Judge Erred in Tossing Charges Against Howard K. Stern - Criminal Law - California Case Law
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Judge Erred in Tossing Charges Against Howard K. Stern

Anna Nicole Smith died more than five years ago, but courts continue to hear cases related to both her life and death. There was the short-lived paternity battle over Smith's daughter, Dannielynn, the Supreme Court battle over her claim to late husband J. Howard Marshall's estate, and the criminal charges stemming from her death.

In 2011, Judge Robert J. Perry dismissed two criminal charges against Anna Nicole Smith's boyfriend/lawyer Howard K. Stern, finding that there was "insufficient evidence" to support his conviction. The state appealed.

Thursday, a California appellate court ruled Judge Perry erred in tossing convictions against Stern related to her death from prescription drugs, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Anna Nicole Smith, (real name: Vicki Lynn Marshall) died on February 8, 2007. Toxicology tests revealed an above therapeutic level of metabolites of a controlled substance — chloral hydrate — in her blood.

Stern was later accused of using fake names to procure “powerful sedatives and painkillers” for Smith, according to the Times. A jury subsequently convicted him on conspiracy charges related to Smith’s death.

After the verdicts were returned, the trial court granted Stern’s new trial motion based on insufficient evidence as a matter of law, and dismissed the charges against him.

This week, California’s Second Appellate District Court said that Judge Perry made a mistake because there was sufficient evidence that Stern’s “knowledge and involvement was such the jury could reasonably conclude [he] knowingly participated in the ongoing practice of securing illegal prescriptions.”

While retrying Stern would violate double jeopardy, the trial could reinstate the jury verdict or dismiss the charges on grounds other than legal insufficiency. The court, however, explicitly stated that Stern cannot be retried.

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