Inside Daniel Smith's Inquest

This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," March 26, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Anna Nicole's seemingly healthy son Daniel mysteriously died in his mother's hospital room in September. But there may soon be some answers about what exactly happened.

At 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, the inquest into Daniel's suspicious death will begin in the Bahamas. Chief Magistrate Roger Gomez will preside over the inquest. He gives you the inside track of what will go down beginning tomorrow.


VAN SUSTEREN: Where are we?

ROGER GOMEZ, CHIEF MAGISTRATE, BAHAMAS: You are in the Coroner's Court in Royal Victoria Gardens, Nassau, Bahamas. Most beautiful country in the world.

VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed it is. And you are a magistrate, which means what?

GOMEZ: I'm chief magistrate of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. I'm in charge of a team of magistrates consisting of about 14 permanent magistrates. And each magistrate is also a coroner, so which means in cases like this, a magistrate, any magistrate can be appointed to act as a coroner.

VAN SUSTEREN: This is a magistrate's courtroom. Give me a little tour. When — for an inquest, I take it up in the black leather seat, that's where you would — that's the bench? That's where you sit?

GOMEZ: Yes. Yes. That's where the coroner sits.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is over here, this table over here?

GOMEZ: This is not the usual setup for the court. We tried to put this arrangement in place to hold more seating, because we realize a lot of press members here who are interested in covering the case. So all this area here is going to be for the press.

VAN SUSTEREN: So even the table is for the press?


VAN SUSTEREN: So then this second table here in the courtroom, is this routinely here in the courtroom?

GOMEZ: No. We normally have one long table stretching straight across to cover for the lawyers, the lawyers to sit.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what, you expect lawyers here, or is this more press or people for this inquest?

GOMEZ: Going to be press here. Lawyers. This table here. And lawyers at this table over here.

VAN SUSTEREN: And who would have a lawyer at an inquest? For this inquest, who's going to have a — who would have a lawyer?

GOMEZ: Any witness who is called can bring his lawyer with him. Most of them, we don't expect to bring lawyers. But the more important witnesses, I'm sure they will have their lawyers.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is the purpose of an inquest to determine cause and manner of death?

GOMEZ: Yes. It's basically where, when and how. In this case, we know where he died — at Doctors Hospital — and when he died. The question that we'll be looking into is how he died, the circumstances under which he died.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what kind of witnesses do you call? You call fact witnesses who might have known something, and also expert witnesses?

GOMEZ: Yes. Fact and expert witnesses.

VAN SUSTEREN: And then after you make your determination, what do you do with it? What happens to it?

GOMEZ: The attorney general acts on the determination that is made by the coroner's jury.

VAN SUSTEREN: And you say coroner's jury, is that — do you make the decision or do you have a jury?

GOMEZ: No, the jury of seven persons, who will be seated right in the corner here.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. So here is the jury right here?

GOMEZ: That's the jury room. Yes, the seven people right here. They make a decision as to what we should do, and then the recommendation is sent to the attorney general's office, and the attorney general makes the final decision.

VAN SUSTEREN: How many options are there for this jury? I mean, what are the likely — I mean, you could say that accidental death...

GOMEZ: Yes, quite a few. Accidental death. You can say murder, manslaughter, suicide, dead by misadventure.

VAN SUSTEREN: If the jury decides a death is accidental, does that totally end it, or can the attorney general overrule that and go beyond it?

GOMEZ: Yes, the attorney general still has the power to continue with the investigations and to overrule the decision, but they normally accept the decision of the coroner. Only if new evidence comes up afterwards would they look into it more.

VAN SUSTEREN: If it's murder, does the attorney general have the ability to reject that as well?

GOMEZ: Yes. And they can decide, for example, if — I'm not talking about this particular case now, but in general...


GOMEZ: In general, the attorney general has the power to reduce and take the manslaughter, if they think the circumstances are such for manslaughter. But there must be some evidence to support the decision made by the jury, so that's why they are warned only to consider the evidence as brought before the court. And especially in this case, we have given them a double warning, so to speak, because of the great media attention that's happening.

VAN SUSTEREN: If you don't like the inquest decision, what the jury says, decides — you are a party to it for some reason, a family member who died — is there any right to appeal, or do you have to wait until it goes to the attorney general and goes to court, and goes to trial court and go that route?

GOMEZ: You will have to wait until it goes through the AG's office. There is no appeal from here.

VAN SUSTEREN: The seven people who will serve on this jury, are they picked for a month and it's just luck of the draw, or where do you get these seven people?

GOMEZ: Oh, it's luck of the draw.

VAN SUSTEREN: Luck of the draw. Is it from the voters? Do you pick from the voters?

GOMEZ: Mainly voters' lists.

VAN SUSTEREN: So, are any of them experienced to know if they — I mean, typically?

GOMEZ: All of them sat on juries before.


GOMEZ: The witness box.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does the witness — the witness — there is no chair?

GOMEZ: No, the witness in the Bahamas always stands. Unless...

VAN SUSTEREN: Unless you can't stand.

GOMEZ: Yes, unless you can't stand.

VAN SUSTEREN: So the witness stands. There is the Bible, you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

GOMEZ: Exactly what we use.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does the witness look towards you, the magistrate, or towards the jury when the witness speaks?

GOMEZ: Usually towards the magistrate. Except when they are being cross-examined. Then they will look towards the lawyer who's doing the questioning.

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, so it's not just the magistrate who gets to question?

GOMEZ: No. In this case, Chief Inspector Neely will be leading off the questioning of the witnesses.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is that? Is that like a prosecutor, or what...?

GOMEZ: Yes, somewhat of a prosecutor, but he would be leading the evidence.

VAN SUSTEREN: And who would do the questioning, the cross-examining? Would that be the lawyer for the witness?

GOMEZ: Yes. The lawyer for the witness will be cross-examining.

VAN SUSTEREN: So we would expect possibly...

GOMEZ: And...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... you could have several lawyers over the course of the next three weeks doing cross-examination.

GOMEZ: Oh, yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: But one prosecutor inspector.

GOMEZ: Yes. And of course, the coroner would have the right to ask questions as well.


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