Tuesday, January 11, 2005 Print This | Email This     

Jurors see gritty crime scene photos in actor Robert Blake's murder trial

By Lisa Sweetingham, Court TV

VAN NUYS, Calif. (Court TV) — Jurors saw graphic photos of dried vomit and the bloody car seat where Bonny Lee Bakley was shot to death during a meticulous cross-examination Tuesday of a forensics expert in actor Robert Blake's murder trial.

As criminalist Michael Mastrocovo of the LAPD's Scientific Investigation Division described how he collected evidence after the 44-year-old's murder, the defense projected a close-up shot of the driver's-side door of Blake's black Dodge Stealth on a screen.

A dried, mucus-like substance splashed from the driver's-side window across the door panel and onto the door handle. It spread across the door in such a way that it appeared as if someone had vomited out the window while the car was in motion.

Prosecutors contend that the actor was so nervous about carrying out his plan to kill his wife that he threw up before and after her death.

The defense suggested during opening statements that the 71-year-old former TV star had trouble with indigestion and was known to vomit after eating.

Mastrocovo said DNA tests revealed that the substance did not come from Bakley, but that he did not try to determine if the vomit belonged to Blake.

A witness is expected to testify Tuesday afternoon that he saw vomit containing bits of spinach in the men's bathroom of Vitello's, the Italian restaurant where Blake enjoyed a meal of pasta with spinach and tomatoes before the shooting.

Jurors were also shown Tuesday police photos of two shell casings that came from the gun used to kill Bakley. One casing, Mastrocovo testified, was found in the gutter near Bakley's open passenger-side window. The other was discovered in a bloody fold between the seat cushion and the seat back.

Blake is accused of shooting Bakley — once in the right cheek and once in the shoulder — around 9:30 p.m. on May 4, 2001, as she sat in his car, parked near Vitello's. He denies any involvement in the murder, and claims he had returned to the restaurant when she was killed.

Painstaking testimony

Jurors appeared restless during much of Tuesday morning's cross-examination, which involved a rehashing of thorough descriptions of each piece of evidence recovered at the scene.

Juror No. 7, a 45-year-old female in the second row, discreetly stretched; No. 8, the 50-year-old male juror next to her, peered up at the clock.

Blake, who wore his daily uniform of a black suit and light-blue dress shirt, sat quietly at the defense table, running his right hand through his thick white hair — a continual habit.

Defense attorney Gerald Schwartzbach's questioning of Mastrocovo revolved around the same point he has attempted to make with previous police witnesses: that evidence handling was sloppy.

For instance, Schwartzbach asked Mastrocovo if he used any "pliers-like tools" to pick up the murder weapon, a 9 mm Walther P-38, when it was found in a Dumpster near the crime scene in order to preserve latent prints.

"Did I have any tools?" asked Mastrocovo, who appeared to be getting testy and tired after a second day on the stand.

"Anything?" Schwartzbach reiterated.

Mastrocovo said he did have "tools," but he did not use them, because they were not needed and the first priority was disabling the loaded weapon.

Photos of Mastrocovo's hand holding the German WWII relic indicate that he was wearing thick gloves. A live round of ammunition was still inside the pistol's chamber. The gun was ultimately untraceable and no prints could be recovered from it.

Redirect of Mastrocovo will begin after lunch on Tuesday.

Robert Blake is charged with one count of murdering Bakley with the special circumstance of lying in wait and two counts of soliciting two former stuntmen to commit murder.

He faces life in prison if convicted.

Full coverage of Robert Blake case