Court cuts Robert Blake's wrongful death judgment

Sat Apr 26, 2008 2:29pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California appeals court has cut in half a $30 million wrongful death judgment awarded against actor Robert Blake to the estate of his slain wife Bonny Lee Bakley, according to an unpublished opinion filed late on Friday.

Blake, who was acquitted of Bakley's 2001 slaying in a criminal trial, had challenged the jury's award in the subsequent civil wrongful death lawsuit, claiming the trial court made procedural errors and jurors committed misconduct.

The Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles found no jury misconduct and no reversible error by the trial court, but concluded that the $30 million in noneconomic damages awarded by the jury to Bakley's estate was excessive.

If the administrator of Bakley's estate, Blanchard Tual, does not consent to the reduction of the award to $15 million, the case will go back for a new trial on damages, the appeals court said.

Bakley, 44, was shot to death on May 4, 2001, outside a Los Angeles-area restaurant where she and Blake had just dined. The couple had married in 2000 after Bakley gave birth to Blake's daughter, Rosie, and refused to grant Blake custody.

Blake, now 74, testified that he had left Bakley sitting in the car as he returned to the restaurant to retrieve a handgun he had left at their table.

Blake, a former child star best known for his television role as a detective in "Baretta" and a convicted killer in the true crime film "In Cold Blood," maintained his innocence in both trials.

(Reporting by Gina Keating; Editing by Eric Walsh)

<p>Robert Blake arrives at the Los Angeles County Superior Courthouse in Burbank, California, November 4, 2005. Blake is on trial in the wrongful death of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley; the jury is expected to receive the case later on Friday. REUTERS/Michael Tweed</p>