03/16/2005 AT 5:00 PM ET
After eight days of deliberations, a Los Angeles jury found Robert Blake not guilty of the May 2001 murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, the jury forewoman announced Wednesday afternoon.
The former Baretta star, 71, broke into tears as the verdicts were read. He had been charged with first-degree murder with special circumstances and with two counts of solicitation of murder.
On a charge of lying in wait, the jury was deadlocked 11 for acquittal to 1 for finding Blake guilty.
The prosecution had contended that Blake shot Bakley, 44, in a car outside a Studio City restaurant after the two ate dinner together. The actor claimed that someone else killed Bakley while he left her briefly in his car to retrieve a gun he’d left behind during the meal.
The .38-caliber revolver was not used to kill Bakley, who both the defense and prosecution conceded was a grifter. No eyewitnesses, blood or DNA evidence linked Blake to the crime.
Though the lengthy Blake trial has been overshadowed by such higher profile cases as Michael Jackson’s for alleged child molestation and the Scott Peterson double-murder trial (Wednesday Peterson was formally sentenced to die by lethal injection), it does bring to a close one of the more sensational murder cases in recent memory.
Robert Blake is now a free man.