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Video: Judge wants Anna Nicole Smith case reopened

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    MATT LAUER, co-host: We're now at 8:09. It's been more than three years since Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental drug overdose and now the judge who gained fame during the legal fight over her remains is calling for a new investigation into Smith's death . We're going to talk to Judge Larry Seidlin in a moment, but first, a look back at that unforgettable trial .

    Judge LARRY SEIDLIN: California , tell me, you've been quiet.

    LAUER: From the nicknames...

    Judge SEIDLIN: Go slow, Texas , I want to keep you around. Go slow.

    LAUER: ...to the emotion.

    Judge SEIDLIN: I hope to God you guys give the kid the right shot.

    LAUER: It was a trial that played out like a TV show with a cast of real-life characters.

    Mr. HOWARD K. STERN: Right now I'm trying to deal with the death of Anna Nicole .

    LAUER: Anna Nicole Smith 's attorney, Howard K. Stern .

    Judge SEIDLIN: Larry , would you take a...

    LAUER: Her former boyfriend, Larry Birkhead .

    Judge SEIDLIN: Ms. Arthur , would you please take the stand?

    LAUER: And her estranged mother, Virgie Arthur , all fighting over custody of Anna Nicole Smith 's body and where she would be buried just days after the 39-year-old died of an accidental drug overdose at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood , Florida .

    Judge SEIDLIN: You probably took a look at this court and you said, `This judge may be eccentric enough to get this thing done.'

    LAUER: After six days, Judge Larry Seidlin did get it done and made a promise.

    Judge SEIDLIN: And I 'm not going to talk about this case ever again.

    LAUER: Howard K. Stern , Virgie Arthur and Larry Birkhead managed to put their differences aside, walking out of the courthouse arm in arm.

    Mr. STERN: All that mattered to me was that Anna 's wishes were carried out and that she's going to be with her son.

    LAUER: Two months later, the question of who was the father Anna Nicole 's newborn daughter, Dannielynn , was answered.

    Mr. LARRY BIRKHEAD: I hate to be the one that told you this but I told you so .

    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: What has this been like for you?

    LAUER: Last month on TODAY, Meredith spoke to Larry Birkhead about life as a single dad, as his daughter, Dannielynn , slept in his arms.

    Mr. LARRY BIRKHEAD: There's always things that pop up, Anna Nicole , and you know, keeps the memories kind of fresh and things. It's hard -- kind of hard to move on, and -- but we're happy and, you know, she's a happy baby and we're moving ahead.

    LAUER: But for Howard K. Stern some legal battles remain. He's set to go on trial in August for charges that he provided the drugs that ended Anna Nicole Smith 's life. Stern has pleaded not guilty.

    Judge SEIDLIN: I have to satisfy my conscience.

    LAUER: All this as that famous judge, Larry Seidlin , releases his new book " The Killing of Anna Nicole Smith ." Judge Larry Seidlin , good morning.

    Judge SEIDLIN: Well, nice to be here with you, Matt.

    LAUER: " And I 'm not going to talk about this trial ever again." What happened?

    Judge SEIDLIN: So much information came my way. The trial was three years ago and I have gotten so much evidence and new facts.

    LAUER: Where'd you get this evidence? Have you been out there digging or have people been coming to you with it?

    Judge SEIDLIN: Well my hands are dirty from finding all of this information. I dig deep. I have the Bahamian inquest that only a few people in this country have and I'm sure Jerry Brown , the attorney general, has.

    LAUER: So as you sit here today with me, did you get it wrong three years ago in that hearing? I mean, do you think the conclusion was wrong that you reached in that -- in that courtroom?

    Judge SEIDLIN: The conclusion was correct at the time I made the decision. That was the evidence in front of me. But the evidence now shows a different result.

    LAUER: You know, let's just go to the title of your book, " The Killing of Anna Nicole Smith ." So are you alleging now that it was not an accidental overdose as the -- as the coroner concluded? Was this something worse? Was it something more nefarious?

    Judge SEIDLIN: I state the word killing of Anna Nicole , and it's for the jury to decide whether it was murder, whether it was lesser included offenses like reckless conduct. We did something very unusual with this book. I was a judge for three decades and I can't take the black robe off. I made the reader in this book the jury. The jury'll decide what the culpability is.

    LAUER: Yeah. However, you do -- and you say to the reader, "I want you to draw your own conclusions." You include a lot of the transcripts from the trial , but you do seem to draw some of your own conclusions. I mean, it's one of the reasons why you're calling for the bodies of Anna Nicole Smith and her son to be exhumed.

    Judge SEIDLIN: Yes.

    LAUER: So what conclusions have you drawn?

    Judge SEIDLIN: I've drawn a number of conclusions. One is, Daniel leaves LA and he comes to the Bahamas . It's his first time ever in the Bahamas . When he's in the Bahamas at 9 PM at night he goes into Anna 's room. I was in that room. I was in the maternity room. And in that room he never leaves it. He dies 6 AM in the morning. He has no nexus, he has no bond to the Bahamas . Anna Nicole was under severe drugs , and I don't think her impression was strong enough to know what she was really doing. She buries Daniel in the Bahamas . He has no bond to the Bahamas . And then Anna Nicole , I didn't want to separate Anna from her son, and I buried him and her in the Bahamas .

    LAUER: Her, yeah. You're tough in the book on Howard K. Stern , Anna 's former attorney, and while you don't come right out and say it, you suggest several times that he was an enabler for Anna , providing her with the drugs that eventually led to her death. You write this, quote, " Stern is worried about her legacy in death, that we shouldn't know about her drug use since she died. How ironic. How about keeping her off drugs while she was alive?" So how accountable do you think he should be held? This is a guy who's facing trial , by the way.

    Judge SEIDLIN: Jerry Brown , the attorney general, and the rest of the country was watching this trial and it affected the psyche. They were repulsed by what went on. There were duffel bags of drugs being brought into a hospital room where Anna Nicole was trying to get off of drugs . The attorney general and the district attorney in California have charged him with enabling. Enabling a known addict and that's...

    LAUER: And...

    Judge SEIDLIN: ...that's for the jury to decide in California whether he's guilty of enabling and guilty of giving drugs to a known addict.

    LAUER: I just want you to know we did reach out to Howard K. Stern and ask him about this book. His lead defense attorney , Steve Sadow , issued a statement to us saying, in part, that your book, quote, "is truly unworthy of a serious response," end quote. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

    Judge SEIDLIN: Well, there's always going to be a chorus of critics on anything you write. This is -- this book is based on facts. And all materials -- I can support everything I state in this book.

    LAUER: In the trial you said your main purpose was to protect Dannielynn . And I 'm just curious, are you satisfied with her living situation right now with Larry Birkhead ? Are you happy with the way that part's turned out?

    Judge SEIDLIN: Well, I'm happy that he's being a very good father. I'd love to see Virgie in the picture. But there's a lawsuit between Virgie and Larry Birkhead , there's a defamation suit going on. Hopefully when that ends, grandma, Virgie , will be back on the scene looking over her granddaughter.

    LAUER: Judge Larry Seidlin , good to have you here. And the book is called " The Killing of Anna Nicole Smith ." Thanks for being with us.

Image: Anna Nicole Smith on book cover
Transit Publishing
TODAY books
updated 6/23/2010 8:51:07 AM ET 2010-06-23T12:51:07

Back in 2007, Judge Larry Seidlin attained fame when he oversaw an explosive six-day trial that focused on the death and remains of Anna Nicole Smith. The trial put a spotlight on the ugly reality of prescription drug abuse among celebrities, and it left Seidlin deeply concerned about the role of “enablers” in celebrities’ lives. Here is an excerpt from a new book by the retired judge, “The Killing of Anna Nicole Smith.”

Valentine’s Day, 2007. I was in my car with my wife Belinda driving to a Greek restaurant for lunch, when my judicial assistant Joanne Gallo called to tell me that the Clerk’s Office wanted to set up an emergency hearing for 1:30 p.m. I asked her who the hearing was for, and she told me it was for Anna Nicole Smith.

“Who is Anna Nicole Smith?” I asked.

“Who is Anna Nicole Smith? Are you kidding me?” Belinda said.

And I came back with, “If she played second base for the Yankees, I’d know her.”

Anna Nicole Smith, as I later learned, was a former Playboy Playmate and 1993 Playmate of the Year, a model, a reality TV star, and the widow of billionaire Texas oilman J. Howard Marshall. She died the week before at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, at the age of 39. Her body was lying in a South Florida morgue and was decomposing at an alarmingly rapid rate. And I had to decide where to bury it.

My chambers, located on the eighth floor of the courthouse, were the size of a bowling alley, as big as some of the courtrooms. All told, there were 29 lawyers present, many of whom had never previously appeared before me. I spent the rest of the day with these attorneys, as they continually checked in and out, and constantly took or made calls on their cell phones. They had hearings in different parts of the country and in different divisions of my own courthouse. They came in and out as if they were at a turnstile in Macy’s department store.

I looked them in the eyes and I could tell they were distracted, and anxious, like horses at the starting gate before a big race. They were everywhere and nowhere. Their minds were flying and they were hyper because this case had so many issues, and these issues were being tried in different jurisdictions. It seemed at times that Anna Nicole’s body was like a pinball being bounced around in a pinball machine.

‘This body belongs to me now’
At this point I felt it was essential that: (1) all parties and their attorneys stay focused on the task at hand; (2) that I get their attention in a forceful manner; and (3) that they know who was in charge. There had to be one person with the guts and the fortitude to make the necessary decisions.

So I told them, "This body is not leaving Broward County. This body belongs to me now. I am not releasing it. That baby's in a cold, cold storage room."

What it boiled down to was this: I had jurisdiction over all the issues. I believe this set the tone for the trial, and put the lawyers on notice that one judge, one arbitrator was going to decide the fate of Anna Nicole Smith’s body and where her final resting place should be.

Image: Larry Seidlin
Alan Diaz  /  AP
Judge Larry Seidlin attained a measure of fame during the fight over Anna Nicole Smith's remains. In his new book, he says he believes someone is guilty of manslaughter in the starlet's death.
These words played big on the front pages of newspapers and on TV screens all over the world. I realized that my words might have seemed gruff or insensitive to the beauty and warmth that had been Anna Nicole Smith, and therefore I apologized for that language on the record the following day. But it did accomplish my goal, which was to bring the parties together for this difficult journey, this six-day slug fest which I refereed, mediated and ultimately ruled upon.

Differences aside, the bottom line for me was that we show respect for Anna Nicole’s body and, at the same time, balance that with the legal issues that had to be resolved. My primary concern was always the best interests of Anna Nicole’s baby daughter, Dannielynn, and how this child’s life would be improved by the proceedings.

When I rendered my judgment on Feb. 22 that Anna Nicole Smith’s body was to be buried in the Bahamas, it should have been case closed. Since then, however, many red flags have popped into my mind about how she died and why. After going over the trial transcripts and reviewing the testimony from later proceedings that involved many of the principal characters who testified in my case, I have questions and I have concerns.

The case of Anna Nicole Smith set the precedent and opened the flood gates for law enforcement to begin examining doctors who are writing false prescriptions, prescribing excessive amount of drugs, and conducting themselves in an unprofessional manner. We opened the gates of hell for doctors and so-called loved ones who are enablers, both of whom may really have an intent to destroy the celebrity, whereby they would be charged with manslaughter: the killing of another individual through reckless conduct. Some of these doctors do it purely for money. Others want a piece of fame. They desperately want to be in the showbiz environment, and want the high that goes with it. Some may argue that Howard K. Stern poured time and energy into Anna Nicole. Some might even say love. But when you mix it all together, he was named in the will as the executor of her estate and, as we see in Michael Jackson's case, great sums of money and power flow from that position.

Did we, as a society, kill Anna Nicole Smith — as well as Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, wrestler Eddie “Umaga” Fatu and even Elvis Presley? The same elements were present in all those deaths. Everyone knows that in the entertainment industry, there are too many drugs, too many needs, too many hungry pharmacists, too many hangers-on. Television networks pay incredible money to some entertainers, even though the network brass know they need therapy but are hesitant to request it because they are afraid they will lose the talent and the advertising dollars that go hand in hand with them.

‘The silent scream’
Overuse and illegal use of prescription drugs in professional sports has been making the front pages of the media for years. Pro wrestling in particular, which attracts 20 million TV viewers every week, may be the sport with the worst track record of overuse of prescription drugs, yet there seems to be a veil of secrecy regarding the premature death of any wrestler from prescription drugs, especially painkillers.

In an article by John Swartz that appeared in the April 8, 2010 issue of USA Today, Canadian-born former pro wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper — a WWF superstar from the 1980s — said, “I experienced what we in the profession call the silent scream of pain, drugs and loneliness. You’re in your hotel room. You’re banged up, numb and alone. You don’t want to go downstairs to the bar or restaurant. The walls are breathing. You don’t want to talk. Panic sets in and you start weeping. It’s something all of us go through.” The article also cited research that the newspaper conducted, revealing that pro wrestlers are about 20 times more likely to die before they reach the age of 45 than are pro football players.

During the 1980s, Piper was one of the most popular figures in the world of pro wrestling, but he stated something very odd in the article. A wrestling promoter told him, “If you die, kid, die in the ring. It’s good for business.” And yet, Piper described a practice of one of the doctors on the pro wrestling circuit that is eerily similar to Howard K. Stern’s duffle bag of drugs. “The doctor had shopping bags with our names on them that were filled with steroids and prescription drugs,” said Piper. If you want an even more vivid example of the abuse and torment that pro wrestlers like Piper went through, check out Mickey Rourke’s Oscar-nominated performance in “The Wrestler.”

Image: Anna Nicole Smith, Daniel Smith, Howard K. Stern
In this Feb. 28, 2006 file photo, Anna Nicole Smith, left, her son Daniel Smith, center, and her lawyer, Howard K. Stern leave the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. Judge Larry Seidlin is harshly critical of Stern in his new book.
Criminal charges were later filed in Anna Nicole’s case because the world was watching and was sickened by what arose from the testimony during the six-day trial in my courtroom. Eventually, the California attorney-general reacted appropriately by slamming the doctors and enablers who were responsible for her death. And when the trial of Howard K. Stern, Dr. Khristine Eroshevich and Dr. Sandeep Kapoor begins on Aug. 4 in Los Angeles on charges of illegally providing Anna Nicole Smith with sedatives and opiates, we will then finally get the answers to the questions that I have raised in this book: who — and what — killed her?

I believe Anna Nicole Smith, like Michael Jackson, was given a toxic mix that led to her death. I believe someone committed manslaughter, through reckless conduct. Her son Daniel, who traveled to the Bahamas from California to be with his mom on the occasion of the birth of Dannielynn, was also given a toxic mix. He arrived late in the evening and was dead by morning. Where did he get these drugs? Reckless conduct also led to his death. I also question if we buried Anna Nicole in the right place.

Howard K. Stern was present at both deaths. He arrived the same day as Anna Nicole did in the Bahamas, a place where the police department operates like the Keystone Cops. They then traveled together to Seminole Hard Rock Casino, which also has an ineffective law enforcement agency. And speaking of the Seminole Police Department, its Chief, Charlie Tiger, stated he had reviewed “hundreds of hours of tapes and found nothing unusual”; therefore, Anna Nicole Smith died of “an accidental overdose with no other criminal element present.” Chief Tiger, basing some of his conclusions on tape, in my opinion is utterly ridiculous. Anna Nicole was on tape only when she entered the hotel because, as we discovered, she never left the hotel room. When she did leave the hotel room, it was on a stretcher, dead as a doornail.

Stern admitted in my courtroom that he obtained Anna Nicole's drugs and got these drugs in other people's names. As a matter of fact, the nine bottles of prescription medications that were found in her room at the Hard Rock were prescribed in his name. I believe that Howard K. Stern actively participated in obtaining these highly addictive prescription drugs for Anna Nicole. I believe that Howard K. Stern exercised a great amount of control over Anna Nicole by maintaining and reviewing her drug desires and addiction. 

Video: Father of Anna Nicole’s child: ‘It’s hard to move on’ This control goes even further. Stern wanted to be the legal father of her daughter Dannielynn, even knowing that there was substantial doubt if not high probability that he wasn't the biological father. Obviously, if Howard K. Stern was the father on paper, he would be in control of the Marshall inheritance, for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars. Furthermore, as I recognized in the trial, he was, and still is in the catbird seat, because, I believe, he is the wizard behind Anna Nicole’s estate. 

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What concerns me is that Stern admitted during my trial, and in later testimony and statements, that he got her drugs while she was pregnant with “his” child in a hospital setting under a doctor’s care, which he smuggled in via a duffle bag. Who would give drugs to a pregnant woman who is carrying his alleged child? Someone who has a fiduciary relationship with and a supposed love connection to the victim? This is not only bizarre, it's also not sustained by common sense. The question is: do these enablers have an intent to keep the “star” hooked on drugs, so that they can remain with them and, in effect, continue to help control their person and property? 

In this book, we will explore whether Anna Nicole Smith died from an accidental overdose, as announced by Dr. Joshua Perper, the chief medical examiner for Broward County, or from foul play. Why did Howard K. Stern, as an alleged enabler, allow Anna Nicole to remain on drugs? Was it so he could remain with her and control her person and property? Read this book carefully and you, my reader — the juror — will decide. 

After three years, Anna Nicole Smith and her son Daniel need to rest in peace, and I think I have found the path for their souls to receive this peace.

Excerpted with permission from “The Killing of Anna Nicole Smith” by Judge Larry Seidlin (Transit Publishing, 2010).

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive

Photos: Anna Nicole Smith

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  1. Texas teen

    Anna Nicole Smith's photo is seen in a 1985 Mexia (Texas) High School yearbook under the name Nikki Hart. School officials say Smith went by the name Nikki Hart during her brief tenure there. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Short, tragic life

    The cover of the June 1993 Playmate of the Year issue of Playboy magazine featured Anna Nicole Smith. Smith, the pneumatic blonde whose life played out as an extraordinary tabloid tale -- jeans model, Playboy centerfold, widow of an octogenarian billionaire, reality-show subject, tragic mother -- died Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007, after collapsing at a Hollywood, Fla., hotel. She was 39. (Playboy) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. She had drive

    Smith holds a Texas license plate that reads "PMOY 93" (Playmate of the Year). (Time & Life Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Happy husband

    Millionaire J. Howard Marshall II made headlines in 1994 when he married Smith. She was 26 and he was 89. He died Aug. 5, 1995, when he was 90. Smith and Marshall's son, E. Pierce Marshall, battled over Marshall's estate. The boy next to Marshall is Smith's late son, Daniel. (Sipa Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Daniel's short life

    Smith and her son Daniel, 13, leave a federal courthouse in Los Angeles on Oct. 27, 1999. His body was found in the Bahamas on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2006. A coroner's report ruled the death was caused by an overdose of anti-depressants and methadone. (Nick Ut / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Fighting for her share

    Smith listens in court in Houston with her attorneys Tom Cunningham and Howard Stern on Monday, Oct. 2, 2000. Sixteen jurors, four of them alternates, were seated to hear the lawsuit where Smith laid claim to a share of the oil fortune of her deceased husband, J. Howard Marshall II. Smith married the Texas oil tycoon in 1994 and he died the following year. Stern later reportedly married Smith and claimed to be the father of Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern. (Steve Ueckert / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Back to work

    Smith is surrounded by members of KISS at the conclusion of the Lane Bryant show featuring plus size fashions in New York on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2002. The legendary rock band gave a live performance throughout the runway show, which kicked off New York Fashion Week. (Robert Mecea / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Activist

    In this handout image from PETA, Smith poses as Marliyn Monroe for a 2004 ad campaign titled, Gentlemen Prefer Fur Free Blondes. PETA's Michael McGraw said in reaction to Smith's death, "She was a great friend to animals and used every opportunity to speak out against senseless cruelty." (PETA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Hot pink

    Smith walks the runway at the Heatherette fashion show during Olympus Fashion Week in New York on Feb. 12, 2004. (Matthew Peyton / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Always outrageous

    Smith feigns a "wardrobe malfunction" before announcing Rikku in "Final Fantasy X-2" as the Hottest Character award winner during "G-Phoria -- The Award Show 4 Gamers" in Los Angeles on Aug. 1, 2004. (Jim Ruymen / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Strange behavior

    Smith waves during an appearance backstage during the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia on July 2, 2005. The production company behind the concerts claimed in a lawsuit against Trimspa Inc. that its reputation was damaged by Smith's attire and conduct. Smith, a spokesperson for Trimspa, was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. (Coke Whitworth / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Wowing the Supremes

    Smith and her lawyer Howard K. Stern leave the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 28, 2006. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that Smith could continue her claim for part of her late husband's fortune. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Home sweet home?

    Smith holds her daughter Dannielyn Hope and poses with Stern and "Entertainment Tonight" co-host Mark Steines at the couple's home in the Bahamas on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006. Businessman and former boyfriend G. Ben Thompson threatened to evict Smith from her Bahamas home, claiming she wasn't making the mortgage payments. (Entertainment Tonight via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. No sign of trouble

    Smith watched a boxing match from near ringside at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla., on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2007. She died Feb. 8, 2007. (Hans Deryk / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A mother mourns

    Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, center, and her husband James Arthur, left, embrace as the coffin of Anna Nicole leaves a Bahamas church on March 2, 2007, as the former Playboy model headed to her final resting three weeks after her death. A throng of Bahamians, tourists and media crushed behind police barriers as the pink-laced white coffin was carried into the Mount Horeb Baptist Cathedral in Nassau, Bahamas, for a funeral ceremony closed to all but 300 invited guests.The church was reportedly filled with pink roses, and sources close to the funeral said Smith's body was clad in a gown and tiara. (Robert Sullivan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Laid to rest

    Locals stand before the grave of Smith at the Lakeview Memorial Gardens in Nassau, Bahamas, on March 2, 2007. (Robert Sullivan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. 'I told you so!'

    Larry Birkhead rejoices after hearing in a Bahamian court on April 10, 2007, that he has been proven to be the legal father of Smith's baby, Dannielynn. Birkhead later hugged Howard K. Stern, who had been acting as the baby's father. (Christine Aylen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Derby day with daughter

    Birkhead and Dannielynn feed a pony at the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, Ky., on Wednesday, April 28. 2010. Birkhead, a Louisville native, first met Anna Nicole at a 2004 party around the famous horse race. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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