FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - For a week, attorneys battling for the remains of Anna Nicole Smith have fought with one another, fought off the media and fought for a chance to speak. Now their biggest fight is against the clock.
Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin has set a self-imposed Friday morning deadline to issue a decision in the case, which boils down to a tug-of-war between Smith's estranged mother, Virgie Arthur, who wants to bring her daughter's body home to Texas, and her attorney-turned-boyfriend Howard K. Stern, who wants a burial in the Bahamas.
Seidlin said he has no time to waste since the county's chief medical examiner warned again that a decision needs to be made soon before Smith's body becomes too decomposed for a public viewing.
"I got a gun to my head," he said.
Seidlin indicated at the start of testimony Wednesday that he wanted to reach a compromise agreement, but it was unclear what that might be.
Arthur said her last conversation with her daughter about her burial came more than 10 years ago, when Smith said she wanted to be interred near her idol Marilyn Monroe, whose body is in a Los Angeles crypt. The admission could hurt the woman's fight to have the former pinup laid to rest in her native Texas.
"Wherever the stars are buried, that's where she wanted to be buried," said Arthur. Ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead testified he had had a similar conversation with his ex-girlfriend in recent years.
Even Stern has acknowledged the former Playboy model had hoped to be buried near Monroe, though he said she settled on a Bahamian site after her son died last year and the details of the California plot could not be worked out.
John O'Quinn, an attorney for Arthur, said after the hearing Wednesday that he'd simply be happy if Smith wasn't buried in the Bahamas. Asked about California he said: "Better than the Bahamas."
Wednesday's hearing stretched past the official close of the courthouse and had no shortage of drama. The testimony was peppered with details of Smith's drug use, her sexual liaisons and the deals allegedly being pursued to profit from the deaths of the starlet and her son. Birkhead, who like Stern claims to be the father of Smith's 5-month-old child, Dannielynn, was expected to resume testimony Thursday.
Stern promised to return to court, though Seidlin promised he wouldn't face further questioning. He viewed Smith's body Wednesday at the medical examiner's office, but in the courtroom the judge had little sympathy when Stern told him to "hold on" or offered embellished answers to questions.
"Don't tell me to hold on," said Seidlin, who was raised in New York City. "Don't think I'm buying the Brooklyn Bridge here," he said later.
On the stand, Arthur was hammered with questions about any compensation she has or would receive from news organizations for access to interviews or footage after the deaths of her daughter and grandson.
She frequently said no to questions about arrangements with specific media outlets, and sidestepped other questions or claimed she didn't understand them.
"Have you in any fashion profited at all from the death of your daughter?" asked Krista Barth, an attorney for Stern.
Arthur stared for a moment. "I'm trying to process that question," she said. Then Arthur attempted to deflect the attention, pointing at Stern.
"He has," she said.
The Florida hearing is just a morsel of the legal battle surrounding Smith. At issue in a California court is who fathered Dannielynn, who could inherit millions of dollars from Smith's estate. Stern is listed as the father on the birth certificate but Birkhead says the girl is his.
Smith died Feb. 8 in a Florida hotel, but the cause is still unknown. She married Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II in 1994 when he was 89 and she was 26 and she had been fighting his family over his estimated $500 million fortune since his death in 1995.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)