Howard Weitzman- Doris Duke milt-billon-dollar Estate

Doris Duke with her first husband James H. R. Cromwell




By To MJ Respct Is Due



Michael Jackson’s murder has a familiar ring to a murder that took place in California, 19 years ago in 1993. I’m talking about the murder of Doris Duke,the glamorous-jet setting-multifaceted, cigarette heiress of yesteryear. Ms. Duke is the Duke in Duke University and her father James Buchanan Duke was the son of a very very wealthy tobacco tycoon, Washington Duke. Doris was the only child and at her death, she had no kids(her 1st and only, a girl lived only a day)and she’d been divorced twice. She was raised on her families palatial estate back in New Jersey, had two lavish homes in NYC, a mansion on 5th Avenue and penthouse on Park Avenue along with her very own Boeing that she used to zig-zag across world. Ms. Duke was insanely wealthy and powerful. Her estate was estimated at a worth of 1.2+ Billion when she died. In her death, Doris was surrounded by multiple doctors, servants, lawyers and no family. Its starting to peak your interest isn’t? Well Doris’ story becomes more in line with Michael’s when we look at how she died.


The below taken from Wikipedia


In 1992, at the age of 79, Duke had a facelift. She began trying to walk while she was still heavily medicated and fell, breaking her hip. In January 1993, she underwent surgery for a knee replacement. She was hospitalized from February 2 to April 15. She underwent a second knee surgery in July of that year. A day after returning home from this second surgery, she suffered a severe stroke. Doris Duke died at her Falcon’s Lair home on October 28, 1993, at the age of 80. The cause was progressive pulmonary edema resulting in cardiac arrest, according to a spokesman for Bernard Lafferty, the executor named by Duke’s last will,who was with her at her death.Bernard Lafferty was Doris Duke’s butler, yes her alcoholic butler and now the executor of her estate.


Duke was the life beneficiary of two trusts created by her father, James Buchanan Duke, in 1917 and 1924. The income from the trusts was payable to any children after her death. In 1988, at the age of 75, Duke legally adopted a woman named Chandi Heffner, a 35-year-old Hare Krishna devotee. Duke initially maintained that Heffner was the reincarnation of her only biological child Arden, who died soon after birth in 1940. The two women had a falling out, and the final version of Duke’s will specified that she did not wish Heffner to benefit from her father’s trusts; she also negated the adoption. Despite the negation, after Duke’s death, the estate’s trustees settled a lawsuit brought by Heffner for $65 million.

In her final will, Duke left virtually all of her fortune to several existing and new charitable foundations. She appointed her Irish-born butler Bernard Lafferty as executor, who then appointed, as corporate co-executor, US Trust company; Lafferty and his friend Marion Oates Charles were named as her trustees.However a number of lawsuits were filed against the will. The most notorious lawsuit was initiated by Harry Demopoulos, whose company ‘Health Maintenance Programs’ owed the Duke Estate $600,000. Demopoulos found out that he had been named co-executor in an earlier will and challenged Lafferty’s appointment, claiming that convicted felon Tammy Payette told him (Demopoulos) that doctors had killed Duke.


The below are the pertinent parts of a People Weekly article dated May 22nd 1995

A former nurse of Duke’s came forward to allege that one of the heiress’s doctors, Charles Kivowitz, had murdered the heiress by administering lethal levels of morphine. Lafferty and Kivowitz have denied any wrong doing, though a special investigator appointed by the New York State Surrogate Court took a look into the affair and released a report that raised new questions about their actions. (The New York court has jurisdiction because the probate documents were filed there.) Among other things, the investigation suggested that Lafferty and various lawyers may be robbing the estate of millions of dollars through enormous fees and expenses.


Even so, the surrogate court ordered the estate to cease making loans or payments to Lafferty and the lawyers until it could wade through the mass of paper–lawsuits, affidavits, depositions, motions€”generated by those cut out of the will and added to it. Further, the LAPD, assisted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney in investigating the possibility that Duke’s death was accelerated. For Pony Duke, 57, the whole mess has a sort of sad inevitability about it. “Doris had an instinct for choosing objects of the highest quality,” he says, “Unfortunately, she didn’t have the same gift in choosing people. “Her upbringing may have had something to do with that.


As an adult she hobnobbed with everyone from British royals to Elizabeth Taylor to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. In later years she traveled in her own Boeing 737 jet and helicopter, and in 1988 she posted $5 million bail for former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos, who, with her husband, the late President Ferdinand Marcos, was facing charges of looting her homeland of $100 million. Duke also acquired some magnificent real estate. Along with Falcon’s Lair, once the home of Rudolph Valentino, and Duke Farms, she owned a 34-room oceanfront estate in Newport, R.I., known as Rough Point, and her favorite retreat, Shangri-La, on Diamond Head in Hawaii.


Doris had suffered a stroke when she returned home after two knee operations. She was heavily sedated day and night on an IV drip in her home. Sound familiar???

Daily News

Doris Duke’s Death Called A Homicide


Tuesday, April 25, 1995


Doris Duke’s death from an overdose of morphine and Demerol was a homicide, a top pathologist in the city medical examiner’s office said in court papers released yesterday. That conclusion by Dr. Jonathan Arden, the city’s first deputy chief medical examiner, was accompanied by written affidavits from other medical and legal experts supporting allegations of a plot to kill the tobacco heiress in 1993 and gain control of her $1.2 billion estate. Their findings were filed Friday with Manhattan Surrogate Eve Preminger, who is expected to decide today whether to make public court-appointed investigator’s report into allegations of wrongdoing by those controlling the Duke estate. The expert opinions were assembled by lawyers for Duke’s one-time personal physician, Dr. Harry Demopoulos.


Demopoulos is challenging the will that made former butler Bernard Lafferty executor of the Duke estate. An earlier will had given that job to Demopoulos.


Arden said he reviewed, as a paid consultant, Duke’s medical records and concluded that Duke had died from “acute intoxication by morphine and Demerol.” “Were it my responsibility to certify this death, I would classify the manner of death as homicide,” he said. Two other doctors said repeated over medication had left Duke mentally incompetent for much of the year before her death, suggesting that changes in her will during that period might be suspect.”The doctors’ affidavits make it quite clear she lacked the mental capacity to know what she was doing,” said Demopoulos’ attorney, Rodney Houghton.In addition, former Los Angeles District Attorney Ira Reiner said he believes allegations of homicide, forgery and embezzlement warrant a grand jury investigation.

Reiner was hired by Demopoulos.

LA Times


Nurse Alleges Heiress Was Given Fatal Morphine Dose : Courts: Judge orders inquiry into Doris Duke’s 1993 death in Beverly Hills. Ex-butler, physician deny charges.


NEW YORK — A nurse who cared for the late tobacco heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke charged in court papers made public Friday that she “did not die of natural causes” in her Beverly Hills mansion in 1993, but instead succumbed to a “massive sedation regime” instigated by her butler.”Miss Duke did not ask that a lethal dose of morphine be given to her and she was not aware this was being done,” Tammy Payette, the nurse, charged in an affidavit submitted to the court handling the probate of Duke’s $1.2-billion estate. Payette was a principal nurse aiding the 80-year-old heiress in the weeks before she died on Oct. 28, 1993.


On Friday, the judge handling the probate here appointed Richard Kuh, a former Manhattan district attorney, as limited temporary administrator of the estate with power to look into the allegations. She ordered him to report back within 45 days. California law enforcement authorities said Friday that they had not yet been apprised of the contents of Payette’s affidavit.


Payette said that despite being on the mend after suffering a stroke, Duke was given increasingly large doses of sedatives by a physician at the request of Bernard Lafferty, Duke’s butler and adviser. The cause of death was listed in 1993 as progressive pulmonary edema.


Under the terms of Duke’s final will, Lafferty is to inherit a lump sum of $5 million, will receive a lifetime annuity of $500,000 a year, and was named co-executor of the Duke estate along with the United States Trust Co. of New York.

In a statement issued by Chen Sam, his public relations counsel, Lafferty labeled the charges “crank allegations” and “McCarthy-esque smear tactics.” “These scandalous allegations are an offense to a friend to whom I was devoted in life and whose wishes I am working hard to carry out after her death. The facts of her death speak for themselves, and her doctor has testified at length about that.” the statement said.


The lawyer representing Dr. Charles F. Kivowitz, the primary attending physician who cared for the heiress during the last days of her life, said Kivowitz “totally denies these outrageous accusations and plans to pursue whatever legal remedies are available to him against those who submitted the affidavit and wrote it.””His reputation and character are impeccable,” said Los Angeles attorney Leonard Levine. A number of claims have been filed against the estate under the probate proceeding in Judge Eve Preminger’s court in Manhattan. Among them are filings by three former Duke servants and by Dr. Harry B. Demopoulos, a former Duke physician.


A lawyer for the three servants said he discovered Payette in the course of his investigation. Demopoulos was a longtime Duke friend and was named in a 1991 will as an executor and trustee of her estate. He is challenging the appointment of both Lafferty and the bank as co-executors under the later will. Demopoulos, an associate professor of pathology at the New York University School of Medicine, charged in recently filed court papers that nurses’ notes specifically quote the heiress’s fear of being “murdered.”“On Sept. 20, 1993, just hours after she returned home from a hospitalization, Miss Duke informed her nurses that someone was trying to kill her,” the papers allege. “The nurse’s notes state: ‘Patient distress–states she’s afraid of being murdered.”


Demopoulos said that nurses’ notes on Oct. 7 show that Duke wanted to be moved to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center or to Duke University Medical Center, which her father had founded. Demopoulos leveled a barrage of charges against Lafferty in the filings, including allegations that he is a chronic alcoholic who has been hospitalized several times for treatment under false names, is a drug abuser, and “is a violent abusive individual who threatens physical violence to cover up his own misconduct.” Demopoulos alleged that while the butler’s employer lay dying, Lafferty was on Rodeo Drive “engaging in grossly extravagant shopping sprees” and that “since Miss Duke’s death, Lafferty has acted as if he were Miss Duke.”

He also charged that the tobacco heiress was “subjected to heavy sedation” which was manipulated to serve the butler’s ends, including procuring the later will.


In a statement, Lafferty labeled Demopoulos’ accusations “obstructionist.” He said under the prior will, Demopoulos would have stood to collect approximately $25 million in fees for acting as executor, five times the amount authorized for Lafferty in the final will. Duke’s former butler said he and the bank are “confident” the court will agree that Demopoulos lacks standing to bring his suit.


New York Times

Doctor Caused Doris Duke’s Death With Overdoses, Report Says

Published: April 26, 1995


A court-appointed investigator looking into the death of Doris Duke, the billionaire tobacco heiress, has concluded that her doctor caused her death with a fatal overdose of morphine and that the principal executor of her estate had squandered hundreds of thousands of dollars since she died. In a report unsealed in Surrogate Court yesterday, the investigator, Richard H. Kuh, said that although Miss Duke was terminally ill, her death was intentionally hastened by the repeated and increasing doses of morphine that her doctor administered. Mr. Kuh’s investigation was ordered three months ago by Judge Eve Preminger, who has been trying to settle a messy legal fight between several of Miss Duke’s heirs. Specifically, he was asked to investigate allegations that Miss Duke had been murdered by her doctors and her butler and to determine whether the butler, Bernard Lafferty, had squandered the estate’s money on spending sprees and drinking binges since being named a co-executor. The allegations came from several people who had been cut out of Miss Duke’s last will, signed in March 1993.


Lawyers for Mr. Lafferty and the Duke estate fought hard to keep the report from being made public, arguing it would damage the reputations of Miss Duke’s doctor and legal advisers. But Judge Preminger shot down their objections.

“This court is not a public relations office,” she said. “Your request is denied. The application is denied. The report is open to the public.” Judge Preminger said she was astounded by Mr. Kuh’s findings. She ordered the estate to temporarily stop lending money to Mr. Lafferty and to freeze payments to the legion of lawyers he has hired. She also said she would give the estate’s lawyers a week to respond to the report before holding a hearing and ruling on Mr. Lafferty’s fitness to administer the Duke fortune.


Howard L. Weitzman, a lawyer for the Duke estate, said Mr. Kuh’s report was incomplete and inaccurate. “We think when all the facts are before the court, that ultimately Miss Duke’s wishes will be carried out and the executor that she wanted to administer the estate will be confirmed,” he said. Miss Duke died on Oct. 28, 1993, at her mansion in Beverly Hills, leaving a $1.2 billion estate and no natural heirs. Although she left most of her money to charity, she willed Mr. Laffery, an Irish-born butler who became her friend and confidant in her last years, $5 million and made him a co-executor at a salary of $500,000 a year for life. She also appointed U.S. Trust Company of New York a co-executor. Several former employees and one of her former physicians, Dr. Harry B. Demopoulos, have challenged the will, arguing that Mr. Lafferty and his lawyers cajoled Miss Duke into giving him control over the estate while she was sick and heavily sedated. Dr. Demopoulous had been named the executor in a previous will.


Earlier this week, Miss Duke’s adopted daughter, Chandi Heffner Duke, who was disinherited in 1991, dropped her challenge to the will after reaching a $65 million settlement with Mr. Lafferty and the estate, lawyers said. The settlement still must be approved by a judge. The heiress’s physician, Dr. Charles F. Kivowitz, has said in court papers that Miss Duke died of a heart attack brought about by fluid in her lungs. The doctor has maintained that her death was the natural consequence of a stroke she suffered three months earlier at the age of 80.


Because her body was cremated shortly after death, an autopsy was not performed. Mr. Kuh’s report paints a different picture. Dr. Nicholas T. Macris, who was hired by Mr. Kuh to review Miss Duke’s medical records, found that Dr. Kivowitz gave increasingly bigger doses of morphine to Miss Duke the day before she died, despite signs that she was no longer in pain and had slipped into “a morphine-induced coma.”

Dr. Macris, a Cornell Medical School professor, concluded that the nurses’ notes and Dr. Kivowitz’s own records “document his decision to end Ms. Duke’s life” by cutting off her oxygen and by “increasing the morphine to a dosage level that would stop Ms. Duke’s breathing and cause her death,” the report said.


A lawyer for Dr. Kivowitz, Harland Braun, said last night that Miss Duke had been intentionally killed with morphine, but he denied the doctor was responsible. Mr. Kuh pointed out that California law permits the withdrawal of life support from terminally ill people, but does not permit doctors to take a deliberate act to end life. The Los Angeles police have begun an inquiry into Miss Duke’s death, but a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles District Attorney said last night that no one had been arrested or indicted. The spokeswoman said investigators had not yet seen Mr. Kuh’s report. The Kuh report also questioned Mr. Lafferty’s spending habits since she died. So far, the report said, he has spent more than $1 million on himself, including nearly $155,000 in American Express bills at luxury stores like Cartier and Giorgio Armani. In addition, Mr. Kuh said, Mr. Lafferty — who has no assets of his own and is at present insolvent — has borrowed more than $825,000 from U.S. Trust Company, the co-executor of the estate. The loans were apparently granted without interest.

Since Miss Duke’s death, Mr. Lafferty has also spent more than $320,000 on what Mr. Kuh called questionable renovations to Miss Duke’s homes in Somerset, N.J., and Beverly Hills. Among the expenses were $60,000 to enlarge Miss Duke’s bedroom, which Mr. Lafferty now uses, and to install a spa bathtub in her former bathroom. Mr. Kuh also questioned the purchase of a new Cadillac for Mr. Lafferty after he wrecked Miss Duke’s car, and a $1,769 expediture to reopen a firing range on Ms. Duke’s property. Perhaps the strangest expense highlighted in the report was the purchase of two miniature horses “to provide companionship” for a camel kept at the Duke estate.


Mr. Weitzman could not be reached yesterday afternoon to discuss the specific findings in Mr. Kuh’s report. The report said Mr. Lafferty also authorized several sizable cash gifts to people during September and October 1993, when Miss Duke “admittedly was in poor physical condition and in at least questionable mental shape. “Those gifts included several large checks to various doctors: a $900,000 loan to Dr. Rolando Atiga; a $500,000 gift to Dr. Harry Glassman, a plastic surgeon, and a $10,000 gift to Dr. Kivowitz. During the same period, Mr. Lafferty also dispersed $2 million to Duke University, $1 million to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, and $1 million to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the report said.


“No documentation establishes that these various gifts — non-charitable and charitable — were in fact approved by Duke,” Mr. Kuh wrote. “As noted, it is likely she was in such condition in September-October 1993 that she well may have been incapable of understandingly approving.” The report also cast doubts on Mr. Lafferty’s mental health. The report said that he was an admitted alcoholic who has gone on at least four serious drinking binges since Miss Duke’s death. In addition, the report said, Mr. Lafferty regularly takes “three sleeping medications, seven anti-depressants, three anti- psychotics and six anti-anxiety medicines, many simultaneously.”


The report concludes that “Lafferty should not be managing complex financial matters for an appreciable time.” In addition, Mr. Kuh raised serious questions about Miss Duke’s mental state from March to June 1993, when she was hospitalized and decided to change her will. The changes gave far more control to Mr. Lafferty and a new law firm — Katchen Muchen Zavis and Weitzman — than her previous wills had. The estate has paid out more than $10 million in legal fees since Ms. Duke died, about $9 million of that going to the Katchen Muchen firm, the report said.



Family, have you caught deja vu yet? I sure have… but what really made my head spin was this:


Lawyers for Mr. Lafferty and the estate said they would appeal the decision on the ground that the surrogate did not hold a hearing on the issue before ruling. “The removal of Doris Duke’s personal choice as co-executor of her estate without a hearing is an outrageous abuse of judicial discretion,” said Howard Weitzman, in a prepared statement.


Later, in accordance with her wishes, her ashes were brought to each of her residences for at least one night. (Duke also stipulated that she wanted her houses kept staffed, because she thought she would be reincarnated and would need places to stay) Family and friends have lined up on both sides of the question of whether Duke wanted to be cremated at all. But Lafferty’s attorney, Howard Weitzman argues, “It s pretty ludicrous to think she expected her fully embalmed body to be carted around from house to house.” Lafferty maintains he first learned he had been named co executor of the estate and would be receiving his bonanza when KMZ s Doyle told him on the way back to Falcon s Lair from the mortuary “I just sat there and took a deep breath,” Lafferty later told the Los Angeles Times.


Howard L. Weitzman, a lawyer for the Duke estate, said Mr. Kuh’s report was incomplete and inaccurate. “We think when all the facts are before the court, that ultimately Miss Duke’s wishes will be carried out and the executor that she wanted to administer the estate will be confirmed,” he said.

John Branca stole Michael’s estate in the same fashion that Ms. Doris Duke’s estate was stolen; hired the very same lawyer that has first hand knowledge in helping the murderer get away with and keep the stolen estate. Branca does not play around when it comes time to recruiting power players. Weitzman has a victorious track record in dealing with such matters.


Howard Weitzman got Lafferty to keep his executors fees and lifetime payment, even after Ms. Duke’s death was declared a homicide. Weitzman is all too familiar with defending murderers that kill in cold blood for mult-billion dollar estates by way of IV drip drug overdose. Family, I think I’m going to be ill; I cannot believe the corruption of the state of California, look what New York has done with this matter. These laws should have been able to protect Michael. If you still have doubts about John G. Branca and CO, please contact me so that I can escort you to ophthalmologist right way. You may need help seeing the light.


Informing and becoming informed is an act of Love. Know that I Love you and thanks for reading…


This entry was posted in Blog, To MJ Respect is due. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.