Anna Nicole Smith: the litigation never ends

People v. Eroshevich, No. S210545 (Cal. Nov. 3, 2014).

“Sprawling” is the word for the litigation engendered by the death of ailing nonagenarian J. Howard Marshall II, who in the year before his death had married Anna Nicole Smith. The dispute between Marshall’s son and Smith was fought out in state and federal court, and went up and down the judiciary, reaching the U.S. Supreme Court twice.

Today, the California Supreme Court decided a case that arises from Smith’s own death. 

After Smith died from an overdose of prescription drugs, the State of California charged Dr. Khristene Eroshevich and Howard K. Stern (Smith’s attorney and partner, not to be confused with the shock jock) with conspiracy to obtain prescription drugs for Smith under false names. After the jury came back with a conviction of Stern, the trial court granted a motion for new trial, ruling that the evidence was insufficient to uphold the jury’s verdict. 

On appeal, the California Court of Appeal ruled that the trial court shouldn’t have set aside the jury verdict. But it also ordered that the Double Jeopardy Clause forbade California from retrying Stern. The California Supreme Court disagrees, holding that double jeopardy doesn’t apply because the trial court dismissed the charges against Stern after the jury had returned a guilty verdict, rather than before. Retrial doesn’t offend the Double Jeopardy Clause, so the Supreme Court reverses the Court of Appeal’s contrary ruling.