Page last updated at 15:42 GMT, Sunday, 27 April 2008 16:42 UK

Actor Blake loses US court appeal

Robert Blake
Mr Blake has declared bankruptcy

A Los Angeles court has upheld a verdict finding actor Robert Blake liable for his wife's death - but halved his $30m (15m) damages.

The court rejected his claim that the jury had conducted itself wrongly by discussing the Michael Jackson and OJ Simpson cases while deliberating.

He was acquitted of murder following the death of Bonny Lee Bakley, who was shot outside a restaurant in 2001.

But he was found liable for her death in a civil case brought by her family.

Mr Blake, 74, maintained his innocence in both cases.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal defended the jurors' method of reaching a verdict.

"References to OJ Simpson and Michael Jackson as celebrities who purportedly had gotten away with murder or molestation, supporting the need to 'send a message'... reflected the jurors' mental processes in that regard," the panel said.

Bonny Lee Bakley
May 2001: Bonny Lee Bakley (above) shot in Robert Blake's car outside a Los Angeles restaurant
April 2002: Mr Blake arrested. He denies murder
December 2004: Murder trial begins
March 2005: Mr Blake cleared of murder
November 2005: Civil case finds Mr Blake liable for Ms Bakley's death
April 2008: Mr Blake's appeal rejected, but damages are halved to $15m (7.5m)

Ms Bakley, 44, was alone in Mr Blake's car when she was shot.

The actor, who appeared in TV drama Baretta, told police he had left her alone to return to the restaurant where they had just dined to retrieve a gun he had left behind, and found her murdered on his return.

His lawyer, M Gerald Schwarzback, said he would consider an appeal to the California Supreme Court.

He told the Associated Press news agency that the ruling showed how celebrities could be treated more harshly than others.

"There are a lot of folks who can't accept that he was acquitted of murder," he said.

"They think he got away with murder and they want to exact a price in civil court."

Bakley family lawyer Eric Dubin said he expected the award to come to $24m with interest, and that he thought he could collect the money, even though Mr Blake has declared bankruptcy.

"I see every reason to accept it and be happy about it," he said. "We are going to start collecting."

But Mr Schwartzbach replied: "I don't believe Mr Dubin, in good faith, can believe what he's saying. If Robert had money he would be paying me."

The ruling was filed as an unpublished opinion, meaning it cannot be cited as a legal precedent.

Judge rejects Blake verdict bid
11 Apr 06 |  Entertainment
Actor Blake files for bankruptcy
06 Feb 06 |  Entertainment
Blake liable for wife's killing
18 Nov 05 |  Americas
Actor Blake not guilty of murder
17 Mar 05 |  Entertainment

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