LOS ANGELES — Two doctors violated their responsibility to protect Anna Nicole Smith by prescribing massive amounts of drugs with the connivance of her lawyer-boyfriend, even though they knew she was addicted to painkillers, a prosecutor argued Wednesday.
But a defense attorney for Howard K. Stern said he loved Smith and depended on doctors to prescribe the right medications for her chronic pain. He said she was not an addict.
Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, was in the courtroom with other relatives — a reminder of protracted court battles in the Bahamas and Florida after Smith died of a drug overdose in February 2007.
The contentions of Deputy District Attorney Renee Rose came during opening statements at the conspiracy trial of Stern, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor and Dr. Khristine Eroshevich, who are accused of providing vast amounts of powerful opiates and sedatives for the Playboy model under multiple names.
"None of it could have happened without Mr. Stern," Rose added during her two-hour presentation in Superior Court.
Stern's attorney, Steve Sadow, was the first to present the defense position. He said Stern was many things to Smith — lawyer, adviser, friend, manager and boyfriend.
"He cared for her and cherished her. He loved her," said Sadow. "Witness after witness will tell you that.
"This is not a made-for-TV movie," he said. "This is his life."
He said jurors would not be able to find a bad motive for Stern's actions. But he separated him from the other defendants.
"Howard K. Stern relied in good faith on the medical judgment of her doctors. He relied on their judgment on what was medically right and necessary for Anna Nicole Smith. Anna Nicole had pain, real pain, chronic pain."
Sadow stressed that Stern is not a doctor and suggested there was no conspiracy because, "If you don't know there's something wrong with what you're doing, there can't be an illegal agreement."
Stern and the doctors have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to illegally furnishing the drugs. Each could face more than five years in prison if convicted, and the doctors would lose their medical licenses.
They are not accused of causing Smith's 2007 overdose death at age 39 — a fact that Judge Robert Perry has stressed to jurors.
He previously told panelists they must not confuse the trial with the issues in the case of Michael Jackson's doctor, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter.
"What we are trying is a legality of prescribing medication case," Perry said.
Lawyers for the doctors and Stern have suggested they were desperately trying to save the doomed model during a period when she gave birth to a daughter and lost her grown son to a drug overdose.
During her opening statement, Rose displayed pictures on a courtroom screen of prescriptions for hundreds of pills, including Dilaudid, a drug known as "hospital heroin," and methadone in pill, liquid and injectible form.
"Anna Nicole Smith took a lot of methadone for pain and she took Dilaudid on top of that," Rose said.
Jurors also were shown pictures of Eroshevich with Smith following the 2006 birth of the model's daughter, Dannielynn.
Rose said they had become close friends and the psychiatrist kept no medical records of her treatment, even though she was prescribing several drugs.
Rose also argued that Kapoor filled Smith's prescriptions, even though another doctor warned that she was an addict.
The prosecutor said Smith went to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in 2006, where doctors advised weaning her from drugs because of her pregnancy.
But as soon as she was released, Kapoor immediately began prescribing drugs for her again, Rose contended.
The prosecutor quoted from a diary kept by Kapoor that spoke of the "mesmerizing" effect of being with a celebrity and added: "Can she ruin me?"
Smith died of what was ruled an accidental overdose of at least nine medications at a Florida hotel.
Rose also suggested that Smith was a coconspirator because she demanded drugs from doctors. Sadow accused the prosecutor of trying to say Smith "was a criminal" when all she wanted was to ease her pain. He described her as a strong willed and independent woman who took control of most things in her life including her medications.