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Witness Implicates Marlon Brando's Son in Bonny Lee Bakely Murder

Aired July 10, 2003 - 19:06   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the Robert Blake case is back in the news. It's been gone for awhile but it is back today.
The former "Baretta" star is awaiting trial on charges he murdered his wife. You all know that by now, certainly.

Well, today the judge ordered a woman, Diane Mattson, to testify in court. Now, the defense contends that she has evidence that could implicate actor Marlon Brando's son in a conspiracy to murder Blake's wife, Bonny Lee Bakely.

Sounds a little confusing, I know. Arthur Barens is a defense attorney. He joins us to discuss the latest twists and turns in this case.

Arthur, thanks for being with us.

There have been so many twists and turns in this case. Today we learned this woman comes forward, she says she heard Christian Brando saying that this woman, Bonny Lee Bakely, should be killed. And now I guess this is going to be heard by a jury.

ARTHUR BARENS, DEFENSE LAWYER: Well, this produces direct evidence allegedly of another person that would have a motive to commit homicide here and it goes to the issue of reasonable doubt, and as defense counsel we're in the reasonable doubt business.

COOPER: That's what it's all about, really, trying to create some sort of reasonable doubt and this certainly seems to hand it to the jury on a silver platter.

BARENS: Not only create a reasonable doubt, but in fact, there may be a reasonable doubt. Certainly, it's hard to explain why Mr. Blake would have acted as he did. Obviously, they've tried to subscribe certain motives to him, rather obvious motives. Well, perhaps there's somebody out there with as good or better a motive.

COOPER: Today the prosecution argued very strenuously they did not want this woman coming forward, being allowed to appear in front of a jury, give what the defense says is her evidence. But it's going to happen.

But what's interesting is that this trial is scheduled to begin February 9. This woman is not going to appear until March 8. Does that give you any sense of how credible the judge thinks she is, I mean, that he has pushed this back until sort of further back in the trial?

BARENS: Not at all. We have to remember that between pretrial motions and the time it will take to impanel a jury on this serious of a case, of a 187 in the first degree, it will take weeks to impanel a jury. In fact, I would not be surprised at all if her testimony doesn't take place until well after March 8.

COOPER: Strategy for the prosecutors now, I guess, would be to try to discredit this witness.

BARENS: Try to discredit the witness or simply to say that Mr. Brando was kid or joking or he isn't credible on that. Remember, she's merely talking about what she heard somebody else say.

COOPER: They were arguing it was hearsay and that she shouldn't be allowed to testify at all.

BARENS: Well, I think the true test to that testimony is going to be if they can bring Mr. Brando in. We're hearing about her. I think that he's the guy that should be asked the question.

COOPER: She claimed this woman, Diane Mattson, which is a name we haven't heard before, and for those who are just listening, apparently she is sort of a paid caretaker for Christian Brando, a man who's been in trouble with the law in the past, got out of jail. I guess she's a paid caretaker, trying keep him away from drugs, from the bad life.

BARENS: That's my understanding of the story. But on the other hand, irrespective of who she is, the question is what was said and why was it said? And is it credibly said?

COOPER: There are -- I guess in the way that she claims -- what her testimony I guess will be is she overheard the conversation, that he was talking to someone by the name of Duffy Hamilton, who has already played a role in this case. The prosecution brought him forward.

He basically had testified he's a former stuntman, apparently had testified that Robert Blake asked him and his friends to kill his then wife and he sort of laughed it off and said no.

BARENS: Well, indeed, and the question would be, not so much what she heard, but can you also connect any activity, any conduct beside Mr. Brando allegedly making that statement. Is there any conduct executing or carrying out that statement? It's a long ways from the word to the deed.

COOPER: Certainly is that. And we should also point out the police talked to Christian Brando after this because he had been involved, I guess, romantically with Ms. Bakely and they had ruled him out as a suspect early on. He had an alibi. Interestingly enough, his alibi was Diane Mattson. So...

BARENS: Brings it into question.

COOPER: It certainly does. Arthur Barens, appreciate you joining us.

BARENS: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Thank you.



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