Attorneys in the Anna Nicole Smith drug conspiracy trial are set with final arguments aimed at swaying jurors who will deliberate on an array of charges against two doctors and the deceased model’s former boyfriend.
At issue is whether the former reality TV star was given excessive prescription drugs, whether the defendants faked prescriptions for her, and whether she was an addict or a woman in pain seeking relief.
Deputy District Attorney Renee Rose delivers her arguments first Monday, laying out the case against Howard K. Stern and Doctors Sandeep Kapoor and Khristine Eroshevich who are accused of conspiring to give Smith excessive prescription drugswhile knowing she was an addict.
Superior Court Judge Robert Perry has been highly critical of the prosecution’s presentation during eight weeks of testimony and Rose is expected to argue for a day or longer in a bid to win convictions. The three are not charged in Smith’s 2007 overdose death, which was ruled accidental.
But earlier indications that the judge would dismiss many of the charges fizzled when he announced last week he would dismiss only two counts against Stern and part of one count against Stern and Kapoor but would let the bulk of the 11 charges stand.
“I think there are weaknesses in the prosecution’s case,” Perry said. “But my inclination is to let it go to the jury.”
Three defense attorneys, Steve Sadow for Stern, Brad Brunon for Eroshevich and Ellyn Garafalo for Kapoor are expected to plead for the doctors and Stern to be acquitted claiming that they cared deeply for Smith and were trying to help her with legitimate medical concerns.
In eight weeks of testimony, the prosecution has presented a long list of prescriptions for drugs including opiates and sedatives for Smith. They claim the amounts were excessive, that many were obtained in false names and that they fed Smith’s alleged addiction.
The defense has challenged witnesses on claims of addiction and has tried to undermined the credibility of those who alleged that Smith and Eroshevich were personally administering drugs to Smith in the months after the death of her son Daniel, which sent her into depression.
Attorneys have spent hours with the judge debating legal instructions for the jury which may help them sort out definitions of addiction and falsifying prescriptions.
The judge dismissed two charges against Stern of obtaining drugs for her by fraud and deceit, including use of false names. He also dismissed part of a conspiracy count against Stern and Kapoor, ruling there was insufficient proof that the two men conspired to obtain controlled drugs through fraud and deceit.
Perry raised the unusual prospect that if he does not agree with jury convictions, he has the option to change the verdicts or order a new trial. He said he has done this in other cases.
Stern’s lawyer, Sadow, has expressed alarm at that prospect, saying, “Once it’s post-verdict, the whole scenario changes. My client would lose his license. The doctors would lose their licenses.”
The judge said he had to be “mindful that certain issues are left for the jury, unless there is a total absence of evidence to support it.”
The case is expected to go to the jury Wednesday or Thursday. The defendants face possible unspecified fines and prison sentences.