February 04, 2004 11:23 AM

Although one of Robert Blake’s attorneys claimed in court Tuesday that there was a “compelling case” to be made that the real killer of Blake’s wife was Marlon Brando’s son, Christian Brando — and not the ex-“Baretta” star — the judge prevented the defense from calling a controversial witness to help prove that claim.

Blake, 70, who has pleaded not guilty to the May 2001 shooting of 44-year-old Bonny Lee Bakley, could face prison for the rest of his life, if convicted. Bakley was shot in the Blake family car near Vitello’s restaurant in the Los Angeles suburb of Studio City.

During a pretrial hearing, defense attorney Thomas Mesereau suggested to Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp that the young Brando — who had been romantically linked to Bakley — was enraged when he learned the baby she was carrying was Blake’s and not his, Reuters reports.

The girl, Rose, is now 3 and being cared for by Blake’s daughter.

The news service reports that Mesereau sought permission to call as a witness Diane Madsen, who has said she overheard Brando telling an acquaintance named “Duffy” during a phone conversation that someone should put a bullet in Bakley’s head. Ronald “Duffy” Hambleton is one of two Hollywood stuntmen who have testified that Blake solicited them to murder Bakley.

In building his case against Brando, Mesereau pointed out that, unlike Blake, the famous actor’s son, now 44, had killed before. “He did, in fact, put a bullet in his late sister’s late boyfriend and went to prison for 10 years,” the lawyer argued. (In Brando’s 1990 case, he and prosecutors reached a plea bargain agreement, with Brando pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and being sentenced to 10 years behind bars.)

But Judge Schempp refused to allow Madsen to testify, saying she was not credible as a witness. The jurist said Blake’s legal team can ask Hambleton if Brando also solicited him to commit murder.

Even so, says Reuters, Los Angeles County District Attorney Shelly Samuels dismissed the notion of Brando as a suspect, saying that not only did Brando have an alibi for the time of the murder, but “He doesn’t even have a motive. He was kind of relieved the baby wasn’t his.”

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