Robert Blake Jurors Tour Shooting Scene
Little known fact: I’m friends with the owner of Vitello’s, Steve Ristivo. When I lived in LA I used to go to Vitello’s quite a lot (why does this stuff follow me around like a bad smell?).
By LINDA DEUTSCH
The Associated Press
Friday, January 14, 2005; 5:53 AM
LOS ANGELES – Bundled in hats and coats against the chilly night air, jurors in Robert Blake’s murder trial took a field trip to the murder scene, inspecting the street where shots rang out and even stopping at the restaurant where Blake’s wife had her last meal.
Twelve jurors and six alternates arrived by bus in the San Fernando Valley neighborhood on Thursday night so they could see for themselves what the neighborhood looks like at about the same time Bonny Lee Bakley was shot to death on May 4, 2001.
Earlier, they visited Vitello’s, the popular neighborhood Italian restaurant where Blake and his wife had dined just before she was shot. They even saw the secluded booth where Blake and his wife sat.
As jurors were led through the restaurant, Blake sat grimly watching under a wall of photographs of Vitello’s famous customers. By coincidence he was positioned directly next to a photograph of former Police Chief Bernard Parks, who first announced Blake was being charged with murder.
By evening, jurors spent more than an hour marching up and down local streets, peering into a car resembling the one Blake parked near the restaurant that night and examining the same trash bin where the gun used to kill Bakley was found.
Blake was present with his lawyers, but stood off to the side in a darkened area and watched somberly as the procession began and ended. TV cameras were held back and neighborhood streets were blocked off to accommodate the tour.
Several jurors asked Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp if they could walk a second time over the paths witnesses had testified about earlier in Blake’s murder trial and to include areas that were not on the original tour itinerary, including an alley behind Vitello’s.
They were also taken to see the exterior of a house where Blake banged on the front door seeking help and to a large tree a couple have testified they hid behind as they watched the drama unfold.
Before heading to the scene, the judge told the panelists not to speak to anyone other than the bailiff and not to touch anything. She said neither side vouched for the exactness of lighting conditions during the recreation of the scene.
Blake has said he and his wife left Vitello’s after dinner and returned to the car, where he left her while he went back to the restaurant to retrieve a gun he carried for protection and had forgotten.
When he returned to the car, Blake told police, his wife was in the passenger seat with the window down and was bleeding from two gunshot wounds.
Blake, 71, is on trial on charges of murder, soliciting others to commit a murder and lying in wait.