Criminal Procedure

After Appeals Court Nixes Reversed Conviction of Anna Nicole Smith's Boyfriend-Lawyer, What Next?


Anna Nicole Smith. Featureflash

Confusion reigned following news that a California appellate court has determined that a trial judge erroneously reversed the conviction of Anna Nicole Smith’s onetime boyfriend and lawyer, in a relatively minor criminal conspiracy case concerning prescription drugs supplied to the now-deceased celebrity and former Playboy bunny.

Lawyers said they aren’t certain exactly what the Thursday appellate ruling means to defendant attorney Howard K. Stern, reports the Associated Press. It appears that he can’t be retried, because doing so would violate double jeopardy rules. However, the trial judge may be able to reinstate the conviction on remand.

“We express no opinion on how the trial court should exercise its discretion,” said the Second District Court of Appeals in its written opinion.

Attorney Steve Sadow represents Stern. He said the decision makes clear that Stern can’t be retried, the AP article says. But Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry may again review Stern’s motion for a new trial.

“If he granted the motion, Howard still could not be tried again,” said Sadow.

A Los Angeles Times article on the newspaper’s L.A. Now page links to a copy of the 34-page appellate ruling (PDF).

In it, the court says the trial judge erred in granting Stern’s motion to dismiss, finding that the evidence on which he had been convicted was insufficient as a matter of law. Since the dismissal essentially operates as an acquittal, for double jeopardy purposes, Stern cannot be retried on remand, the court explains. However, “[o]nce the remittitur issues, the trial court may take up the remaining new trial issues, dismiss on other grounds … or even impose sentence.”

A previous post provides additional details about the criminal case against Stern and the earlier reversal of his conviction.

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