Brooke Astor may have suffered from dementia before her death at 105 years of age, but she was competent when she signed two amendments to her will that gave control of her estate to her son, a lawyer in the trial over Astor's will suggested Monday.
"She had her good moments and her bad moments," Thomas Puccio, a defense attorney for lawyer Francis Morrissey, said in closing arguments in Manhattan state Supreme Court.
Puccio said celebrity witnesses such as Henry Kissinger who testified about Astor's fading memory were irrelevant, as they were not present when the socialite and philanthropist signed the amendments.
"It came down to a few moments on Jan. 12, 2004 and a few moments on March 3, 2004," Puccio said. "Those are the moments that matter."
Morrissey, 66, and Astor's 85-year-old son, Anthony Marshall, are accused of exploiting Astor's declining mental condition to plunder millions of dollars from her estate.
The philanthropist's last will, created Jan. 30, 2002, left millions of dollars to her favorite charities, but three later amendments gave Marshall most of her estimated $198 million estate.
Prosecution witnesses said Astor, who was suffering from Alzheimer's when she died in 2007, was not competent to amend her will. An 18-count indictment charged that Marshall and Morrissey
took advantage of Astor's decline to defraud her and her charities.
Marshall, charged with grand larceny, faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. Morrissey is charged with forgery and faces up to seven years.
The trial before Justice A. Kirke Bartley Jr. started April 27 and has dragged on longer than anticipated.
"I suspect that some of you seated there thought this moment would never come," Bartley told the jury before Puccio began his 2-hour summation. "Well it has."
Puccio said Astor changed her will to favor her only child because she felt bad that he had to "dance behind her" all his life."
"People are free to change their minds," he said. "That's life."
He said Morrissey was merely "a casualty in the war being waged between two sides over a pile of money."