L.A. Juries Do Again What They Do Best: Let The Celebrity Off
It happened with OJ Simpson. It happened with the prostitution case against Edwin Moses. And now it's happened with Robert Blake. And all the Los Angeles Times, the hometown newspaper, can do is react with bemusement, as its reporters appropriately did this morning.
The real key in the Blake case may have been his success, after 11 months in jail, in getting bail. Once the old actor got off on his own, found a lawyer who know how to defend him and was able to create a nice persona for himself, the outcome could have been no surprise. The fact that there was considerable testimony Blake had threatened to "whack" the wife he didn't want, and even speculated that as an actor he would be able to worm his way out of the crime, committed near his favorite restaurant, didn't count at all. The jurors found brilliant excuses for not believing any of it. After all, the two stuntmen testifying against Blake had taken drugs and might be "delusional," they said.
It also was a mark of success for Blake that he was able to portray his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, as a thoroughly reprehensible woman, who seemed to have deserved getting plugged while she sat in the family car, after having inveigled the poor Blake into marriage and even refused to get an abortion.
Times reporters, in this case, the outstanding and underrated Jean Guccione, who deserves downtown billing, Andrew Blankstein and the writer of the color story, the jubilant Blake holding forth, Sam Quinones, all did a fine job.
In fact, the Times usually does a great job covering crime; we also saw it last weekend in the Atlanta and Wisconsin massacre stories. Stephanie Simon, the St. Louis-based Midwestern reporter for the Times was able to cover both the Wisconsin and Atlanta stories at virtually the same time. She is a treasure, who lives in St. Louis because her husband is a cartoonist there, but who could successfully cover World War III from a small town in Iowa.
As it has turned out, the crime stories where LAPD and Sheriff's officers shoot or beat some hapless member of a minority group, are the most serious crime stories the Times covers. They have had riotous outcomes, with occasionally half the city of Los Angeles wrecked.
The only victims in the Blake case were Blake and his wife. The wife ended up dead, and Blake says he has ended up broke, although I imagine, even at 71, he will manage to recoup. In a pinch, he could go on the speaking circuit. His is a very entertaining story.
I wonder whether there will be a Times editorial. The hapless writers of the editorial page can only be victims too, if they so much as seek to do justice to this one. After all, it is hardly a triumph for our vaunted jury system.