Baretta not guilty

US actor Robert Blake has been found not guilty of murdering his wife Bonnie Lee Bakley by a Los Angeles jury.

The jury also acquitted the 71-year-old former star of 1970s US police series Baretta on one charge of soliciting someone to kill his wife of six months.

Ms Bakley, 44, was shot dead in a car in May 2001 after the couple had dined at a restaurant in Los Angeles.

The jury deliberated for more than a week before delivering its verdict. Mr Blake had denied all the charges.

The judge effectively dismissed a second charge of solicitation against the actor after the jury failed to reach agreement.

Mr Blake bowed his head and let out several deep breaths as the verdict was read out.

He faced a possible sentence of life imprisonment if he had been found guilty of murder.

The prosecution had claimed Mr Blake was motivated to murder his wife in order to gain custody of the couple’s daughter.

But at the end of a three-month trial, the jury accepted the actor’s account of what happened.

On the night she died, Mr Blake said he found Ms Bakley mortally wounded after leaving her briefly to return to the restaurant to retrieve a handgun he carried for protection. That gun did not fire the fatal shots.

The actor maintained his innocence throughout and argued Ms Bakley – described by both sides as a career con artist – had been a victim of her own chequered past.

Both sides agree Mr Blake only married Ms Bakley in 2000 after finding out she was pregnant with their child.

The actor was not linked to the crime by any eyewitnesses, blood or DNA evidence.

His defence had said the case against him was weak and relied on the testimony of two stuntmen who were once heavy drug users.

Mr Blake is a former child star who was nominated for an Oscar for the 1967 film In Cold Blood.

His career was boosted in 1975 when he secured the lead role in TV crime series Baretta as a tough-talking detective, for which he won an Emmy.

Timeline of what happened

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