January 16, 2003 11:54 AM

Robert Blake tearfully pleaded with his attorney to let him testify in a videotaped deposition, telling lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jr.: “I’m an old man. I’m pushing 70. If I’m going to die in that box, I want to talk before I go.”

The former “Baretta” star, 69, is in a downtown Los Angeles jail awaiting trial on charges of fatally shooting his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, in the family car in May 2001.

On Wednesday, say reports, the jailhouse deposition in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Bakley’s family was suspended after Mesereau, Blake’s criminal attorney, refused to let the actor participate.

But before the Bakley family’s attorney could begin questioning, Blake launched into a lengthy diatribe on his current terrible state.

“I have been in solitary confinement,” said an emotional Blake. “I live in a cement block 24 hours a day, every day. I have no human contact. I get out for 10 minutes every other day for a shower by myself. I get a priest for a half-hour on Sunday … I get to shake his hand. That’s the human contact I have.”

Portions of Blake’s deposition were shown on Thursday morning’s “Today” show.

“I get to go up on the roof every two days for an hour at a time and sit in a cage like a monkey,” said Blake, telling his lawyer that he wanted to talk, despite being told by Mesereau, who has threatened to quit the case if Blake would discuss it, to “shut up.”

As Blake went on to tell his own attorney, “I want to know if you can live with the fact that when they wheel me out of here feet first with a tag on my toe that you can say you did the right thing” by preventing him from speaking.

After the deposition ceased, and Blake sat stone-faced and silent, Mesereau told reporters: “It was a clown show. It was a circus. It was an effort by opposing counsel to promote himself. It was filled with procedural irregularities. It was an embarrassment.”

Bakley family attorney Eric Dubin said he will request a ruling on whether the deposition of Blake could continue.

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