Lawyers for Larry Birkhead say they "have no problem with the release of the body"

By Pete Norman and Stephen M. Silverman
Updated February 14, 2007 10:30 AM

Anna Nicole Smith’s body can be released, a California judge said on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Florida Circuit Judge Lawrence Korda, citing a California court’s order for DNA testing on Smith, ruled that the former Playmate’s body should be held as part of the ongoing custody battle over Smith’s 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn. A Los Angeles judge subsequently rescinded the DNA order, which opens the way for the body to be released.

“California has no need for the body of Anna Nicole,” James Neavitt, an attorney for Smith’s companion, Howard K. Stern, told the Associated Press.

However, Smith’s body will remain at least one more night in the medical examiner’s office in Florida after a judge there postponed a ruling Wednesday on a request from Stern, to have the body released to him for burial.

The probate hearing on Stern’s request will resume at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

Earlier in the day, attorneys for photographer Larry Birkhead, 34, one of a few men claiming to be the baby’s father, had petitioned a Florida court to uphold the earlier California ruling for DNA tests. However, his lawyer Debra Opri, issued a statement saying they would not fight the release of the body.

“Based upon the determination of our lab this weekend that we had sufficient DNA samples, we notified both parties we have no problem with the release of the body of Anna Nicole Smith,” Opri said in a statement Wednesday. “We are satisfied at this point that a Florida court will turn over the DNA samples necessary to satisfy the California courts paternity test order.”

Broward County’s medical examiner, Joshua Perper, has warned that Smith’s remains are decomposing and should be released as soon as possible.

It’s not clear who it will take charge of Smith’s body once it’s released.

Stern has said he wants to carry out Smith’s wishes to be buried in the Bahamas near her son Daniel, who died last fall. Smith’s estranged mother, Vergie Arthur, also has said she wants to obtain the body, for possible burial in Smith’s native Texas.

Ron Rale, the attorney who had represented Smith in the paternity court battle, said: “According to Anna’s wishes, it (the body) should be released to Howard Stern, not to Vergie. No one should go about touching Anna Nicole.”

In an earlier court development in the Bahamas, Stern was ordered not to take Smith’s daughter Dannielynn from the country, a judge ruled Tuesday after hearing pleas from the late centerfold’s mother.

Justice Stephen Isaacs granted Arthur’s request for an injunction against Stern’s taking Dannielynn out of the country after the grandmother stated that she fears for the baby’s safety should she be placed in the care of Anna Nicole’s partner.

Though Stern is listed as the father on Dannielynn’s birth certificate, Arthur believes that the father is really photographer Larry Birkhead, who has a lawsuit pending in which he claims paternity. A hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday.

“I’d like to see the baby,” Arthur told New York’s Daily News. “I’d like to see Larry have the child.”

Stern has said that he’ll never let Anna Nicole’s mother have the baby. “Anna, she just despised that woman,” he told Entertainment Tonight. “As long as I have one breath left in my body, that woman will not see Dannielynn.”

Meanwhile, the Bahamian official who was photographed cavorting on a bed with Anna Nicole is denying that his friendship with the former Playmate influenced his decision to grant her residency on the Caribbean island.

The Tribune of Nassau published front-page photos on Monday of Smith embracing Immigration Minister Shane Gibson in a bed, both fully clothed. The images were allegedly taken from a computer stolen from Smith’s waterfront residence, according to Stern. He told Entertainment Tonight that he had photographed the pair.