Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Anna Nicole Remains Trial: Day One

The Florida court proceedings to determine what will happen with Anna Nicole's body began this morning. Before I begin with a recap, let me quickly explain to you (to the best of my understanding) what is going on here. There are two legal cases in progress regarding Anna Nicole. The first, in Los Angeles, California, is the paternity suit, where Larry Birkhead is pushing for DNA testing to determine who is the father of Anna's baby daughter Dannielynn. Howard K. Stern opposes the testing. The second, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, exists to determine who gets custody of Anna Nicole's body. Most of the media attention today focused on the Ft. Lauderdale case, where the parties concerned were present.

Howard K. Stern, Larry Birkhead, and Anna's mother Virgie Arthur entered the courtroom around 9:30 a.m. Anna's father, Don Hogan, was also present. The judge in the Ft. Lauderdale case is Larry Seidlin, a former NYC cabbie with a thick New York accent to prove it, who has reportedly hoped to have a Judge Judy-style television show of his own. He seems to have no problem whatsoever making a media circus of these proceedings. In fact, he appears to be encouraging it. He's quite a character, this judge. He's the anti-Ito.

Howard Stern wants Smith buried in the Bahamas, with her son, and his legal team argues that, as co-executor of Anna's will, he should decide what happens to her remains. Anna's mother's team argues that Stern is not a blood relative and should not have a say in this issue. Anna's will does not express her wishes on this matter.

Early in today's proceedings, it was determined that Judge Seidlin would take jurisdiction of the paternity case which is currently pending in Los Angeles, and a lawyer was appointed to represent five-month-old Dannielynn in this case.

Stern's lawyer, Krista Barth, kicked things off by complaining to the judge that Larry Birkhead's lawyer, Deb Opri, accused him of "killing" Anna Nicole Smith during court proceedings this morning. Video here.

Howard Stern took the stand to discuss his relationship with Anna Nicole, noting that they were friends, and then lovers ("This was years ago," he says. "We didn't say anything at the time."). Video here. He talks about how Anna never really recovered emotionally from the death of her son, and how she wanted to make sure that Daniel's coffin was secure, because "both she and Daniel were afraid of bugs." Video here.

In perhaps the strangest development so far, Stern's testimony was interrupted by a phone call from the Broward County Medical Examiner, who stated that Anna Nicole's body was deteriorating faster than normal. As such, DNA testing will have to be performed this week, instead of in two weeks as was planned. Stern sobbed audibly on the stand when he heard the news.

As the day wrapped up, the judge asked Howard K. Stern to appear in court again tomorrow. He was originally only supposed to appear today. The judge himself arranged for a private jet to take Stern on the short flight to the Bahamas tonight, and return him in the morning.

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