Astor's alleged living conditions, as described in Philip Marshall's guardianship case, were a dramatic fall for the wife of Vincent Astor, a real estate mogul and the son of John Jacob Astor IV, who died on the Titanic. Astor, once the grande dame of New York high society, donated tens of millions of dollars to the city's libraries and museums. According to a 2006 court decision, Brooke Astor inherited more than $120 million when her husband died in 1959 and gave away more than $200 million to various charities.
But as she aged, prosecutors contend, she came more and more under the control of her son. Earlier in the day, Emily Rafferty, the president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, testified that Anthony Marshall withdrew a $115,000 gift that his mother had promised to the museum to buy a $235,000 Buddha sculpture. Marshall said the cost of his mother's around-the-clock care prevented her from giving more than $250 to $1,000 in the future, Rafferty said. He also cancelled her membership on the museum's chairman's council, an annual $50,000 cost.
Astor gave more than $23 million to the museum between 1963 and the early 2000s through her charity and her personal donations, according to Rafferty.
The trial has focused to a large extent on Astor's mental state in the last years of her life, when the changes to her will were made, and has detailed the sad decline of one of the city's most celebrated philanthropists.
On one occasion in December 2003, Rafferty said Astor did not recognize her when she saw her at the museum's office, though the two had known each other for years. During a 2002 Christmas party, Astor asked Rafferty who all the children were, though there were no children at the party, Rafferty testified.
Anthony Marshall, a former ambassador and Tony Award-winning Broadway producer, has pleaded not guilty to charges including grand larceny and conspiracy. Francis Morrissey is accused of, among other things, forgery for allegedly faking Astor's signature on an amendment to her will. He has also pleaded not guilty.
The witnesses include the bold face names who made up Astor's circle of friends. Barbara Walters and Henry Kissinger are scheduled to testify this week. Kofi Annan, the former head of the United Nations; David Rockefeller; and Annette de la Renta, the wife of fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, may also testify.
Lawyers for Marshall and Morrissey are expected to argue that Astor was mentally capable of approving the changes, and that Astor loved her son and wanted to reward him financially.