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Jury says Ryan O'Neal can keep Farrah Fawcett portrait by Warhol

An Andy Warhol portrait of Farrah Fawcett belongs to actor Ryan O'Neal, a jury determined Thursday.

The ownership of the artwork has been fiercely contested during a three-week trial in which Fawcett's final wishes and her relationship with O'Neal were dissected.

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.

The "Charlie's Angels" star died in June 2009 and left all her artwork to her alma mater, but left nothing to O'Neal, her longtime companion.

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.

Andy Warhol's painting of "Farrah Fawcett," 1980.
AP
Andy Warhol's painting of "Farrah Fawcett," 1980.

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 creation of the portraits.

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 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 testified the actress told them that one of the portraits belonged to O'Neal.

Jaclyn Smith, who co-starred with Fawcett in "Charlie's Angels," took the stand in support of O'Neal and afterward told TODAY, "I really feel Farrah would want that portrait with Ryan."

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Two late-disclosed witnesses, Fawcett's chiropractor and a former nurse's assistant, also backed O'Neal's claims.

The university showed jurors footage from Fawcett's reality show in which she told the owner of an auction house that she had two Warhol portraits and was considering whether to sell one. O'Neal's lawyers noted that Fawcett never said on camera that she owned both pieces of art.

The school also showed the panel documents that Fawcett signed loaning the portraits to The Andy Warhol Museum in which she is described as the owner and artist.

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University attorney David Beck urged jurors to give the school the portrait in accordance with Fawcett's wishes.

"You've seen Farrah. You've heard from Farrah," Beck said Monday in closing arguments. "Please, please, speak for her."

The portrait has been a cherished possession for O'Neal, who told jurors it is one of strongest reminders of his nearly three-decade romance with Fawcett.

"I talk to it," O'Neal testified last week. "I talk to her. It's her presence. Her presence in my life. In her son's life."

Her son with O'Neal, Redmond, was on hand and after the verdict told TODAY, "I know she had something to do with this up there."

Jurors heard widely varying estimates of the portrait's value, ranging from $800,000 to $12 million.

(Read more: China's richest man snaps up $28 million Picasso art)

By The Associated Press. Additional reporting by TODAY.

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