Charlene Marshall, wife of accused Astor scion Anthony Marshall, sobbed in the courtroom on Thursday morning, May 7, as reporters and spectators waited out a two-hour delay in the morning proceedings, which resulted in the replacement of a juror for the first time so far in the eight-day trial.
The two-hour hiatus gave reporters plenty of time to speculate about Ms. Marshall’s episode, given her composure through days of testimony that has included a number of pointed comments by her late mother-in-law, Brooke Astor. One witness even used the word “bitch.”
One guess was that Ms. Marshall was upset by The New York Times’ Thursday morning cover story by John Eligon, titled “Brooke Astor’s Daughter-in-Law: Not on Trial, but Judged.” As one reporter put it, “the front page of The Times is not a nice place to be.”
Still, others felt the piece was sympathetic—especially compared to some of the other grabby headlines: “CHOKE ON THIS, CHARLENE,” read this morning’s New York Post. (A later Post story pointed that Thursday was the couple’s 17th anniversary.)
Judge A. Kirke Bartley Jr.. declined to elaborate on the excusal of juror No. 2. Oddly, the dismissed woman appeared at the back of the courtroom as the morning session wound down. She declined to speak to reporters before being escorted into the back room by bailiffs.
The delay made for a brief, but glittering, session of morning testimony from longtime Astor family friend Annette de la Renta, who brought with her (in a Ziploc bag!) the gold necklace that Ms. Astor gave her at a Christmas party in 2001.
Defense attorney Ken Fisher dangled the 33-carat necklace in front of the jury
“And it has 528 individual diamonds?” Mr. Fisher asked Ms. de la Renta.
“I never counted,” she replied.
Defense attorneys questioned whether Ms. de la Renta felt comfortable accepting such a gift from Ms. Astor.
“I saw it as an expression of love and generosity,” she testified.
Ms. de la Renta said the gifts were reciprocal, and that, over the years, she and her husband gave Ms. Astor a fur rug, decorative boxes and several dresses.
“Were they from the Gap?” asked Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Loewy.
“No, my husband made dresses,” Ms. de la Renta told the jury. She said a custom-made dress would be worth between $8,000 and $10,000.
Ms. de la Renta also read from a letter she received the same day Ms. Astor accused her of not being her friend—an accusation leveled in Central Park after Ms. de la Renta refused to hand back the leashes for Ms. Astor’s two dogs (Ms. Astor had previously dropped them, sending Ms. de la Renta sprinting in heels to catch the dachsunds before they hit 76th Street).
In the letter, Ms. Astor wrote: “[A]t my age, one’s nerves get thinner and some fool said something to me that upset me. I should have forgotten it at once. It’s all a silly fault of mine.”
Ms. Astor also wrote that Ms. de la Renta was her “own dearest child” – a situation that apparently resulted, in part, from Mr. Marshall newfound happiness. “My son dear Tony is so happy with at last a wife that loves him so that I hardly see them,” Ms. Astor wrote.