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'Clown video' raises questions about Anna Nicole Smith

By Alan Duke, CNN
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Anna Nicole thought child was gas
  • Anna Nicole Smith "clown video" was shot at a birthday party in Bahamas
  • 2006 video shows Smith acting uncertainly, to point where child doesn't know if she's acting
  • Tape is part of case trying to determine if Smith's boyfriend kept her in drug-induced stupor
  • Smith died February 8, 2007, of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- Video of Anna Nicole Smith appearing to mistake a doll for her unborn child was just the reality TV star acting for a camera, a defense lawyer for Howard K. Stern says.

Prosecutors presented the tape in a preliminary hearing last week as evidence that Stern and two doctors conspired to keep Smith in a drug stupor in the two years before her death.

In what has become known as the "clown video," a 9-year-old girl seems uncertain whether Smith is pretending or is really having "brain trouble."

Acting or not, Smith's face -- painted like a clown's -- is a disturbing sight in light of her death from "acute combined drug intoxication" six months later.

Stern shot the 45-minute-long video at Smith's Bahamas home on August 12, 2006, at a ninth birthday party for Riley Shelley, the daughter of a friend, according to court testimony.

Real or pretend?

The video begins with Stern -- behind the camera -- talking to "Mark." Other remarks suggested Mark was a video editor who he expected would get the tape.

"Riley, paint, paint Anna's face," Stern said to the child.

As the child draws the clown face on Smith, Stern is heard saying, "By the way, Mark, the post is white."

"Huh?" Smith said.

"I'm just giving somebody notes," Stern said. "Telling him that what color is white."

Stern is also heard directing the child.

"Riley, let me get just one tight one of you like you're doing her makeup," Stern said.


'Brain trouble'

One segment involved Riley telling Smith she could not go with her to a water park because of her pregnancy. Smith was responsive when Stern asked her to repeat a line.

Smith: "I want to go."

Riley: "You can't."

Smith: "Why not?"

Stern: "Cause of your baby."

Smith: "My baby's over there sleeping."

Stern: "Your other baby, your baby down there."

Riley: "Your baby down there."

Stern: "That one."

Smith: (Pointing to her pregnant abdomen) "I think I just have a little gas."

Stern: "Say it again. Say it again."

Smith: "I think I just, I think I'm just some gas trouble."

When Riley walks to the side of a swimming pool to get the doll -- which was a birthday gift to her from Smith -- Stern directs the child to do it again for the camera.

Stern: "Let me get a shot of the baby. Let me just get a shot of the baby. No. Yeah. Put it down, OK."

Riley: "Look. She's having brain trouble, brain trouble."

'Footage is worth money'

Another segment raises questions about whether Smith knew Stern's intentions with the video.

Stern: "Your boob just showed. Anna, watch your boob. Your right one. It just keeps popping out."

Riley: "I'll fix it."

Stern: "Don't show that Mark. If you even get this tape. This footage is worth money."

Smith: "Huh?"

Stern: "I said this footage is worth money."

Smith: "Why? What footage?"

Stern: "This thing you're looking into."

Smith: "That's the camera."

'Howard, seriously help'

At one point, Riley appeared to be confused and worried about Smith's condition.

Riley: "Anna? Hey, Bunny, Bunny."

Smith: "Uh, huh."

Riley: "Are you doing this all for the video?"

Smith: "Doing what?

Riley: "Caring for the baby."

Smith: "Huh? No, this is my baby."

Riley: "Howard, help. Howard, seriously help. Cut off the tape."

Key witnesses

Riley and her parents have become key witnesses in the criminal case against Stern and co-defendants Dr. Khristine Eroshevich and Dr. Sandeep Kapoor.

An investigator testified that Riley told him she saw Stern pour a liquid "medicine" for Smith before the video was recorded.

Riley's mother, Gina Shelley, also described seeing Stern feed pills to Smith, the investigator said.

Their testimony and the use of the "clown video" at trial, however, is complicated by the hostile relationship between the family and Stern.

Smith's estate, which Stern controls, is involved in a lawsuit against Riley's father, Ford Shelley. Stern says Shelley stole the tape from Smith's home the day after she died.

Segments of the video were broadcast in the weeks after Smith's death on February 8, 2007.

Shelley was already involved in a legal dispute with Smith before her death over ownership of the Bahamas house where she lived. She said the house in the Bahamas was a gift to her from Shelley's father-in-law, G. Ben Thompson.

Defense lawyers said the tape should not be admitted as evidence because, they said, a section that would have shown Smith was acting was edited out.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry said the video did not make a difference in his decision to send the case to trial.