Blake Trial Postponed After Lawyer Leaves

02/05/2004 AT 10:00 AM EST

There's yet another wrinkle in the Robert Blake murder trial.

Citing "irreconcilable differences," the judge in the case agreed to remove Blake's lawyer Thursday, postponing the trial indefinitely.

According to the Associated Press, Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp released attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. from the former "Baretta" star's case but did comment on the disagreement between the two men. Mesereau is the third lawyer to leave the 70-year-old's defense in two years.

The development "is as mind-boggling and surprising to us as it is to you," prosecution spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said, according to the AP. "It's like having the rug pulled out from under us. We're a little shell-shocked right now."

With Mesereau's exit, the preliminary jury selection that was completed several weeks ago (and was to finish Feb. 17) is now void. "We're starting all over again," Gibbons said.

Schempp set the next hearing for Feb. 23.

Blake, 70, who has pleaded not guilty to the May 2001 shooting death of wife Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, could face prison for the rest of his life, if convicted. Bakley, who was the mother of Blake's 3-year-old daughter, was shot in the family car near a Studio City restaurant.

The latest news comes on the heels of Mesereau's claims in court Tuesday that there was a "compelling case" to be made that the real killer was Marlon Brando's son, Christian Brando, Reuters reported. Bakley and Brando, 44, previously had been involved romantically.

However, the judge denied Mesereau's witness, Diane Madsen, a chance to testify, saying that she wasn't credible. Madsen claims that she had overheard Brando telling an acquaintance named Duffy 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.)

Los Angeles County District Attorney Shelly Samuels dismissed the notion, saying Brando (who earlier had spent 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter) had an alibi.

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