2 defense lawyers present closing arguments in Anna Nicole Smith drug case

By Linda Deutsch, AP
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lawyers make final arguments in Smith drug case

LOS ANGELES — Anna Nicole Smith was plagued by unremitting pain most of her life, and her doctors did not break the law by prescribing medications to help her, attorneys for two physicians told jurors Wednesday in their closing arguments at the drug conspiracy trial.

Drs. Khristine Eroshevich and Sandeep Kapoor acted responsibly in prescribing drugs for Smith, the lawyers said, denying contentions by prosecutors that Smith was faking her pain to get drugs.

“Pain is as real as the person feeling it,” said attorney Brad Brunon, who represents Eroshevich. “The pain that is emotionally based is as excruciating as any other pain.”

Lawyer Ellyn Garafalo, who represents Kapoor, said not a single witness had testified that Smith was faking her problems.

“No one has told you the medications were for anything but pain and related conditions such as anxiety,” she said.

Eroshevich, Kapoor and Smith’s lawyer-boyfriend Howard K. Stern have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to provide excessive prescription drugs to an addict and other charges. They are not charged in Smith’s 2007 accidental overdose death.

Stern’s lawyer was scheduled to make his closing statement Thursday.

A suggestion that Smith should have been taken off pain medications when she felt better was like telling a diabetic to stop taking insulin or patients to stop blood pressure medicine when they improved, Garafalo said.

“Chronic pain is a disease,” she said. “It does not go away.”

Witnesses testified during the nine-week trial that Smith suffered from chronic pain syndrome, migraines, back pain, insomnia and fractured ribs during the period when she was treated by the defendants.

The doctors were acting lawfully in prescribing opiates and sedatives for her as long as they had a good faith belief that she was in pain, Brunon said.

He recalled a trip by Eroshevich to the Bahamas to take medications to Smith as an emergency mission in the aftermath of Smith giving birth to her daughter then losing her 20-year-old son the next day to a drug overdose.

“People on the ground saw her as caring for Anna Nicole Smith,” Brunon said of Eroshevich. “And what is her reward? She’s dragged through this, her name is ruined, and she’s publicly humiliated.”

Both lawyers tried to deflect jurors’ attention from pictures presented by prosecutors of Eroshevich and Smith naked in a bathtub, and separate shots of Kapoor nuzzling Smith’s neck.

Eroshevich was trying to have “a light moment with Anna Nicole,” Brunon said. “They’re trying to prejudice you against her with something that has nothing to do with this.”

Garafalo said diary entries by Kapoor showed he knew he might have crossed the line by socializing with his patient.

“He never saw Anna Nicole Smith in a social setting again,” the lawyer said.

Still, that single afternoon did not compromise his medical judgment, the lawyer said, noting Kapoor was following a treatment plan set out for Smith by another doctor who sold his practice to Kapoor.

Dr. Victor Kovner first diagnosed Smith with chronic pain syndrome and prescribed painkillers and anti-anxiety medication, Garafalo said.

Kapoor agreed with Kovner that Smith may have become dependent and tolerant of drugs, but she was not an addict, the attorney said.

Even if jurors disagreed with the treatment, “it’s medical judgment, and medical judgment badly exercised is not criminal conduct,” Garafalo said.

The lawyer concluded by telling jurors: “If Anna Nicole Smith were not a celebrity, Dr. Kapoor would not be sitting here … Dr. Kapoor has not been shown to be guilty of anything.”

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