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Court Reconsiders Howard K. Stern Appeal, Reaches Same Conclusion

By Robyn Hagan Cain on April 01, 2013 5:13 PM

Nothing is ever simple when it comes to Anna Nicole Smith.

Smith, (real name: Vicki Lynn Marshall) spent years tangled in legal battles over late husband J. Howard Marshall’s fortune. That case went all the way to the Supreme Court. Smith’s estate eventually lost.

There was also the paternity battle over her daughter: both boyfriend/attorney Howard K. Stern and ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead claimed to be the girl’s father. DNA testing later proved that Birkhead was the father.

And then there was the criminal trial targeting Stern and Smith’s doctor, Khristine Eroshevich. In 2009, they were accused of conspiring to illegally provide Smith with sedatives and opiates before she died.

Eroshevich and Stern were convicted after a jury trial. After the verdicts were returned, the trial court granted Stern's motion for a new trial, finding that the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law. Judge Robert Perry then dismissed the charges against Stern and Eroshevich.

In October, California's Second Appellate District Court said that Judge Perry made a mistake because there was sufficient evidence that Stern's "knowledge and involvement was such the jury could reasonably conclude [he] knowingly participated in the ongoing practice of securing illegal prescriptions." At the time, the appellate court said that the trial court could reinstate the jury verdict or dismiss the charges on ground other than legal insufficiency, but Stern couldn't be retried due to double jeopardy.

The appellate court, however, began to second-guess itself while the U.S. Supreme Court was reconsidering aspects of its double jeopardy jurisprudence in Evans v. Michigan. The Evans decision, issued after the appellate court granted rehearing, didn't warrant a change, so the Second Appellate District, with minor alterations, reiterated its earlier conclusions. Barring further intervention from the California Supreme Court, the decision will stand.

Given the complicated nature of other issues surrounding Smith's life and death, this may not be the last word in Stern and Eroshevich's criminal prosecution.

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