Anna Nicole Smith judge was biased, prosecutors allege [Updated]
The judge who oversaw the trial over prescription drugs provided to late model Anna Nicole Smith was biased, acted arbitrarily and capriciously, and carved out a “celebrity exception” to state law, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office alleged in papers filed with an appellate court Monday.
The prosecution’s appeal followed the extraordinary step taken by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry in January to dismiss all but one misdemeanor conviction from a jury’s decision finding two defendants guilty of conspiracy to obtain medications under a false name.
He said at the time that the verdicts against Smith’s longtime companion Howard K. Stern and psychiatrist Khristine Eroshevich were not supported by evidence.
In the opening brief filed Monday in its appeal of Perry’s ruling, prosecutors wrote that the judge had repeatedly expressed “antipathy” toward them throughout the trial, calling their case a “kitchen-sink prosecution” and accusing them of being influenced by the “celebrity nature” of the case.
“Having repeatedly and unequivocally expressed its bias against this case and the trial prosecutors, the court granted the new trial motions and dismissed the case ... because the court wanted to usurp the charging power of the People,” they wrote.
Prosecutors said evidence at trial showed that when Eroshevich wrote prescriptions for sedatives under Stern’s name to be given to Smith, the concern wasn’t for her privacy but to avoid detection by state authorities. Perry’s finding that Stern was concerned about Smith’s privacy and his remark that “there is a strong interest on the part of celebrities for privacy” was in effect “creating a celebrity exception” to the law, they wrote.
“There is simply no legal authority or medical practice evidence to justify an exception allowing a prescription to be written in anything but the intended user’s true name,” they wrote in Monday’s filing.
Bradley Brunon, who represented Eroshevich at trial, said Perry had been neutral during the trial and that the prosecutors' new filing was “another pathetic effort to get their way in the courtroom.” Stern’s attorney was not immediately available for comment.
[Updated, 7:11 p.m.: Late Monday, Steve Sadow, Stern's attorney, emailed: "As the lead trial lawyer for Mr. Stern and having spent three months in the courtroom with these prosecutors, it does not surprise me one bit that they would try to blame Judge Perry, a fundamentally fair and well-respected trial judge, for their failed attempt to convict my client.
"Any displeasure expressed by Judge Perry with the prosecution's case was not only justified but deserved. The evidence was woefully insufficient to convict and the trial judge showed real courage in rightfully exercising his discretion to ensure justice was served."]
Smith died in 2007 of an accidental overdose in Hollywood, Fla. A third doctor, her primary care physician, Sandeep Kapoor, was acquitted of all charges by the jury. The three defendants had initially faced a total of 23 counts of illegally prescribing and obtaining powerful sedatives and opiates for Smith.
-- Victoria Kim
Photo: Anna Nicole Smith. Credit: L.A. Times