LOS ANGELES – A judge delivered a harsh assessment Friday of the evidence and charges against two doctors and a lawyer in the ongoing Anna Nicole Smith drug conspiracy case.
The criticism came as Superior Court Judge Robert Perry reluctantly agreed to let jurors see a videotape of Smith on an awards show in a performance her former boyfriend Larry Birkhead testified was considered "loopy, wacky and crazy" by many people.
Perry said outside the jury's presence that he was concerned about the prosecution's case.
"It's the people's position that Anna Nicole was kept in a drugged state," Perry said. "They claim she was a pawn in the hands of her handlers and doctors who kept her in a drugged state to control her and her money."
The evidence so far does not support that, he said.
"I'm seeing a strong-willed person who ordered people around and was her own boss," Perry said.
Deputy District Attorney Renee Rose protested that she could understand the court's rulings if the case was going to be decided by a judge.
"But this is a case for a jury." she said.
Dr. Khristine Eroshevich, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor and Smith's boyfriend-lawyer Howard K. Stern have pleaded not guilty to prescribing to an addict as well as conspiring to provide excessive opiates and sedatives to the celebrity model. They are not charged with causing her 2007 overdose death in Florida.
The judge told Rose he saw the issues in the case as limited to whether Smith was an addict who was getting too many drugs and whether prescriptions were obtained under false names.
He said he was unable to tell whether Smith's demeanor in the 2004 American Music Awards videotape was the result of drugs or her normal acting style at staged events. He pointed out that a second video given to him by the defense showed Smith making statements four days later that the appearance helped her career.
"She's fairly entertaining and at her voluptuous best," Perry said. "It is, in the court's view, a very strong representation of the Anna Nicole personality ... My question is, is any of this real."
Perry went on to say, "The problem I have with this case is we have a very public figure .... We are a movie-watching, TV-watching nation. And as the defense has said, what we see on television is not always real."
When jurors returned to the courtroom, they were shown the AMA video as well as a pre-interview in which Smith touted her weight loss on a product she was promoting. In both segments, she waved her arms and was speaking with a slight slur.
Jurors also heard testimony from Birkhead, the father of Smith's daughter, who fought back tears when he described Smith's problems with seizures and other ailments.
He said she suffered a seizure the night before the AMA Awards and he had tried to convince her to cancel the appearance, but she refused.
"She was headstrong and she wanted to do it," he said.
He acknowledged that during the pre-interview, "she came across as being really loopy."
"Did you feel she was affected in part by drugs?" Rose asked.
"Yes, in part," he said.
Birkhead became emotional as he described Smith's health issues.
"She had tons of things wrong with her," he said. "But she also wanted to be babied. She liked people to cater to her."
Perry refused to let Rose show a video of Kapoor nuzzling and kissing Smith at a party after a 2005 gay parade. But the prosecutor was allowed to show still photos of the events.
In one picture, Kapoor was bare-chested. In another, he was standing with Smith and wearing a T-shirt with the inscription, "Trust me. I'm a doctor."
At day's end, another conflict erupted outside the presence of the jury, when the prosecutor sought to present pictures implying Birkhead had given a piece of Smith's jewelry to another woman. Perry said the images were not convincing that the other woman was wearing Smith's necklace.
"Ms. Rose, you are overreaching," he said. "Time and again you are grasping at straws. I'm very concerned about the way this case is charged and being prosecuted. If you're going to accuse someone, you should have some evidence."
Rose responded, "We understand the court doesn't like the way we are putting on our case, but we have a job to do."
She then asked to tell jurors that Birkhead recently held an auction of Smith's possessions in Las Vegas.
"Birkhead held an auction in Las Vegas? I say to you, so what?" Perry said. "I don't see the connection. Have a nice weekend." And he left the bench.
Birkhead was to resume testifying Monday.