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Defense starts closing arguments in Anna Nicole Smith trial

By Alan Duke, CNN
The judge in the  Anna Nicole Smith trial has been highly critical of the prosecution's case.
The judge in the Anna Nicole Smith trial has been highly critical of the prosecution's case.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Prosecution concludes closing argument Tuesday afternoon
  • Prosecution argues Smith's doctors fed her drug addiction
  • The judge has been critical of the prosecution's case
  • Two counts against Smith's lawyer-boyfriend were tossed out

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- Doctors prescribed 2,360 pills to Anna Nicole Smith in the month before her death, a number that prosecutors told jurors Tuesday was evidence of a conspiracy to feed her drug addiction.

"You've all heard she was a strong gal," said Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Renee Rose during her closing argument Tuesday. "But when she's medicated, she's way more compliant."

Rose argued that her boyfriend-lawyer Howard K. Stern conspired with two doctors to keep the reality TV star drugged much of the last three years of her life.

On the judge's advice, Rose kept her closing arguments to four hours, less than the full day she had predicted she would use Tuesday. Defense lawyers began their closing arguments Tuesday afternoon, making it likely the jury would begin deliberations in the two-month trial by Thursday.

In their closing arguments Monday, prosecutors portrayed the actress as a lying, drug-seeking, out-of-control addict who manipulated two doctors to write excessive prescriptions for dangerous drugs over the last three years of her life.

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney David Barkhurst used two Norman Rockwell portraits to show jurors "what doctors should do," while painting Drs. Khristine Eroshevich and Sandeep Kapoor as physicians who fed Smith's addiction instead of treating her illnesses.

Doctors have a responsibility to protect patients "even from themselves," Barkhurst said.

Stern and the doctors are accused of conspiring to feed the reality TV star and Playboy model's drug addiction and using false names to obtain the drugs. The defendants are not charged in Smith's February 2007 death, which a Florida medical examiner ruled was from an accidental overdose of a sleep aid, a lethal mix of prescription drugs and a viral flu.

Judge Robert Perry has been highly critical of the prosecution's case, suggesting it was built from "a dead celebrity and a bunch of low-level misdemeanors." The judge said he decided to allow the case to go forward after another respected judge advised him to trust the jury system.

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Perry has questioned whether the prosecution has proved that Smith was an addict, as defined by California law, and not just dependent on drugs to relieve chronic pain.

"If she's being treated for pain, it's not illegal," Perry said last week.

Barkhurst, the first of two prosecutors to deliver closing arguments, said that at some point during the last three years of Smith's life, Eroshevich and Kapoor were no longer treating Smith's pain, "but were prescribing to treat her addiction."

"There is not a single physical test done on Anna Nicole Smith during the time Dr. Kapoor is treating her," Barkhurst said. He also said that Eroshevich kept no medical records of her care for Smith, but simply used her "prescription pad power" to provide controlled drugs to her.

Both doctors crossed ethical lines by developing personal friendships with Smith, Barkhurst told jurors.

"A doctor can't be both a physician and a friend," Barkhurst said.

He reminded jurors of photos shown earlier of Eroshevich naked with Smith in a hot tub at her Bahamas home months before her death.

"She is writing prescriptions to keep Anna Nicole euphoric, not to treat a medical condition," the prosecutor said.

He also read entries from Kapoor's personal diary, written after he and Smith attended a gay pride event.

"I was making out with Anna, my patient, blurring the lines," Kapoor's diary said.

Another diary entry was evidence Kapoor knew his prescriptions for Smith were illegal, Barkhurst said. "I give her methadone, Valium. Can she ruin me?"

Evidence that Smith was an addict dates back to 1996, when she voluntarily entered the Betty Ford Clinic, he argued.

Kapoor should have recognized that Smith was an addict when she first came to his office in April 2004 and asked for one of the most powerful painkillers available, Barkhurst said. "Anna Nicole Smith liked Dilaudid," he said. "She asked for what she liked."

Kapoor gave her another prescription for Dilaudid six weeks later, when Smith complained of pain from two ribs broken in a May 27, 2004, Jet Ski accident. "If she was on Dilaudid at the time she cracked her ribs, certainly she shouldn't be on a Jet Ski," Barkhurst said.

Kapoor ordered no X-rays or tests and did not take the time to call another doctor who treated her the day of the accident, he said.

Smith got Dilaudid from four different doctors that month, he said. A doctor who treated Smith at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in June 2006 testified that she concluded Smith was addicted to drugs, Barkhurst told jurors. When Dr. Natalie Maullin asked Kapoor then if Smith had any addiction issues, Kapoor laughed and said there have been some issues, Barkhurst said.

Two charges against Stern were thrown out by Perry, who questioned the evidence that Stern, a lawyer, knew it was illegal to get drugs in multiple names.

"It has all the hallmarks of a kitchen sink prosecution," Perry said last week. "It looks like the prosecution is throwing everything in with the hope that something will survive."

Perry hinted that if the defendants are found guilty, he would consider "possible selective prosecution issues" when sentencing them.

During the trial, prosecutors showed a 13-minute video of Smith bathing with her infant daughter months before her death to support their argument that Smith's speech was slurred and her mind was groggy from drugs.

Jurors were not allowed to see the video, which also shows Smith talking in a childlike manner during a birthday party for a 9-year-old girl.

The defense does not deny that Smith took a lot of drugs, but it says the doctors were treating her for chronic pain that other doctors had also diagnosed.

The prosecution's case was hampered by several key witnesses' recanting details of earlier statements, including a former nanny who said she never saw Stern injecting Smith with a needle.

"In Session" Correspondent Jean Casarez contributed to this report.