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Trial over Sherman Hemsley’s will opens in Texas

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EL PASO, TEXAS (AP) - Attorneys for a man who says he is the brother of deceased actor Sherman Hemsley argued Friday that Hemsley was not of sound mind when he signed his will.

Mark Davis, attorney for Richard Thornton, who claims he is Hemsley's brother, questioned the attorney and notary who did Hemsley's will in an El Paso court Friday.

Hemsley, who played George Jefferson on the popular sitcom "The Jeffersons," died of lung cancer July 24.

Davis asked why Julian Horwitz did not consult with a physician about any medication that may have impaired the actor's judgment. He also questioned why Horwitz took instructions from Laura Enchinton, Hemsley's longtime friend and sole beneficiary of the will.

"He said he wanted all of his possessions, whatever they were, to pass to Ms. (Enchinton) Bernal," Horwitz said Friday. "At no point did I ever suspect he lacked capacity, based on my 50 years of experience as a lawyer."

Thornton, of Philadelphia, is expected to testify about his relationship with Hemsley during the trial. Hemsley was born in Philadelphia, but lived in El Paso the last 20 years of his life.

Court documents indicate Hemsley's estate is worth more than $50,000. His refrigerated remains are at an El Paso funeral home.

Robert Almonte, the U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas and a friend of Hemsley's since 1999, also testified Friday. He said Hemsley told him Enchinton was his only family.

"I asked about family in Philadelphia, about wanting to go back," Almonte said, recalling one of their conversations. "He said no. He said Flora was his family."

Others who testified Friday, including the witnesses to the will being signed, said Hemsley had full use of his faculties when he signed the will.

Heinz-Ulrich Landeck, a nurse at the hospital where Hemsley was being treated, said "he was always an oriented person of the time and place and who he was."

She said Hemsley visited the nursing station once and "talked about his career, he mentioned (Enchinton) was his manager."

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