Anna Nicole Smith’s psychiatrist and boyfriend were convicted of conspiring to use false names to obtain prescription drugs for the reality TV star.
But the Los Angeles jury last night acquitted the doctor who prescribed a plethora of drugs for the 39-year-old former Playboy model.
During the nine-week trial prosecutors said the defendants were dazzled by Smith’s glamour and filled her demands for prescription drugs to protect their insider status in her personal life and her celebrity world.
The jury was asked to decide if the three were trying to relieve Smith’s emotional and physical pain or were feeding her addiction to prescription drugs.
Smith eventually died of an accidental drug overdose in Florida in 2007, but the defendants were not charged in connection with her death.
Dr Sandeep Kapoor said today he felt “shellshocked and exhilarated” about being cleared.
“This is not just a victory for me, but for patients everywhere who suffer chronic pain,” an emotional Dr Kapoor said outside the court.
His lawyer Ellyn Garofalo said it also was a victory in some ways for Smith. “The jury found she was not an addict,” Ms Garofalo said.
The only conviction against Smith’s boyfriend-lawyer Howard Stern was for giving false names and acting by fraud to obtain prescriptions. He was cleared of seven other charges.
As he left the court, Stern said the lone conviction came from him trying to protect Smith’s privacy.
Along with conspiracy, psychiatrist Khristine Eroshevich was convicted of unlawfully prescribing Vicodin by fraud. The jury was deadlocked on several counts against her.
Her lawyer, Brad Brunon, said he would probably move for a new trial and might ask to have the charges against her reduced to misdemeanours.
The defendants had been charged with conspiracy, excessive prescribing of opiates and sedatives to an addict, and fraudulently obtaining drugs by using false names.
Stern, 41, had been Smith’s lawyer, manager, lover and friend since they met in 2001. Testimony showed they were inseparable, even when she was involved with other men.
At the heart of the drug case was the question of whether Smith became dependent on opiates and sedatives after being diagnosed and treated for chronic pain syndrome and illnesses including seizures, migraines and spinal pain.
Superior Court judge Robert Perry told the jury a doctor who had a good-faith belief that a patient was in pain was not guilty of a crime for prescribing controlled substances to relieve suffering.
While presenting their case, prosecutors displayed multiple prescriptions to Smith for heavy painkillers such as Dilaudid, Demarol, Vicodin and Methadone, as well as anti-anxiety drugs and sedatives including Ambien, Xanax, Valium and Chloral Hydrate. In one month, they said, Smith received 1,500 pills.
The judge, however, warned that numbers of pills were not the measure of addiction.
The story of Smith’s final years stretched from Los Angeles to the Bahamas with stops along the way in South Carolina and Florida, where her overdose death was ruled accidental.
The two doctors were also close to Smith during her final years and their lawyers portrayed them as angels of mercy trying to help her before and after she gave birth to her daughter by Caesarean section, then quickly lost her 20-year-old son Daniel to a drug overdose.
He died in her hospital room after coming to visit his new half-sister on September 10 2006. Smith later named the baby Dannielynn in his memory.
Stern initially claimed the baby was his until DNA tests made clear the father was photographer Larry Birkhead, who now has custody of the child.
Defence lawyer Steve Sadow, representing Stern, said Smith was the love of his client’s life and he would never harm her. He also said Stern was not a doctor and was relying on medical professionals to do the right thing for Smith.
Dr Kapoor, 42, wrote numerous prescriptions for opiates and sedatives during the period he treated Smith. His lawyer said he followed a drug regimen originated by Smith’s previous doctor who sold his practice to Dr Kapoor.
Eroshevich, 63, was Smith’s neighbour and friend before treating her as a psychiatrist. Prosecutors claimed the friendship violated professional ethics and called a pharmacist who said the amount of drugs Eroshevich requested for Smith at one point would have amounted to pharmaceutical suicide.
The pharmacist refused to fill the request, and prosecutors showed Eroshevich used other pharmacies to get most of the drugs and took them to Smith in the Bahamas.