Robert Blake's attorney plans to quit -- He says the actor's planned Diane Sawyer interview violates an agreement not to talk on-camera and quits six weeks before Blake's next pretrial hearing

By Gary Susman
Updated October 25, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

Defense attorney Harland Braun has vigorously defended Robert Blake in the press ever since the night in May 2001 that Blake’s wife Bonny Lee Bakley was killed, and in court ever since the actor’s arrest for the murder in April ’02. But now, Blake is about to do something that Braun apparently finds indefensible: tell his side of the story on TV. Braun thinks Blake’s intention to do a sit-down with ABC’s Diane Sawyer is such a bad idea that he submitted a letter of resignation on Monday as Blake’s attorney, the Associated Press reports.

”He insists on doing an interview on camera with Diane Sawyer,” Braun told AP, saying Blake was breaking an agreement he had with Braun not to do a televised interview. ”I think it’s insane for a person charged with a crime to go on camera to answer questions about the case. No lawyer in the country would allow a defendant to do this.” Unlike on the witness stand, where Blake would have a day or two to tell his story, a TV interview would be brief and edited, Braun said. ”If he tells little facts it will be ripped out of context.”

There are only six weeks before the next pretrial hearing for the ”Baretta” star, who remains jailed without bail, to find another lawyer. Braun tells EW.com, however, that there will be ”plenty of time” for Blake to find a new defense attorney. Braun tells EW.com he expects the California Supreme Court, currently reviewing Braun’s effort to overturn the superior court’s decision to deny Blake’s bail, to rule within days and set the actor free, meaning he could have a new lawyer within a week. Braun also said he’d bring the new defense team up to speed. ”I’m not just going to dump everything,” he told EW.com.

Los Angeles superior court judge Lloyd Nash still has to grant Braun permission to remove himself from the case. Braun submitted a letter to the judge, which informed him that Blake and his civil attorney had negotiated an agreement last week with Sawyer for an on-camera interview. Braun confirmed the contents of the letter to EW.com, which reads in part: ”The idea that a defendant in a murder case would go on national television to discuss any aspect of his relationship with the deceased or any of the facts surrounding the murder is beyond the comprehension of any criminal lawyer. In my professional opinion, a criminal defendant should talk to the police at the time of the incident if he chooses, as Robert Blake did for four hours, and should reserve any discussion of the facts surrounding the case until he testifies under oath before a jury.” While Braun wrote that he believed Blake has a right to talk to the press, ”I have no obligation to participate in this strategy, which I believe defies common sense.”

Blake, who has pleaded not guilty, talked with Sawyer in July, but not in front of a camera; she paraphrased his remarks for ABC viewers. Contacted by EW.com, an ABC spokesperson cited a network policy of not discussing upcoming bookings but did not deny that Sawyer had arranged an on-camera interview with Blake to air in the near future. CNN reported that the Los Angeles sheriff’s department had denied ABC’s interview request as too disruptive, but Braun told EW.com that the denial of permission was academic, since he expects Blake to be free before the interview, which he says is scheduled for Friday. We smell a November sweeps event!

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