As a trial lawyer one of the most difficult things to master is keeping the jury’s attention. You walk a difficult line between boring them to death but you must also make sure you provide them sufficient information to rule on your side. The prosecution in the Anna Nicole Smith drug trial appears to be struggling with this very issue.
Prosecutors are alleging that Two of Smith’s Doctors and her manager/attorney/boyfriend Howard K. Stern, conspired to feed Smith’s alleged drug addition and used false names to obtain said drugs. The defendants are not charged in Smith’s February 2007 death, which a Florida medical examiner ruled was from an accidental overdose of a sleep aid, a lethal mix of prescription drugs and a viral flu.
Judge Robert Perry has already indicated his criticism with the Government’s case stating that t was built from “a dead celebrity and a bunch of low-level misdemeanors.” The judge said he decided to allow the case to go forward after another respected judge advised him to trust the jury system.
Perry has questioned whether the prosecution has proved that Smith was an addict, as defined by California law, and not just dependent on drugs to relieve chronic pain. “If she’s being treated for pain, it’s not illegal,” Perry said last week.
The two-month trial has more than its fair share of interesting developments. Perry has openly questioned the prosecution and the charging of the defendants two charges against Stern were thrown out. “It has all the hallmarks of a kitchen sink prosecution,” Perry said last week. “It looks like the prosecution is throwing everything in with the hope that something will survive.” Perry has also suggested that if the defendants are found guilty, he would consider “possible selective prosecution issues” when sentencing them.
The Prosecution has had its own difficulties as witnesses have recanted testimony including one Nanny who denied her prior claims that she witnessed Stern injecting Smith.
The Defense also took the highly unusual tact of not calling any witnesses, but rested their case at the end of the Prosecution’s case in chief. It is a calculated gamble that Judge Perry will rule that the Government has not met its burden of proof and dismiss the charges. This means that the prosecution took over two months to present its case in chief. That is an extraordinarily long trial.
The judge in the Anna Nicole Smith drug trial warned prosecutors to wrap up their closing arguments Tuesday out of fear the jurors will “tune out” if they are asked to hear much more. Perry said he was “very concerned” when Rose gave him a thick stack of PowerPoint slides she intended to use in her closing.
“My experience is (that) jurors, they just tune you out,” Perry told Rose. “If you talk to them for seven or eight hours, they’re not going to be listening to you the last half of your argument.”
The jury could begin deliberations as soon as today. We will find out shortly which of the interesting trial tactics employed was successful.