the actors home. But she refused to exclude evidence seized in that search because there was no proof that Corwin had handled evidence or impeded the investigation.
In his testimony, the writer told the court that he had destroyed the notes he took on the case.
On the following day, the 17th of February, the defense called several people who had seen Blake and Bakley just before the shooting.
Chris Taylor, a Vitello's patron retired from a career in show business, stated that he saw nothing unusual about Blake that night. He said he saw the defendant for several seconds, and that they greeted each other. It was "just enough time to say 'Hi,'" Taylor said. Another regular customer, Tim Walker, told the court that he was in the restaurant with two friends and that he ordered his favorite "Robert Blake pasta." Just before leaving, the owner pointed out to Walker that Blake was seated at a booth just to the side of the main dining area. "As I turned to look back, [Blake] looked up at me," Walker recalled. "I gave him a head nod and a wave. I'm a fan. It was nice to see him there." The witnesses added that Blake returned the greeting and seemed to be relaxed and happy.
A waiter who has worked at Vitello's for ten years testified that Blake always parked a distance from the parking lot. "He never parked in the parking lot," said Christopher O'Brien, who related to jurors that he had waited on Blake "maybe a hundred times." When asked to identify the defendant seated in the courtroom, O'Brien waved at the actor and said, "How ya doin'?"
O'Brien also stated that he had seen Blake's name in the reservation book on other occasions. His testimony countered the prosecution's assertion that Blake was acting suspiciously when parked a distance from the restaurant and made reservations on murder night. They claimed that the reservation was intended to serve as an alibi.
Next on the witness list was Los Angeles Fire Department Fire Captain Kevin Bailey, who arrived with paramedics at the crime scene just minutes after the shooting. The fire captain described Blake's conduct that evening as normal under the circumstances. "He had his head in his hands, and I believe I recall some moaning," said Bailey. "At one point it looked like he may have gotten physically sick."
Under cross by Assistant District Attorney Shellie Samuels, Bailey was asked if his opinion of Blake would be the same had he known that "the person sobbing on the curb" despised the victim. "There's a wide variety of reactions in trauma situations," Bailey answered, "so I would say, yes, it could be."
The last witness of the day was Eric Jeffrey Dubin (in photo at right), a lawyer who represents the Bakley children in a wrongful death civil suit against Blake and who would expect to gain financially from an award of damages if there were to be a conviction.
Dubin clashed repeatedly with Blake's attorney, M. Gerald Schwartzbach, during his brief testimony. Asked Schwartzbach, "Are you the attorney representing Bonny Bakley’s family?" "I’m a wrongful death civil attorney," Dubin began, launching into a statement about the case. But Schwartzbach quickly interrupted, advising Dubin that he was to to answer "yes or no" to "yes or no questions."
Schwartzbach tried another question, but again could not get a simple yes or no. This time, the judge reached over to the witness stand, rapped on it with her knuckles, and scolded Dubin about giving inappropriate responses to questions requiring nothing more than a yes or no response.
Once again, Schwartzbach tried to elicit a yes/no answer from Dubin. "Is there a [civil] lawsuit pending at this time?" Dubin at last responded with a simple "no." A surprised Schwartzbach put the question to Dubin again, and in response, Dubin said, "The case is on stay, so it is not pending." Schwartzbach then queried Dubin as to whether he knew the legal meaning of the word "pending" -- something that brought laughter from some in the audience.
Still trying to get Dubin to testify about the existence of the lawsuit, Schwartzbach asked, "Was a complaint filed?" "Yes," said Dubin. "Was it in 2002?" Schwartzbach continued. "I don't know," came Dubin's response.
Schwartzbach then asked Dubin if he had sought authorization from the adoptive parents of Rosie to represent her in any lawsuit. His answer was at first cut off by an objection. But it as the questioning continued, Dubin revealed that he was not even aware that Blake's baby daughter, Rose, had been legally adopted by the Baretta star's older daughter, Delinah, and that he had not been in contact with Delinah.
Prosecutor Samuels took a long look at Dubin when Schwartzback's direct was finished. She then (wisely) announced that she did not wish to cross-examine.