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Robert Blake's lawyer withdraws from case

By PAT NASON

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- Harland Braun, the lawyer representing Robert Blake in the murder case against the Emmy-winning actor, said Monday that he is withdrawing from the case because Blake agreed to an on-camera interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer.

Braun told United Press International his decision had nothing to do with the merits of the case.

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"No, not at all," said Braun. "I don't think a criminal lawyer can condone a situation where a client goes on TV and discusses any part of a case.

"I don't think there's a criminal lawyer anywhere in the country that would allow this."

Blake has pleaded not guilty to murdering his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, in 2001 -- as she sat in their car outside a Los Angeles restaurant where they had just eaten.

He has been held without bail since his arrest last April.

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Braun revealed his decision in a letter Monday to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash.

"As you surely know from your experience in the criminal justice system," said Braun, "the idea that a defendant in a murder case would go on national television to discuss any aspect of his relationship with the deceased or any of the facts surrounding the murder is beyond the comprehension of a criminal lawyer."

Braun said Sawyer and a film crew plan to conduct an interview with Blake inside the Los Angeles County Jail.

"In my professional opinion," said Braun, "a criminal defendant should talk to the police at the time of the incident if he chooses, as Robert Blake did for four hours, and should reserve any discussion of the facts surrounding the case until he testifies under oath before a jury."

Braun told UPI that he advised Blake last week not to do the ABC interview. However, Braun acknowledged that he had permitted Blake to give jailhouse interviews to print reporters.

"I agreed to let him talk to some press," said Braun. "It's hard to be set up just talking informally with a newspaper reporter. It's harder if you're not on camera for them to pick your words apart. He wanted to go farther."

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Braun told the judge that the transition to new representation should not be very difficult.

"The investigation by my investigators is of course available to new counsel," Braun wrote, "and the massive discovery given to us by the prosecution has been thoroughly indexed and digested."

Braun said that Doyle Stepp, who has been investigating the case for the defense, has agreed to work for Blake's new lawyer "as long as that new counsel wishes him to participate."

Braun's announcement comes five days after reports that a man removing gym equipment from a barn at Blake's home earlier this month found two .38-caliber revolvers, live ammunition and other items in a wooden box stashed behind a stereo cabinet.

Citing a police search warrant affidavit, the Los Angeles Times reported that police believe clothing in the box contains "evidence relating to the murder."

According to the affidavit, the workman opened the box and saw a "blue steel gun in a holster," as well as a knit hat and "a garment that he thought might be a pair of gloves."

In the affidavit, Los Angeles Police Detective Ron Ito said the holstered gun found in the barn might be the same gun that detectives said Blake allegedly showed to two Hollywood stuntmen he is accused of soliciting to kill Bakley.

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"Recovery of that firearm will give us information regarding the kinds of ammunition that Defendant Blake used and the sources of Defendant Blake's firearms," said Ito. "I believe it is likely that the clothing in the box contains gunshot residue or other trace evidence relating to the murder."

The Times reported that, in addition to the two .38-caliber revolvers, investigators recovered 11 bullets, a holster, leggings, steel wool, an oil can, Teflon lubricant, a videotape, checks, a 22-inch metal bar with a black handle, and the will of Blake's daughter, Delinah.

Investigators have determined that Bakley was killed with an unregistered Walther P-38 -- a World War II-vintage German pistol that was found in a trash bin about 10 feet away from Blake's car. The weapon had no fingerprints and was covered with fresh motor oil, according to affidavits filed in connection with the case.

One bullet left in the gun matched two casings found in and near the car, said the Times.

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