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 from cancer in 2009.
O’Neal, 72, fought back and testified last week that the portrait was his closest remaining connection to Fawcett. 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.