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After two moths of testimony and thirteen days of deliberation, the jury in the Anna Nicole Smith trial entered its verdict on Thursday, October 28th. The jury found Anna Nicole’s boyfriend/lawyer, Howard K. Stern, and her psychiatrist, Dr. Khristine Eroshevich, guilty of conspiring to provide drugs using false names, but acquitted or hung on other charges. Additionally, Defendant Dr. Sandeep Kapoor was acquitted of all charges.
The jury heard a lot of evidence over the course of the trial about the different types and quantity of drugs that Anna Nicole Smith received over the last few months of her life. Ultimately, the jury was faced with deciding whether Stern and the doctors were acting to feed a drug habit or to treat legitimate, chronic pain. And they struggled to answer it, deliberating for fifty-eight hours and sending several questions to the judge.
With this verdict, the Defendants are declaring the trial a victory. Despite the fact that he was found guilty on two counts, Stern stated that his actions were “to protect Anna Nicole’s privacy and it was nothing more than that.” However, despite his minimalization of the charges, Stern faces up to three years in jail.
This trial presented a variety of ethical questions as lawyers on both sides exchanged accusations. Prosecutors allege that the Defendants knowingly fed drugs to an addict to stay close to the celebrity, even when doing so was dangerous to her health. The relationship between Hollywood and drugs has come into focus recently as stars such as Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan have publicly struggled with addiction. Moreover, the drug-related deaths of Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, and Anna Nicole Smith have raised questions about the relationships between stars and their doctors.
Although Stern and Anna Nicole’s doctors have insisted that the false names on prescriptions were necessary to protect her identity, it is not clear why this is the case when pharmacists and doctors are required to keep patient information confidential. Additionally, when doctors become involved in the personal lives of the stars they treat, they need to question their own motivations when prescribing high-strength painkillers and anti-anxiety medications.
Meanwhile, the defense attorneys have suggested that the state overreached and that the trial was a witch-hunt motivated by tabloid stories. Celebrity may have played a role on this side of the story as well. The trial judge, prior to the entry of the verdict, hinted that if any Defendants were found guilty he would consider “selective prosecution issues” at sentencing. Furthermore, several charges were dismissed after the close of the prosecution’s case for lack of sufficient evidence.
It seems that the basic moral to this tragic case is that doctors and lawyers need to wary being overwhelmed by the glamour of Hollywood, and remember that their duties to their patients or to the law take precedence.
– Joanna Barry
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