Jury Acquits on Most Serious Charges: Anna Nicole Smith Addiction Trial
After 58 hours of deliberation, the jury in the trial of Howard K. Stern, boyfriend/manager of Anna Nicole Smith, acquitted him on 7 of the 9 counts he was facing, most of which charged him with providing drugs to "an addict."
He was convicted of two counts, for using a false name on a prescription and conspiring to obtain controlled substances by fraud. (His name instead of Anna's were on some of the prescriptions.)
Bottom line: The jury did not find anyone prescribed or delivered drugs to "an addict."
"The whole case here was based on the idea that Anna was some drug-seeking, drug-crazed addict ... for that part of the people's case, Howard was acquitted across the board," said Stern's attorney, Steve Sadow, who emphasized that his client was convicted only of using false names to obtain medication, which he contended was for Smith's privacy.
Anna Nicole Smith's psychiatrist, Dr. Khristine Eroshevic, was also convicted on those two counts and acquitted on five other counts. The jury deadlocked on two counts against her.
The doctor who prescribed the drugs, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, was acquitted on all counts. His take:
"This is really a victory not just for me ... but for patients all over the country who suffer chronic pain and physicians who treat chronic pain," he said.
The prosecution argument:
Prosecutors contended during the nine-week trial that the defendants were dazzled by Smith's glamor and filled her demands for prescription drugs to protect their insider status in her personal life and her celebrity world.
The judge's instructions:
Superior Court Judge Robert Perry told the jury of six women and six men that a doctor who has a good faith belief that a patient is in pain is not guilty of a crime for prescribing controlled substances to relieve suffering.
...The judge, however, warned that numbers of pills were not the measure of addiction. "To violate (the law) a defendant must willfully and knowingly prescribe, administer or dispense a controlled substance to an addict for a non-therapeutic purpose," Perry instructed the jury.
This trial was a colossal waste of resources. 9 weeks of testimony. Four district attorneys were assigned to the case full time.
The district attorney's office spent more than $40,000 to fly out two of Smith's Bahamian nannies and their security personnel for what one attorney called "fairly nonessential testimony."
The maximum sentence for Stern and the pyschiatrist is three years. With no prior record, and given the jury's refusal to convict on the more serious charges, I suspect they will get probation. But one doctor's career is likely over, and Stern will be a convicted felon.
And how was this relevant to the charges?
[Prosecutors] accused Kapoor and Eroshevich of crossing boundaries between their professional and personal relationships, showing the jury Kapoor's journal, in which the doctor wrote about attending a gay-pride parade with Smith, and a photo of Smith and Eroshevich naked and embracing in a bathtub.
LA District Attorney Steve Cooley says about the conviction:
This case illustrates the problem of the overuse of prescription medicine in today's society," he said. "Medical professionals have a responsibility to ensure that the strict ethical guidelines of their profession are followed in prescribing medicine as part of the care of their patients."
Except this case didn't illustrate that problem. Nor was it about "society" in general. It was about one famous woman, who lived her life in pain, which her doctors and boyfriend tried to alleviate. The jury didn't find the amount of drugs prescribed to her was excessive or unnecessary. They merely found Stern's name shouldn't have been on any of the prescriptions.
I really hope California voters reject Steve Cooley for Attorney General November 2.
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