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Jailhouse television interview with Robert Blake denied

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    NMU         CALIFORNIA         Newsgathering         Nov 4, 2002    

Jailhouse television interview with Robert Blake denied

  • A Los Angeles County sheriff refused to allow a jailhouse television interview between ABC’s Diane Sawyer and Robert Blake, the former Baretta actor accused of murder.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca denied ABC’s request to conduct a Nov. 1 jailhouse interview with 69-year-old Robert Blake, the Baretta actor accused of murdering his wife Bonnie Lee Bakely. Blake had agreed to do an on-camera interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer in the Los Angeles Men’s Central Jail where he is being held without bail.

Deputy Darren Harris, a spokesman for Baca, said the sheriff did not grant the interview because he did not receive a letter of consent from Blake’s criminal defense attorney, which is required before televised interviews are allowed.

According to Harris, Baca received a letter of consent from Blake’s long-time civil attorney, Barry Felsen, but not from Blake’s criminal defense attorney, Harland Braun.

“We needed consent from Blake’s criminal defense lawyer,” Harris said. “Consent from anyone else won’t do it.”

Braun announced his resignation as Blake’s defense attorney on Oct. 28, citing his objection to the ABC interview.

An on-camera interview would be “inherently misleading,” Braun said. “What could take a day-and-a-half in court to cover, television will cover in five minutes. And most of the time, they’ll take the most spectacular few facts and blow it out of proportion.”

According to Braun, his decision to resign had to do with “legal sanity and the definition of television.”

“No sane criminal lawyer would allow a client charged with murder to do this,” he said.

Hours after Braun announced his resignation, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced its refusal to allow the on-camera interview to take place.

“In this case, we never had consent from the criminal defense lawyer, but even if we did, there would be a whole of host of other reasons not to allow the interview,” Harris said.

Disruption to the jail environment, security issues, fairness to other inmates and media issues all would have been factored into the sheriff’s decision, according to Harris.

“Other media would want an interview with Blake,” Harris said. “If we allow one, we’d have to allow them all, and we just don’t have the personnel to handle that kind of security.”

ABC had no comment on the sheriff’s decision.

Blake has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder. He is accused of killing Bakely May 4, 2001 in a shooting outside a restaurant where they had dined. Blake’s preliminary hearing is set for Dec. 11.

(California v. Blake) LF

© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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