'Happy' O'Neal keeps Farah portrait
Published 20/12/2013 | 09:53
The artwork's ownership has been fiercely contested during a three-week trial in Los Angeles in which Charlie's Angel star Fawcett's final wishes and her relationship with O'Neal were dissected.
Jurors voted 9-3 in O'Neal's favour and the verdict will allow the 72-year-old actor to keep the portrait in his beachside home, where he has said it remains a powerful reminder of his decades-long relationship with Fawcett.
O'Neal was not in court when the verdict was read last night, but his sons Patrick and Redmond were and hugged each other as jurors filed out.
Patrick O'Neal said he spoke to his father and "he was very happy". The actor's lawyer Marty Singer said O'Neal was not in court because he was having a medical procedure.
Fawcett, who died in 2009, left all her artwork to her alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, but nothing to Love Story star O'Neal, her longt-time companion.
Within days of Fawcett's death, O'Neal took one of two portraits of the actress that Warhol created in 1980 at her condominium. O'Neal had the permission of the trustee of Fawcett's belongings and told the court the portrait was a gift from Warhol for arranging the artist's portrait session with the model-actress.
University lawyers who sued O'Neal for possession of the portrait attempted to discredit his ownership claims with footage from Fawcett's reality show and a 20/20 television segment documenting the two portraits' creation.
O'Neal was not seen in the footage and a producer did not recall seeing the star at Warhol's studio. But she admitted she had no knowledge of who owned the artwork or how it was delivered.
The case featured evidence from O'Neal and several of Fawcett's close friends, who said the actress told them one of the portraits belonged to O'Neal. Two witnesses who were disclosed late in the trial - Fawcett's chiropractor and a former nurse's assistant - also backed O'Neal's claims.
The university showed jurors footage from Fawcett's reality show in which she told an auction house owner that she had two Warhol portraits and was considering whether to sell one. O'Neal's lawyers noted that Fawcett never said on camera that she owned both pieces of art.
The school also showed the panel documents that Fawcett signed loaning the portraits to The Andy Warhol Museum in which she is described as the owner and artist.
The portrait has been a cherished possession for O'Neal, who told jurors it was one of his strongest reminders of his nearly 30-year romance with Fawcett.
"I talk to it," O'Neal told the court last week. "I talk to her. It's her presence. Her presence in my life. In her son's life."
Jurors heard widely varying estimates of the portrait's value, ranging from 800,000 to 12 million dollars (£490,000-£7.3 million).
David Beck, a university lawyer, noted the jury was split on who should have the portrait and said the university felt obligated to pursue the case against O'Neal due to Fawcett's wishes. "We had no choice," he added.
The jury also determined a tablecloth that Warhol drew hearts on and presented to O'Neal and Fawcett was jointly owned by the couple. The tablecloth was given to the university, and O'Neal has said he wants it back.
Superior Court judge William MacLaughlin will decide on that during a January hearing.