Daily News | NY Local

BY Melissa Grace and Corky Siemaszko

Tuesday, August 4th 2009, 4:00 AM

Experts say Brooke Astor case tries jurors as prosecution goes on and on

Fifteen weeks, 65 witnesses, 11,000 pages of testimony – and prosecutors in the Brooke Astor fraud trial still aren’t done presenting their case.

Determined to prove that Astor’s son, Anthony Marshall, and his pal Francis Morrissey plundered the senile socialite’s $185 million fortune, they have put on the stand witness, after witness, after witness, after witness, after witness.


Legal eagles say the glazed eyes and yawns of some of the jurors should be setting off alarms for prosecutors.

“There’s no way the jury is going to remember what the fifth witness, for example, said,” said defense lawyer Joseph Tacopina, who is not involved in the Astor case.

“Even if the witness is Henry Kissinger.”

The longer the trial goes on, the more it tries the jury’s patience, he said.

“When you take four months to present your case, you also run the risk of [angering] the jury,” Tacopina said.

“If I’m the prosecution, I’m scared to death the jury is resenting how much time this is taking.”

Another defense lawyer, Sal Strazzullo, agreed.

“They’re putting the jurors to sleep,” he said.

“These are laypersons. These are not professional investigators – they’re bankers, barbers, taxi drivers.”

What prosecutors are doing, Strazullo said, is “too much for victory, as we say on the defense side.”

“At the end of the day, how many doctors do you need to put on the stand to say Mrs. Astor was not able to understand what she was doing?” he asked.

Former prosecutor-turned-defense lawyer Arthur Aidala prefaced his remarks by calling himself a friend of lead Astor case prosecutor Joel Seidemann.

Still, he said, knowing when to stop presenting evidence “is always a predicament for prosecutors.”

“The one thing you don’t want to do is wake up a day after the verdict and say, ‘Oh, we should have explored that theory,'” he said.

“The flip side is ‘kiss,’ meaning, ‘Keep it simple stupid.'”

Unfortunately for prosecutors, “This doesn’t appear to be a case with a smoking gun.”

“There is a lot of circumstantial evidence, and prosecutors have to lead the jurors as they connect the dots,” Aidala said.

Juror can “get lost in the shuffle,” he said. “But they can also say to themselves, ‘We’ve been here for four months, somebody here has to be guilty of something.'”