The Speed star testifies on her own behalf in a civil trial over her lakefront Austin home

By Alicia Dennis
Updated September 20, 2004 10:00 PM
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Actress Sandra Bullock’s second call to the witness stand Monday in her ongoing civil trial against architect and builder M.B. “Benny” Daneshjou played out like a dramatic movie, with the actress at first laughing and then eventually dissolving into tears.

Daneshjou, 52, sued Bullock, 40, in June 2001, looking to recoup money he claims Bullock still owes his company for designing and building her lakefront Austin home. Bullock countersued, alleging the construction work was unacceptable, that the home is unsafe and that Daneshjou committed fraud in his billing practices. She is seeking damages for the approximately $4 million allegedly needed for repairs on the home, as well as attorneys’ fees.

Over the past five weeks, a number of expert witnesses for Bullock have testified that the home is “failing, coming apart and slowly collapsing.” Trial watchers have been speculating on whether Bullock would be called to the stand by her own attorneys. (The first time she took the stand in the trial, several days ago, it was at the request of Daneshjou’s attorneys).

“It’s going to be a good Christmas isn’t it?” she joked Monday about how pricey her lawyers’ fees have become. The courtroom laughed with the actress.

But her testimony soon turned serious, as she described how she had only spent two nights in what was supposed to have been her dream home. She continues to maintain the home, though she says cannot live there and is afraid it will fall down around her at any moment.

Tears of frustration ran down her face as she talked of her disappointment that the house was unfit to inhabit.

Bullock has been attending the trial every day, sitting quietly beside her father, John Bullock, and her attorneys, Walt Mizell, Todd Wong and John Chamblee.

Bullock told the jury Monday that her terrible experience with this home had not turned her against Austin, and although she could never live in her lakefront mansion, she wasn t packing up and leaving the city.

“I’m not leaving,” Bullock said. “This home is not going to make me leave.”

Bullock was called as the final witness in her case before the jury. Following her cross-examination, Daneshjou’s attorneys will have the opportunity to present rebuttal testimony and expert witnesses of their own.

The trial is expected to go to the jury in approximately two weeks.