Judge tells prosecutors to simplify charges in Anna Nicole Smith drug conspiracy caseBy Linda Deutsch, AP
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Judge wants simplified charges in Anna Nicole case
LOS ANGELES — A judge has urged prosecutors to simplify the document charging drug conspiracy charges against Anna Nicole Smith’s two doctors and boyfriend, warning that jurors may have trouble understanding the complex case.
Looking at the lengthy complaint, Superior Court Judge Robert Perry asked prosecutors: “Are you trying to impress the jury with so many charges or abuse the jury?… I think it hurts your case when you complicate it.”
Perry began whittling away alleged acts in the charging document Tuesday and gave prosecutors time to “clean up” the allegations before he rules on excluding more. He scheduled further hearings Wednesday that will culminate in rulings on whether any of the charges should be dismissed before reaching the jury.
Testimony concluded Monday against Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, Dr. Khristine Eroshevich and Smith’s lawyer-boyfriend Howard K. Stern. All three have pleaded not guilty to providing Smith with excessive prescription drugs while knowing she was an addict. They are not charged in the 2007 overdose death of Smith.
Perry threw out 18 of the 39 overt acts listed to support one of the three charges that the defendants conspired to provide excessive opiates and sedatives to a person they knew was addicted.
He has not yet thrown out any charges or ruled on whether prosecutors proved there was a conspiracy. Most of the overt acts targeted by the judge were excluded because they included too many dates and involved actions that did not support a conspiracy, he said.
He stopped short of striking more of the 81 total overt acts alleged in the complaint and gave prosecutors time to eliminate some of them.
In an added complication, defense lawyers pointed out that some of the 11 counts may be misdemeanors, which are covered by a statute of limitations. If they don’t meet time requirements they would have to be thrown out.
Perry has been critical of the prosecution case and previously said some charges would likely be dismissed. But he noted now that “There is a presumption (in the law) in favor of letting cases go to the jury.”
The legal arguments took up so much time that the judge delayed closing arguments until Monday to allow for all the complications to be resolved.
The judge rejected an 11th hour move by prosecutors to add Smith as an uncharged coconspirator in the alleged plan to provide her with excessive drugs.
He said such a theory conflicted with the prosecution’s original theory that Smith was kept drugged against her will.
“We never contended she was kept drugged up against her will,” Deputy District Attorney Sean Carney countered.
The judge disagreed and said evidence during the trial showed Smith “was a willing drug taker.”
Defense attorneys objected to adding new co-conspirators, saying it would change the case and was unfair to the defendants.
(This version CORRECTS story to say closing arguments will be Monday.)