Anna Nicole Smith: Criminal Activity and Drug Trafficking May Impact on Custody of Dannielynn Smith: A Legal Analysis

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Criminal investigations about Anna Nicole Smith and Daniel Smith, and the likely impact on Howard Stern and Larry Birkhead in the March 16, 2007 Bahamas custody case.

New York City divorce Lawyer Lisa Beth Older, Esq, and MSNBC and ABC News Now analyst, offers her analysis on the impact of three recent criminal investigations on the probable outcome of the custody case pending in the Bahamas on March 16, 2007 as to Anna Nicole Smith's daughter Dannielynn Hope Smith.

Criminality plays no small part in a civil proceeding, even if no criminal charges are made. The burden of proof in a civil proceeding is less than that of a criminal proceeding. The custody proceeding in the Bahamas is a civil proceeding and hence does not require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Remember how OJ Simpson was acquitted of murder in a criminal case but found to be responsible for wrongful death in the civil case? Witnesses have told police that Howard K Stern may or may not have played a contributing role in the death of Anna and her son, and if founded in fact, this will hurt his parentage claim for Dannielynn.

There are three criminal investigations of the Anna Nicole Smith story; the first is conducted by the Seminole Indian police in Florida, the second is in the Bahamas on Daniel Smith and the third is focused on the doctor prescribing the methadone found in the bodies of the deceased Daniel Smith and Anna Nicole Smith. Parties vying for the rights of custody over Dannielynn who may have contributed to the death of Anna Nicole Smith or her son, will not likely be deemed a proper custodial parent in the Bahamas.

Witnesses gave damaging information as to Anna Nicole Smith. Dr. Joshua Perber, the medical examiner, has been a voice of reason. Now he states "I became aware of additional evidence" and this evidence is holding up the case. A relative of G. Ben Thompson, who owns the house where Anna Nicole Smith resided, turned over her computer to the Bahamas police. This may provide evidence as to whether the deaths will be classified suicide, homicide or accident. In an article written in the National Ledger on March 11, 2007 the body guard allegedly told police that "Howard K Stern acted strangely" and gave her medicines. There is no concrete evidence pointing to wrongdoing, but whether the person administering them knew they were participating in a negligent or illegal act is relevant in a custody proceeding and will likely be raised in the Bahamas.

In applying the civil law to potentially criminal acts, the fact that Howard Stern was present when Anna's other son Daniel died of an illegal mixture of drugs and was present around the death of Ms. Smith facts are relevant in the custody case in the Bahamas. The Court will have to hear the testimony and decide custody based upon credibility of witnesses. The video of Howard Stern allegedly taping Anna Smith in a drug induced state and saying it was "worth money" further shows little regard for her well being, and is probative as to whether Howard Stern lacks requisite judgment to parent Dannielynn. Add the insidious allegations of Larry Birkhead that Howard Stern brought drugs to Anna Nicole Smith in a duffle bag in the hospital while she was pregnant and new custody questions are raised. Forget about the criminal ramifications for a moment. In a civil matter it all comes down to the credibility of witnesses. If the Bahamas court believes Birkhead it can draw an inference that he may not be fit to parent, having possibly endangered the welfare of mother and baby Dannilynn.

Given ongoing criminal investigation into the death of Anna Nicole Smith and her son, Daniel Smith, the disposition of the criminal investigations will likely be conclusive on the custody issues before the Bahamas court on March 16, 2007.

As to further possible criminal investigations, methadone is an illegal drug in the Bahamas for treatment of pain, which begs the larger question of possible illegal drug trafficking. Any person who participated in providing methadone to Anna Nicole Smith or her child Daniel Smith lacks requisite judgment to raise a child. If the Bahamas Court believes Larry Birkhead's allegation that Howard Stern brought methadone into Anna Nicole Smith's hospital room, this raises an inference that he knew Anna was on methadone while pregnant, and shows poor judgment. Persons vying for custody over Dannielynn need to show judgment superior to that, and the stakes are high. The fate of Dannilynn, brought to the Bahamas under suspicious circumstances, is left in the hands of the Bahamian court.

Lisa Beth Older, Esq. is available for further comment at 212-786-0901. and


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