NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Tom Benson's heirs took the stand Tuesday to question the 87-year-old's competency and ability to control his empire. The family's attorney called it an emotional day for Renee Benson and Rita LeBlanc.
Tom Benson was in positive spirits after sitting through seven and a half hours of testimony. "I feel good, that's what counts. I can't hardly wait till football season," Benson said.
When asked if it was difficult, emotionally, to hear and see his family on the stand, Benson let his attorney do the talking. Phil Wittmann says, "We've been told not to discuss the testimony, and that's what we're gonna do."
First to testify Tuesday was Benson's daughter, Renee, who ran much of her father's business in Texas, before being pushed out earlier this year. She was seen leaving the courtroom in tears after her testimony. And later, holding hands with daughter Rita LeBlanc while heading to lunch.
"Today was emotional certainly," said LeBlanc family attorney Randy Smith.
Smith stresses Renee and Rita's testimony is an effort to help their father and grandfather.
"I've said it before, they're not testifying against him they are testifying for him, for what's best for him and all of us," Smith said.
The family is trying to regain their stake in the Pelicans and Saints by trying to claim Benson that is incompetent. He fired Renee, Rita and grandson Ryan from their posts, and willed full control of his sports empire to wife Gayle upon his death.
FOX 8 legal analyst Joseph Raspanti thinks the family has an uphill battle in court.
"Just because you walk with a cane doesn't mean you're incompetent, and to be deemed incompetent for the court purposes you have to be really incapacitated," Raspanti said.
Rita LeBlanc will finish up her testimony Wednesday, followed by her brother, Ryan. The court still has to hear from three doctors who evaluated Benson.
"I think it's gonna go all week, at least. I know we're trying to finish by Friday - the whole case - but several more witnesses to go," Smith said.
No word if Tom Benson himself will take the stand.
Media isn't allowed inside the courtroom. The case is sealed to protect Benson's privacy. Benson owns FOX 8, which is operated by Raycom Media.