BURBANK, Calif. -- Eight months after Robert Blake was acquitted at a criminal trial of murdering his wife, a civil jury decided yesterday that the actor was responsible for the slaying and ordered him to pay Bonny Lee Bakley's children $30 million.
The jury deliberated eight days before ruling in a 10-to-2 vote that the former ''Baretta" star ''intentionally caused the death" of Bakley, who was gunned down in 2001 in the actor's car outside a restaurant where the couple had just dined.
Blake, dressed in a black suit and tie, looked down as the verdicts were read. He left court immediately without comment.
The plaintiffs had argued that Blake, 72, either killed Bakley himself or hired someone to do so. The jury was not asked to decide which theory it believed. But the panel decided that Blake's handyman, Earle Caldwell, did not collaborate in the killing.
None of Bakley's four children was in the courtroom for the verdict. Their attorney, Eric Dubin, called it a ''good day for justice."
''These kids lost their mom, and that got overlooked over the years," he said. ''This was a real family. This was a real person. And to have that validated in a court of law means an awful lot to these kids."
Asked whether he was concerned that Blake, who says he is broke, might not pay the damages, Dubin said, ''I'm not worried about that issue. I have every reason to believe he will pay."
Blake was acquitted at his murder trial last March. Bakley's children filed suit against the actor in 2002, arguing he should be held responsible for their mother's death and forced to pay damages.
Unlike Blake's criminal trial, where 12 jurors had to decide guilt unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt, the civil wrongful-death case required only that nine of 12 jurors believe by a ''preponderance" of the evidence that Blake was responsible for the crime.
Dubin contended that Blake despised Bakley, believing she trapped him into marriage by getting pregnant, and that he decided to get rid of her so that he could raise the daughter he adored, Rosie, by himself.
Blake did not testify in the criminal trial but took the stand in the civil case and denied the allegations.