Ryan O’Neal, university make final pitch to jury
LOS ANGELES (AP) – A jury should honor Farrah Fawcett’s wishes and force Ryan O’Neal to hand over a portrait of the late actress done by Andy Warhol to the University of Texas at Austin, a lawyer for the school argued Monday.
The Oscar-nominated actor’s attorney, however, urged jurors to allow O’Neal to keep the portrait, citing numerous witnesses who testified that Fawcett told them the artwork belonged to O’Neal.
The lawyers made their cases during closing arguments in the case that could go to the jury of six men and six women later in the day.
Fawcett’s image was displayed throughout closing arguments by university attorney David Beck and O’Neal’s attorney Marty Singer. For much of Singer’s arguments, an actual-size copy of the 40-inch by 40-inch Warhol portrait was displayed within a few feet of jurors.
O’Neal contends the artwork was given to him as a gift by Warhol and did not belong to Fawcett when she died in 2009. The “Charlie’s Angels” star left all her artwork to the university; her gift included another version of the Warhol portrait created in 1980 for a television special on his craft aired by “20/20.”
O’Neal told jurors while testifying that his version represents an important connection to his longtime lover.
In his closing argument, Beck screened clips from Fawcett’s reality show and the “20/20″ broadcast and also showed Fawcett’s trust and insurance documents that he said support the school’s claim that it now owns the portrait.
“You’ve seen Farrah, you’ve heard from Farrah,” Beck said. “Please, please, speak for her.”
Jurors have heard nearly three weeks of testimony from Fawcett’s former collaborators and numerous friends.
Craig Nevius, a reality television producer who collaborated with Fawcett on her reality show, testified that he believed O’Neal stole the portrait from the star’s home days after her death.
However, several of Fawcett’s friends and a former caretaker testified for O’Neal that she told them that one of the Warhol portraits belonged to the actor.
One of the Warhols hung in O’Neal’s home from 1980 until 1998 – a year after Beck contended the couple’s relationship changed when Fawcett caught the actor having an affair.
The lawyer reminded jurors that they had been shown evidence that the actress paid for insurance for both portraits from at least 2002 until the time of her death.
O’Neal testified that he brokered the deal for Warhol to make the Fawcett portrait in exchange for receiving one copy. Beck, however, pointed to “20/20″ footage that showed Fawcett appearing onstage at a Houston party and telling the audience that the artist had agreed to paint her portrait.
Singer described O’Neal and Fawcett as being like a married couple throughout their nearly 30-year relationship, despite never exchanging marriage vows. He said the actor had permission from the trustee of Fawcett’s estate to remove the portrait from the home of the actress.
He also argued that the university’s case is about greed and the school should be satisfied with the one Warhol painting of Fawcett that it received from her estate.
School officials have said they intend to display the two portraits side by side in its Blanton Museum of Art if they win the case.