General News

Blake's New Lawyer Wants Out

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Jan 15, 2003 | 12:24pm EST

One of Robert Blake's two new lawyers asked a judge Tuesday to allow her to resign from the actor's murder case.

Defense attorney Jennifer Keller told The Associated Press in a phone interview that Blake's insistence on setting up a jailhouse interview with Barbara Walters prompted her request to withdraw from the case. She follows Blake's previous defense attorney, Harland Braun, who left for an almost identical reason.

"When I came into the case it was on the assurance that no interviews would be given without my knowledge," Keller said. "But Mr. Blake insists on setting up interviews and he has an entertainment lawyer, Barry Felsen, who is facilitating these things for him."

Keller said Walters visited Blake last week and that the actor was in the process of arranging an on-camera interview. Keller and co-counsel Thomas Mesereau Jr. found out about the interview from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Keller wrote in court papers that "a complete and irremediable breakdown in the attorney-client relationship has occurred.'' She said Mesereau would continue to defend Blake against charges that he killed his wife.

Keller and Mesereau were named to replace Blake's former attorney, Harland Braun, last November when he quit after learning Blake tried to arrange a jailhouse interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer that was ultimately nixed by sheriff's officials.

Keller's request is expected to be considered at a hearing Friday afternoon in Van Nuys Superior Court.

In her application to be relieved as Blake's defense attorney, Keller wrote, "Given the current state of affairs, it is impossible for me (to) provide Mr. Blake with effective assistance...I can generally tell the court that we have reached a point where Mr. Blake refuses to accept or follow my advice in areas I consider of the utmost importance to the successful handling of this case,'' she wrote.

"This in turn has caused tremendous strain on both of us, and has caused Mr. Blake at times to relay messages to me that he does not wish to discuss certain matters with me further, for fear of a confrontation.''

Mesereau said in his own declaration that he will be ready for a Feb. 26 hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to require Blake to stand trial.

The former star of the 1970s TV series Baretta is charged with murder, solicitation of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, along with the special circumstance allegation that Bonny Lee Bakley was ambushed outside a Studio City restaurant where the two had just eaten.

Prosecutors will not to seek the death penalty if Blake is convicted of the 44-year-old woman's murder.

Blake's bodyguard Earle Caldwell, who is charged with a single count of conspiracy to commit murder, is free on $1 million bail posted by Blake.

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