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Inside Anna Nicole Smith Conspiracy Trial

Anna Nicole Smith died of an overdose of painkillers more than three years ago. Now, her former boyfriend and doctors are on trial, facing criminal charges in connection with those drugs.

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"Early Show" National Correspondent Hattie Kauffman reported that, during Anna Nicole Smith's final years, Howard K. Stern was always at her side -- but now, he's on trial.

Stern and Smith's doctors, Sandeep Kapoor and Khristine Eroshevich, are accused of funneling a massive amount of drugs to her, using fake names for multiple prescriptions.

CBS News legal analyst Trent Copeland observed, "The prosecution's view is it was the doctors who prescribed the medication, but it was Howard K. Stern who ultimately picked up the medication and furnished the medication to Anna Nicole Smith."

Stern's defense attorney claims Stern relied on the doctors' advice, and had no idea it was wrong to fill a prescription under a fake name.

When Smith overdosed in 2007, and autopsy found nine prescription medicatioins in her system, and revealed tissue damage from repeated injections.

Stern and the doctors are not charged in her death, but with a combined 23 felony counts that include illeglly dispersing a controlled substance. If convicted, they could each serve five years in prison.

"Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill pointed to a statement from one of the doctors' attorneys, who said, "A doctor's judgment is not subject to criminal prosecution." However, two doctors are on trial. So how does that work?

CBS News Legal Analyst Lisa Bloom called the attorney's statement "a nice turn of phrase," but added, it's "not actually accurate, legally speaking."

She said, "If a doctor's judgment was to overprescribe medications to a known addict, then that judgment can be criminal. The question is, whether the excessive amount of medication given to her was done fairly to treat a chronic pain condition, as they say, or whether it was simply giving medications as a drug dealer would to someone who was clearly an addict."

Hill asked about the nature of Howard K. Stern's defense: Can he really defend himself by saying he didn't realize people aren't permitted to fill prescriptions under other people's names?

Bloom said ignorance of the law is generally not an excuse.

"But this is a conspiracy case," she said. "So the question is, did he conspire with these two doctors to overprescribe and get excessive medications for Anna Nicole Smith? If he truly was ignorant and relied on the doctors' medical judgment and he felt that it was fair, she did suffer from chronic pain, then he may have a defense. We have to see how the evidence plays out."

As for the trial itself, Bloom said she expects proceedings to last as much as three months.

"I think this is really going to be a battle of the experts," she explained. "This is the first high-profile case here in California brought by Jerry Brown, our attorney general, now running for governor, on the issue of prescription drug abuse. We talk about Anna Nicole Smith, but this really is a significant case legally and I think both sides will fight it very hard with a lot of medical experts."