An inquest into the death of Anna Nicole Smith’s 20-year-old son, who died in September while visiting her after she gave birth in a Bahamas hospital, stalled Tuesday before a court could even pick a jury.
Soon after the court convened, spectators and reporters were ordered to leave the courtroom when Wayne Munroe, a lawyer for the estate of the former Playboy Playmate, asked the judge to consider a motion that “relates to the impaneling of a jury to act on this inquiry.”
Munroe and other attorneys declined to comment upon leaving court, saying Bahamian legal rules prohibited them from discussing a closed session.
Later, Bernard Turner, director of public prosecutions, said the court would take at least another day to resolve the issue raised by Munroe and the inquest would not resume before Thursday. Jurors were excused until then.
The jury is expected to hear from dozens of witnesses — including Smith’s lawyer-turned-companion Howard K. Stern — as they consider whether Daniel Smith’s death should be ruled an accident, suicide or perhaps even homicide.
The inquest follows Wednesday’s announcement in Florida that Anna Nicole Smith’s Feb. 8 death was an accidental overdose caused by a lethal combination of at least nine prescription drugs — including a powerful sleep aid that a lawyer for Stern said she took to cope with grief over Daniel Smith’s death.
In September, Dr. Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist hired by her family, concluded that Daniel Smith died from methadone and two antidepressants interacting in his system. But the case remains open as far as Bahamian authorities are concerned.
The inquest is expected to last up to three to four weeks, Chief Magistrate Roger Gomez said. If the jury finds criminal activity played a role, it would be up to the Bahamian attorney general’s office to pursue the case.
The first witnesses called would likely be physicians and staff at Doctors Hospital, where Daniel Smith died, Gomez said. But not all witnesses called to testify were expected to comply.
“Some of them will be called from the U.S., but we can’t guarantee their attendance because they are out of our jurisdiction. We can’t really force them to attend,” he said.
Anna Nicole Smith’s mother, Virgie Arthur, who is not on the witness list, said outside the court in Nassau’s historic district that she planned to attend every day.
“I’m praying the right thing will be done, and that my children will see justice,” she said.
Larry Birkhead, a former boyfriend of the model who claims to be the father of her daughter, Dannielynn, and is seeking custody in the Bahamian courts, also is attending the inquest. He said outside the court that Daniel Smith’s death was part of a “big puzzle” that he hoped to see solved.
“If you put the pieces of it together, then maybe that can help them out,” Birkhead said.
Daniel Smith — the son of Anna Nicole and Bill Smith who married in 1985 and divorced two years later — died Sept. 10. Bill Smith also had a Bahamian lawyer at Tuesday’s session.