Actor Robert Blake is aiming for an out-of-court settlement with the family of his murdered wife to avoid a civil trial into her wrongful death.

The BARETTA star was found not guilty on 16 March (05) of murdering wife Bonny Lee Bakley in a car outside a Los Angeles restaurant they had just dined in. In the upcoming civil case Blake is accused of killing his wife alongside co-defendant EARLE CALDWELL.

Lawyers for both sides are keen to reach a mutual agreement and are due to meet in the next few days to discuss Blake's finances.

Blake's lawyer M GERALD SCHWARTZBACH has told Bakley family attorney ERIC DUBIN not to expect a huge payout as his client is in tax debt.

However, Dubin is convinced Blake is just as interested in avoiding bad publicity, as OJ Simpson was shunned when he was found innocent of killing his wife and her friend, but later lost a $33.5 million (GBP18 million) civil settlement.

Dubin says, "Robert Blake realises the importance to his future acting prospects of not being proven a murderer in a court of law. He also wants to avoid the stigma that OJ Simpson got after his civil conviction."

But defence lawyer Schwartzbach says, "It's not a matter of being afraid. Mr Blake has essentially represented what his financial status is, and it seems to me that if he can put this chapter behind him, anyone would want to do that.

"His clients' best interest of ever getting any money is best served by good faith discussions now."

Should a settlement not be reached, the civil trial is scheduled to begin on 7 July (05).

31/03/2005 17:39