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Anna Nicole Smith Legal Analysis
March 26, 2007

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

Tests initially pointed to a blood infection as the cause of death of Anna Nicole Smith. However, further investigation showed that a high level of the drug chloral hydrate was actually what brought about Smith's demise, according to a joint report issued by Star Magazine and the National Enquirer.

Tests also indicated that methadone, the drug Smith reportedly took on many occasions, was not present.

Chloral hydrate is a sedative often used to treat insomnia. Tragedy was linked to the medication in the past when the lifeless nude body of 36-year-old Marilyn Monroe was found in the bedroom of her Brentwood, Calif., home. The Los Angeles County coroner concluded that the legendary star died as the result of having ingested Nembutal and chloral hydrate.

Smith was found to have scarring due to numerous injections in her buttocks. The blood infection that ultimately ensued was caused by an unsterilized needle, which created an abscess on her left buttock. The infection alone was serious enough to have caused her death even if she had not ingested the chloral hydrate.

She developed a fever and her temperature rose to 105 degrees. Levels 104 degrees and above are considered dangerous and should immediately be treated at a hospital, but instead Smith was merely given an ice bath along with an antibiotic.

Still, on the evening of Feb. 7, 2007, Smith took the chloral hydrate and it took a fatal toll. She was found dead by a nurse the following afternoon.

The findings serve to create more questions that bear on the custody tug-of-war that is taking place between Howard K. Stern, Larry Birkhead, and Virgie Arthur over Smith's baby daughter, Dannielynn.

The focus of the custody dispute centers on Howard K. Stern, Smith's live-in attorney and boyfriend. Under Bahamian law, Stern is presumed to be the father if, as has been reported, he is the designated father on Dannielynn's birth certificate and lived together with Smith the requisite time period prior to the delivery of Dannielynn.

That presumption, however, can be rebutted.

The alleged circumstances during the period of time that Stern resided with Smith could detrimentally affect his claim of fatherhood for Dannielynn. Former boyfriend and potential father Larry Birkhead has alleged that Stern brought methadone in a duffle bag into Smith's hospital room while she was pregnant. In addition, Smith's bodyguard reportedly told police that "Howard K Stern acted strangely" and gave her drugs.

Stern was present at both the unusual death of Smith's son, Daniel, and at Smith's own still question-riddled death. While laughing and joking he had videotaped a pregnant Smith who appeared to be heavily drugged and whose face was painted with clown makeup. He is heard aloofly commenting that the video he is shooting would be "worth money."

Many investigations are trying to determine whether Smith's death was a suicide, homicide, or accident.

Bahamian authorities are looking into the death of Daniel Smith and the circumstances surrounding the prescribed methadone that Daniel and his mother allegedly used.

The Seminole Police Department, which is run by Florida's Seminole Indian tribe, is conducting an ongoing investigation into Smith's death as well.

Even if no crime is found to have been committed in these investigations, if facts implicating Stern in negligent or reckless acts surface, such facts will likely play a role at custody proceedings in the Bahamas.

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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