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Jurors begin deliberations in Anna Nicole Smith drug trial

By Alan Duke, CNN
Anna Nicole Smith died in 2007 from what a Florida medical examiner ruled was "acute combined drug intoxication."
Anna Nicole Smith died in 2007 from what a Florida medical examiner ruled was "acute combined drug intoxication."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Howard K. Stern and 2 doctors are charged with feeding Smith's addiction
  • Defense lawyers argued the actress needed drugs for pain, not an addiction
  • They are not charged in Smith's death

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- Jurors in the drug trial of Anna Nicole Smith's boyfriend-lawyer Howard K. Stern and two doctors begin deliberations Tuesday morning.

The case raised questions about ethical boundaries in a doctor-patient relationship, the prescribing of painkillers and anti-anxiety medicines and the use of fake names when treating celebrities.

The prosecution alleged that Stern and Drs. Sandeep Kapoor and Khristine Eroshevich conspired to feed the reality TV star and Playboy model's drug addiction and using false names to obtain the drugs over the last three years of her life.

They are not charged in Smith's February 2007 death in a Florida hotel, which a medical examiner ruled was an accidental overdose of a sleep aid combined with a viral flu.

While the prosecution presented nearly two months of testimony, the defense called only one witness -- an expert who concluded that Smith suffered from chronic pain, depression and anxiety, not drug addiction.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry suggested during the trial that prosecutors fell short of proving Smith was a drug addict as defined by California law.

The defense argued her drug dependency was legal since it was for legitimate medical purposes, including for treatment of her pain and anxiety.

Video: Smith appears drugged in video
Video: Anna Nicole Smith trial may set precedent
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Jurors saw photos 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," Deputy District Attorney David Barkhurst said.

Barkhurst read entries from Kapoor's personal diary, written after he and Smith rode together in a gay pride event.

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

The prosecution said the doctors never said no to Smith's drug seeking because they wanted to be part of her celebrity entourage.

Kapoor began treating Smith in April 2004 after he bought the practice of Dr. Victor Kovner, who had been Smith's doctor for the three previous years.

His painkiller prescriptions were written with the name Michelle Chase, an alias he inherited from Kovner. Evidence showed it was a Burbank hospital that originated the usage of the fake name.

Prosecutors argued the false names were used by Stern and the doctors to hide excessive prescriptions from the state's computer system that monitors drug usage.

The defense said it is a common practice in Hollywood, used to protect celebrities' privacy from prying tabloid reporters.

A long list of other doctors who treated Smith wrote prescriptions in other names, including physicians who treated her at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center seven months before her death, Kapoor defense lawyer Ellyn Garofalo said.

Eroshevich, a psychiatrist, became friends with Smith because they were next-door neighbors in Studio City, California.

She flew to Smith's side in the Bahamas when her 20-year-old son died in the same hospital room where Smith was recovering from the birth of her daughter three days earlier.

The prosecution argued Eroshevich had no business traveling to another country to treat a patient when there were plenty of doctors in the Bahamas.

"Life happens," Barkhurst told jurors in his closing. "People suffer losses."

Stern defense lawyer Steve Sadow said Barkhurst "trivialized and belittled Anna's heartbreaking loss" by arguing Smith's physical and emotional pain after a C-section delivery and her son's death did not justify the drugs she was given.

"The best of times became a horrible nightmare, a nightmare that Anna never escaped," Sadow said. Smith died five months later.

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.

Judge Perry hinted that if the defendants are found guilty, he would consider "possible selective prosecution issues" when sentencing them. He would have the power to reduce most of the charges to misdemeanors.

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