Was Anna Nicole Smith a loopy drug addict led down the path to destruction by her boyfriend-lawyer and two doctors?
Or was she a clear-eyed celebrity who required a laundry list of prescription drugs to manage her chronic pain and broken heart?
After two months of testimony and a week of closing arguments, a Los Angeles jury on Tuesday will ponder those questions.
The panel will try to decide whether Howard K. Stern, 41, and doctors Sandeep Kapoor, 42, and Khristine Eroshevich, 62, are guilty of multiple felonies, including conspiring to furnish prescription drugs to an addict. The three are not charged with Smith’s 2007 death at age 39 from an accidental prescription overdose.
Prosecutors argued that the doctors, motivated by a desire for fame, crossed ethical boundaries by becoming too friendly with their patient.
“These defendants knew what they were doing was wrong,” Los Angeles District Attorney Renee Rose told the six man, six woman panel at the conclusion of closing arguments on Friday. “They knew their conduct was unlawful.”
The Defense Case
Defense attorneys argued that the charges were arbitrary and there were no such warnings to heed. Smith s daughter was not born drug addicted, they said, and Smith didn t have “any Lindsay Lohan incidents.”
During his nearly two-day closing argument, Stern s lawyer, Steve Sadow, said the prosecutors massaged and manipulated the evidence to mislead jurors. He said the prosecutor, for instance, showed photos of Smith with bruises on her face to let jurors think Stern hit her, but the marks were from Botox injections.
“They are seeing evil in every action,” Sadow suggests. “The prosecution’s overreaching in this case knows no bounds.”
And Sadow pointed to one of several ironies in the case: To bring down the three people blamed for Smith s downfall, the prosecution had to portray the sassy sex symbol as a drugged-out puppet of the alleged co-conspirators, someone who according to her Haitian nannies in the Bahamas would be carried out of the bathroom by Stern and Eroshevich as they left behind bloody syringes.
“How dare you degrade and disparage Anna’s life in such a critical, condescending way,” said Sadow, who insisted that, “Nobody told Anna not to do something. Nobody told Anna to do something.”
Same Evidence; Different Spin
Another irony: Both sides used much of the same evidence to suit their spin on questions that arose in the case.
Why was Smith was swimming and playing at a summer camp for children with AIDS just three months after she broke ribs in a jet ski accident in May 2004? Or jumping on a trampouline?
The prosecution suggests Smith exaggerated her rib injury pain to stock up on her favorite drugs. Kapoor s attorney, Ellyn Garofolo, suggests the swimming and jumping prove nothing more than that “the medicine was working.”
For prosecutors to establish that the three conspired to furnish drugs to an addict, they had to prove that Smith was in fact an addict and not, as the defense suggests, someone who developed a high tolerance for medications after years of treatment for chronic pain.
Smith was first treated in 1996 at the Betty Ford Center for addiction issues related to Vicodin and alcohol, and it later became clear that she was addicted to opiates and benzodiazepenes, Deputy District Attorney David Barkhurst explained.
“Her addiction started long before the crimes that we have charged,” the prosecutor said. “She had an addiction problem.”
Seduced by Fame?
Prosecutors suggested that Kapoor and Eroshevich cut corners for Smith because they were seduced by her fame and sexuality.
Rose introduced notes hidden in Kapoor’s closet indicating he was going against a colleague’s advice not to develop personal relationships with patients. “I was making out with Anna, my patient, blurring the lines,” Kapoor allegedly wrote. “I gave her methadone, Valium. Can she ruin me?”
Stern invited Kapoor, who is gay, to ride in a West Hollywood gay pride parade, Garofolo said. Kapoor became “somewhat inebriated.” He never saw Smith socially again.
“If he had not spent an afternoon with his shirt off, partying at a gay pride parade, he would not be sitting here,” she told jurors.