LATEST: Actor Robert Blake's attorney THOMAS MESEREAU quit after a series of ego clashes with the BARETTA star, according to California's top legal minds.

Brian Oxman, who represents the JACKSON family and is a close friend of Mesereau, claims the defence lawyer has walked away from his duties as Blake's legal eagle after the actor tried to force him to sack a member of his team.

Oxman says, "Robert Blake has wanted this other attorney not to be a part of the defence team and that has resulted in the friction and the problems which has led to Tom Mesereau withdrawing."

Blake's original lawyer HARLAND BRAUN, who also quit, adds, "Mr Blake probably had a difficult time sharing the stage with Tom Mesereau. Robert is an actor with a huge ego."

But Blake, although disappointed, has issued a statement wishing his departed lawyer well.

He says, "I'm very very sorry that Mr Mesereau left. I am deeply grateful to him for saving my life. I am sure that Mr Mesereau will have a great life and a great career.

"I'm 70-years-old and I've learned you have to go forward, no matter what."

The Blake murder trial now faces up to a six month delay while the actor finds a replacement. Insiders claim he's trying to persuade OJ Simpson's defence lawyer Johnnie Cochran to fight for him in court.

08/02/2004 21:06