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Judge rebukes prosecution in Anna Nicole case

August 20, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A judge delivered a harsh assessment Friday of the evidence and charges against two doctors and a lawyer in the ongoing Anna Nicole Smith drug conspiracy case. Superior Court Judge Robert Perry said outside the jury's presence that he was concerned about the prosecution's case.

"It's the people's position that Anna Nicole was kept in a drugged state," Perry said. "They claim she was a pawn in the hands of her handlers and doctors who kept her in a drugged state to control her and her money."

The evidence so far does not support that, he said.

"I'm seeing a strong-willed person who ordered people around and was her own boss," Perry said.

The criticism came as the judge reluctantly agreed to let jurors see a videotape of Smith on an awards show in a performance her former boyfriend Larry Birkhead testified was considered "loopy, wacky and crazy" by many people.

The judge said he was unable to tell whether Smith's demeanor in the 2004 American Music Awards videotape was the result of drugs or her normal acting style at staged events. He pointed out that a second video given to him by the defense showed Smith making statements four days later that the appearance helped her career.

"She's fairly entertaining and at her voluptuous best," Perry said. "It is, in the court's view, a very strong representation of the Anna Nicole personality ... My question is, is any of this real."

Perry went on to say, "The problem I have with this case is we have a very public figure .... We are a movie-watching, TV-watching nation. And as the defense has said, what we see on television is not always real."

When jurors returned to the courtroom, they were shown the AMA video as well as a pre-interview in which Smith touted her weight loss on a product she was promoting. In both segments, she waved her arms and was speaking with a slight slur.

Jurors also heard testimony from Birkhead, the father of Smith's daughter, who broke down in tears on the witness stand when he described Smith's problems with seizures and other ailments.

He said Smith sometimes suffered seizures after taking drugs, and at times he saw her fall asleep while eating and knew she was taking numerous prescription medications. He said she had 10 episodes in the year and a half he knew her.

Birkhead said Smith suffered a seizure the night before the AMAs and he had tried to convince her to cancel the appearance, but she refused.

He said that day defendant Dr. Khristine Erosovich prescribed several medications. Birkhead said Smith had also taken her diet pills and was drinking champagne.

Birkhead testified he saw many drugs around the house. He said he worried about her health, but then thought they were prescriptions from doctors, not street drugs.

Prosecutors presented documents Birkhead signed during a paternity lawsuit demanding the baby be tested for drugs because of multiple medications Smith had been taking.

On Thursday, Birkhead told the Los Angeles Superior Court jury that in early 2005, Smith's "normal regimen" of medications included an array of powerful painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs, among them Methadone, Klonopin, Valium, Ambien, Soma, Vicodin and Demerol. Birkhead said he'd never seen anyone have the "multitude of medications" Smith was taking.

The photographer said when he suggested she was taking too many drugs, she replied, "I have a high tolerance because I'm in pain," he said.

Birkhead said he saw Stern give her medicine when she didn't feel well and knew he was picking up prescriptions for her at the pharmacy. Birkhead also said that when he once hid her Methadone, Stern scolded him and said she couldn't live without it.

Stern, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor and Eroshevich have pleaded not guilty to unlawfully provide excessive drugs to the Playboy model, prescribing to an addict and obtaining false prescriptions involving the use of fake names. They are not charged with causing her overdose death in 2007.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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