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Judge critical of prosecutors in Anna Nicole trial


Anna Nicole Smith arrives for her hearing at the Supreme Court in Washington in this February 28, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Chris Kleponis/Files
Anna Nicole Smith arrives for her hearing at the Supreme Court in Washington in this February 28, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Chris Kleponis/Files

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The judge in the Anna Nicole Smith drug trial slammed prosecutors on Monday for their aggressive pursuit of convictions against three people accused of plying the actress with prescription drugs before her 2007 death.

Earlier on Monday, both sides rested their cases after a nearly two-month trial that saw prosecutors bring numerous witnesses whose testimony defense attorneys largely sought to discredit. All three defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry characterized the case as a "kitchen-sink prosecution" in which numerous claims and evidence are put forth "against these defendants in the hope that something survives."

The judge's comments came as he considered dismissing or reducing some of the charges against the realty TV star's one-time boyfriend and lawyer, Howard K. Stern, and two of her doctors, Khristine Eroshevich and Sandeep Kapoor.

Closing arguments are set to begin Thursday and jury deliberations may start early next week.

Prosecutors allege Stern, Eroshevich and Kapoor conspired to funnel prescription drugs to a known addict, Smith, who died in February 2007 in Florida from an accidental drug overdose at age 39. They are not charged with directly causing her death.

Still, Perry's comments seem to underpin weeks of reports that prosecutors were having a difficult time proving their case. The judge said on Monday that many of the charges should have been misdemeanors, as opposed to the felonies that carry higher penalties.

"The prosecution had a dead celebrity and a lot of low-level misdemeanors" from which they tried to build a case for more serious crimes, Perry said.

But Deputy District Attorney Sean Carney defended prosecutors by saying their two-year investigation convinced them that felonies had been committed.

For much of the afternoon, lawyers discussed the meaning of words like "addict," "addiction" and "pain" that the judge will use when instructing the jury on deliberations.

Prosecutors have argued that the defendants unlawfully prescribed or obtained controlled substances that fueled Smith's addiction over a three-year period when she was known to be a drug addict.

Defense attorneys have countered that Smith was not an addict, but was a sufferer of chronic pain since 2000. She also battled anxiety, depression and lack of sleep.

(Editing by Bill Trott)

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