LOS ANGELES – Closing arguments began Monday in the drug conspiracy trial of Anna Nicole Smith's former boyfriend and two doctors, who are accused of plotting to satisfy her craving for painkillers and sedatives.
The prosecution began addressing jurors after Superior Court Judge Robert Perry warned them not to be swayed by sympathy or public opinion.
Howard K. Stern, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor and Dr. Khristine Eroshevich have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to provide excessive prescription drugs to the former Playboy model while knowing she was an addict.
They are not charged in her 2007 accidental overdose death in Florida.
The judge spent 40 minutes instructing jurors on the law governing their decisions and said they must only reach a conspiracy conviction if the defendants agreed to commit the alleged crimes.
The case could go to the jury by Thursday. The defendants face unspecified fines and prison sentences if convicted.
At issue is whether the former reality TV star was provided excessive prescription drugs and whether she was an addict or someone seeking relief.
Perry has been highly critical of the prosecution's presentation but speculation that he might dismiss many of the 11 charges fizzled last week when he announced he would dismiss only two counts against Stern and part of another charge against Stern and Kapoor.
"I think there are weaknesses in the prosecution's case," Perry said at the time. "But my inclination is to let it go to the jury."
Three defense attorneys, Steve Sadow for Stern, Brad Brunon for Eroshevich and Ellyn Garafalo for Kapoor are expected to argue for their clients to be acquitted, claiming they cared deeply for Smith and were trying to help her with legitimate medical concerns.
In eight weeks of testimony, the prosecution presented a long list of prescriptions for drugs, including opiates and sedatives acquired for Smith.
The defense has challenged witnesses who claimed Smith was an addict, and has tried to undermine the credibility of those who alleged Stern and Eroshevich were personally administering drugs to Smith in the months after the death of her son, Daniel, sent her into depression.
Attorneys have spent hours with the judge debating legal instructions for the jury that may help them sort out definitions of addiction and falsifying prescriptions.
The judge dismissed two charges against Stern of obtaining drugs for her by fraud and deceit, including use of false names. He also dismissed part of a conspiracy count against Stern and Kapoor, ruling there was insufficient proof the two men conspired to obtain controlled drugs through fraud and deceit.
Perry raised the unusual prospect that if he does not agree with jury convictions, he has the option to change the verdicts or order a new trial. He said he has done this in other cases.