LOS ANGELES (AP) - A judge preparing for jury selection in the trial of Anna Nicole Smith’s doctors and boyfriend said Tuesday he will dismiss any prospective jurors who refuse to reveal their medical histories, including prescription drug use.
A jury questionnaire also asks if prospects ever abused such drugs.
“I really want to focus on prescription drugs because I think that’s what this case is about,” Superior Court Judge Robert Perry said during a pretrial hearing.
Dr. Sanjeep Kapoor, Dr. Khristine Eroshevich and Smith’s former lawyer-boyfriend Howard K. Stern have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to illegally providing sedatives and opiates to the former Playboy model. They are not charged with causing her death.
Each could face up to five years in prison if convicted.
Smith died of a drug overdose in 2007 in Florida. The defendants are not charged with causing her death.
The judge also said he will not allow cameras in court because he believes they are a negative influence and help create a “carnival atmosphere.”
Perry also intends to take the unusual step of checking the names of jurors against criminal records to see if they are hiding anything. He said he was concerned about prospects who are eager to become jurors in high-profile cases.
“The problem with celebrity trials is it has a tendency to bring out kooks, frankly,” the judge said.
Prospective jurors will receive questionnaires on Thursday. A major pretrial motions hearing is scheduled for July 30, with jury selection beginning in court on Aug. 2. Opening statements are set for Aug. 4.
Much of Tuesday’s hearing was consumed with arguments about publicity, the Internet and the effect of social media and blogs on the jury.
Perry plans to keep the names of jurors secret from lawyers, who complained that would make it impossible to track whether they were blogging or reporting on the trial via social networking websites.
The judge agreed to ask prospects if they have blogs or social media accounts. He also intends to ask his staff to check periodically to make sure jurors are not blogging about the case.
Perry rejected a suggestion by Deputy District Attorney Renee Rose that a gag order might be warranted. Rose declined to make a motion for such an order because her office has a policy of not requesting them.
Still, she accused the defense of making too many statements to the press.
Defense attorneys opposed any gag orders, saying lawyers were well aware of their professional responsibility in making public comments.
Rose made the unusual disclosure that she was filing all of her legal documents under seal to keep them from falling into the hands of celebrity website TMZ. The judge said he was going through her sealed motions and unsealing many of them.
“I don’t think you should file under seal just because you don’t want the media to see it,” Perry said.
“Everything I file ends up on TMZ,” Rose said.
“Who cares?” said the judge.
“Our jury pool is out there,” said the prosecutor.
“Do we even want people who watch TMZ on the jury?” asked the judge.
“We’re going to get them,” Rose said.
“I hope not,” said the judge.
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