A civil court jury today found actor Robert Blake responsible for the death of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley — to the tune of $30 million.
Blake was acquitted last March in a criminal murder trial, where the 72 year-old star of "In Cold Blood" and television’s "Baretta" stood accused of shooting his wife twice in the head in May 2001. The incident itself was something out of the movies: after dining out with Bakley one night in Studio City, CA, Blake left her sitting in his car while he went back to the restaurant to retrieve a gun he’d left behind. Upon returning to his car, Blake discovered his wife bleeding to death from gunshot wounds to the head. The subsequent media flurry unveiled the Blake marriage to be less than blissful; after a one-night stand in 1999, Blake had married Bakley only after a DNA test confirmed him as the father of their daughter, now 5 years old. Bakley, then a 44 year-old aspiring actress, was widely painted a con artist with a history of bedding older Hollywood stars (Jerry Lee Lewis, Christian Brando) and by many accounts garnered the resentment of her husband for scamming him into marriage.
Prosecutors claimed this motive for murder in Blake’s criminal trial, but a lack of witnesses to the crime and DNA evidence compelled the jury to acquit. Not so the second time around, as civil jurors took eight days to decide that Blake had intentionally caused Bakley’s death by a 10-2 majority; co-defendant Earle Caldwell, Blake’s former bodyguard, was cleared of charges he conspired with Blake in the crime.