LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) Anna Nicole Smith's two doctors and lawyer-boyfriend are all due in court this week to hear testimony about their alleged roles in supplying drugs that killed the celebrity model.
A preliminary hearing for the trio is scheduled to start Tuesday, and court officials have said it could last two to four weeks. The hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence to order a trial for Howard Stern, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor and Dr. Khristine Eroshevich.
They are charged with improperly prescribing the drugs that killed Smith.
All three have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to illegally provide Smith with controlled substances.
The hearing is expected to take two weeks with a parade of witnesses including attorney general investigators, pharmacists, acquaintances of Smith and experts on the interaction of various drugs.
Attorney Adam Braun, who represents Eroshevich, said the evidence disclosed at the hearing may be surprising, but the outcome of the proceeding before Superior Court Judge Robert Perry is predictable.
"Preliminary hearings represent the lowest possible hurdle for a prosecutor to clear and are virtually impossible for a prosecutor to lose," he said. "If the prosecutors in this case somehow can't make it past the preliminary hearing, they should be laid off."
Braun said he was unlikely to call any witnesses of his own.
"Given the general futility of the exercise, Dr. Eroshevich will listen intently to the prosecutors' allegations and reserve her defense for maximum surprise at trial," he said.
Smith was 26 when she wed the 89-year-old J. Howard Marshall, owner of Great Northern Oil Co., whose wealth was estimated by Forbes to be $550 million in 1992. They met while she was a topless dancer at a Texas strip club.
He died of natural causes in 1995, little more than a year after they wed. Smith died of a drug overdose on Feb. 8, 2007, in a Florida hotel room.
California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown called Stern Smith's "principal enabler" in a press conference earlier this year, saying that "[Smith] took the drugs almost to the point of stupefication."
Search warrant affidavits suggest Stern put his name on prescriptions for opiates that were given to Smith, and claim 44 different medications were prescribed for Smith under a number of other names, including Stern's.
Stern is named in all 11 counts of the complaint. The doctors each face six counts, including conspiracy, and if convicted could be sentenced to as much as five years, eight months in prison. It was not clear what sentence Stern might face if convicted.
In September, Kapoor's attorney said she was outraged by claims in search warrant affidavits that her client crossed professional boundaries and had a sexual relationship with Smith.
Attorney Ellyn Garafalo told The Associated Press that Kapoor is openly gay and never had a sexual or social relationship with his famous client.
A picture of Smith and Kapoor that was cited in the affidavits was taken at a gay pride celebration they both attended, Garafalo said.
"These search warrant affidavits are based on insufficient information and they are wrong in material respects," Garafalo said in the interview with. "The prime example is that Dr. Kapoor is openly gay and never slept with Anna Nicole Smith or any other woman."
Garafalo said the doctor and patient encountered each other in a bar after a gay pride parade, but did not have an ongoing social relationship.
Garafalo said the mistaken interpretation of the photo is an example of errors that permeated the decision to charge Kapoor with illegally providing Smith with controlled drugs. She said evidence in the case will exonerate Kapoor.
Eroshevich, a psychiatrist, also is accused of an improper sexual relationship with the former Playboy model based on photographs found on a computer of the two women naked together in a bathtub "in various intimate embraces."
Eroshevich's lawyer, Adam Braun, declined to comment directly on the pictures but said that the relationship between Smith and the psychiatrist began as one of friendship and evolved into a patient-doctor relationship. He said they were next door neighbors before Smith moved to the Bahamas.
Braun said Eroshevich's defense would be based on her friendship with Smith and her desire to help her after Smith's son died in the Bahamas.
A declaration from Dr. Jill Klessig, the district medical consultant for the Medical Board of the California department of consumer Affairs, said the only way to correctly determine if the concerns about the prescriptions are correct is to obtain complete medical records for Smith.
Garafalo said she was dismayed that the conclusions reached in 2007 were released when it took two and half more years for authorities to examine records and issue a complaint.
Smith's FBI records say the agency investigated Smith in 2000 and 2001 in a murder-for-hire plot targeting E. Pierce Marshall, who was at the center of a long legal fight to keep the starlet from collecting his father's oil wealth, valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The younger Marshall died three years ago of natural causes.
The battle over the money remains unresolved with Stern, Smith's mother, and another boyfriend all fighting over an estate that ultimately may go to Smith's daughter, now 3.