Robert Blake's lawyer suggested yesterday (03FEB05) a leading witness in the actor's murder trial, was using illegal drugs during his police interview.

The BARETTA star's attorney M GERALD SCHWARTZBACH claimed officers ignored the possibility that former stuntman, GARY McLARTY, was under the influence of narcotics when providing incriminating statements against Blake.

Blake, 71, was arrested in April 2002 for the May 2001 slaying of his second wife Bonny Lee Bakley.

At the Van Nuys, California courthouse on Thursday, Schwartzbach repeatedly questioned detective RONALD ITO about McLarty and another ex-stuntman RONALD 'DUFFY' HAMBLETON's alleged drug use.

In a preliminary hearing, McLarty alleged Blake had offered him $10,000 (GBP5,263) to kill his wife and mother of his baby Rosie. Prosecutors claim both McLarty and Hambleton refused to shoot Bakley, leaving Blake to murder her himself.

Blake claims he returned to a Studio City restaurant after dining to retrieve his gun, leaving Bakley sitting in the car outside. He alleges he found Bakley had been shot upon his return to the vehicle.

Schwartzbach noted McLarty admitted during his police interview he had recently suffered a heart attack, yet Ito failed to question what medications McLarty was taking.

Ito said he received phonecalls during the investigation alleging McLarty was a drug dealer, and there were references to him using cocaine.

Schwartzbach asked, "Did you ask Mr McLarty if he was using cocaine in 2001?" Ito replied, "I don't believe I did."

The trial continues.

04/02/2005 09:42