Jury finds portrait of Fawcett belongs to O'Neal
HOLD FOR STORY -- In this Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 file photo, actor Ryan O'Neal, right, leaves court after he testified in a Los Angeles courtroom about his relationship with Farrah Fawcett and his claimed ownership of an Andy Warhol portrait of the actress. The Warhol portrait of Fawcett belongs to O'Neal, a Los Angeles jury determined Thursday, Dec. 20, 2013. The verdict will allow O'Neal to keep the portrait in his beachside home, where he has said it remains a powerful reminder of his decades-long relationship with Fawcett. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — For most of the last 33 years, an Andy Warhol portrait of Farrah Fawcett has hung in the home of her longtime lover, Ryan O'Neal, and a jury's verdict Thursday ensures that is where it will stay.
For nearly a month, O'Neal has been in a courtroom as lawyers for the University of Texas at Austin sought to gain possession of the portrait, arguing that Fawcett bequeathed the artwork to the school upon her death.
O'Neal fought back and testified last week that the portrait was his closest remaining connection to Fawcett, who died in 2009. The actor's descriptions of talking to the portrait and feeling the presence of the "Charlie's Angels" actress were among the last words that jurors focused on, asking to hear his testimony again Thursday morning.
Within 90 minutes of reviewing the testimony, the panel returned a 9-3 verdict in favor of O'Neal. The actor wasn't present for the jury's decision, but his sons Patrick and Redmond O'Neal clasped hands and hugged after hearing the result.
Patrick O'Neal said he spoke to his father and "he was very happy." The actor's attorney Marty Singer said O'Neal was having a medical procedure and that's why he wasn't in court Thursday.
The artwork is valuable, with experts estimating it is worth between $800,000 and $12 million. Ryan O'Neal, however, told jurors he had no intention of selling it and wanted to pass it down to his only son with Fawcett, Redmond.
Fawcett left all her artwork, including a nearly identical Warhol portrait, to her alma mater. The model-actress however left nothing to O'Neal, who was her companion for nearly 30 years.
Within days of Fawcett's death, O'Neal took one of two portraits of the actress that Warhol created in 1980 from her condominium. O'Neal had the permission of the trustee of Fawcett's belongings and testified the portrait was a gift from Warhol for arranging the artist's portrait session with the model-actress.
University lawyers attempted to discredit O'Neal's ownership claims with footage from Fawcett's reality show and a "20/20" television segment documenting the portraits' creation.
O'Neal wasn't seen in the footage, and a producer didn't recall seeing the "Love Story" star at Warhol's studio. But she also acknowledged she had no knowledge of who owned the artwork or how it was delivered.
The case featured testimony 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.
Singer and another of O'Neal's attorneys, Todd Eagan, said two years of litigation and the three-week trial could have been avoided if the university had conducted a more thorough investigation.