A famous family's grief spilled over in court Friday as Carroll O'Connor's daughter-in-law recalled the last days of her husband Hugh's tormented life and visits to the man she believes supplied him with cocaine.
Angela O'Connor, struggling for composure, finally burst into tears as she told jurors in the slander trial of Carroll O'Connor about her husband's drug-induced suicide on the day of their third wedding anniversary.
Across the courtroom, Carroll O'Connor's face reddened and his wife, Nancy, wept.
"I called him," Angela O'Connor said of her husband's last day. "It was our wedding anniversary. I wanted to see how he was doing."
Angela O'Connor and her son had been living with her in-laws in the weeks preceding Hugh O'Connor's death.
"How was he doing?" asked O'Connor attorney Lucy Inman.
"Not good," replied Angela.. "He was hallucinating, thinking our conversation was being broadcast over the neighborhood."
A short time later, she said, Hugh O'Connor called his father and said he was going to shoot himself. The elder O'Connor called police, and the family rushed to the son's home.
"I had no idea I would arrive and be told he was dead," she said, dissolving in tears.
Superior Court Judge Malcolm Mackey recessed court for lunch at that point.
Earlier in the day, Carroll O'Connor testified that he wanted to harm Harry Perzigian, who is suing him, "in the worst way," but insisted he never intended to incite violence against Perzigian.
Perzigian, 41, is suing Carroll O'Connor for slander over his widely televised remarks about Perzigian after his 32-year-old son's suicide in 1995.
Perzigian has admitted sharing cocaine with the actor's son for years and even supplying it, but said he never sold it to him for profit and considered himself the young actor's best friend.
Perzigian served a brief prison sentence for possessing and furnishing cocaine after Hugh O'Connor's death.
Under questioning by Perzigian's attorney, O'Connor that admitted he had declared on TV: "I want to harm him in the worst way."
"Harm yes, not physical harm," O'Connor said.
O'Connor also said he thought it would be widely understood that he was talking figuratively when he branded Perzigian a "partner in murder."