Judge orders Smith's body preserved
EmptyA judge Friday refused to order an emergency DNA test on the body of Anna Nicole Smith as part of a paternity suit involving her infant daughter, but he ordered that the body be preserved until a hearing in 10 days, attorneys said.
Two men are contesting the paternity of 5-month-old Dannielynn, and experts say the custody decision could determine the child's inheritance.
With major legal issues undecided, Smith's legacy could take years to untangle and could leave the baby girl with millions of dollars or nothing at all.
Larry Birkhead, a former boyfriend of Smith, claims he is the father of the child. His attorney Debra Opri requested Friday's hearing to ask the judge to order that DNA be immediately collected from the body of Anna Nicole Smith, who died Thursday in Florida.
Opri said Judge Robert A. Schnider made no decision in the closed door hearing and would rule at a hearing on Feb. 20.
"Nothing was granted. Nothing was denied," Opri said, adding that the judge ordered the body to be preserved during that time.
The sample is needed to connect Smith with Dannielynn "so that no one can switch the babies," Opri said.
She also asked the judge to take jurisdiction over the child until her paternity is established. The judge also deferred a decision on that issue until Feb. 20.
Giving custody to California would require the judge to overturn the "home state rule," which would prohibit a state court from taking jurisdiction over a child born in another state. Dannielynn was born in the Bahamas and resides there.
Ron Rale, an attorney for Anna Nicole Smith, decried the push for the DNA test so soon after her death.
"It is despicable that we would have an emergency notice and appear right now," Rale said.
He said there was no urgency to deal with the issue because his client's DNA would be irrelevant in determining who fathered the child.
Asked how Howard K. Stern was doing, he replied: "He is emotionally a wreck. He's having a hard time."
The baby was being cared for in the Bahamas by the mother of Shane Gibson, the Bahamian immigration minister who is a close friend of Smith's, People magazine reported on its Web site, citing unidentified sources.
Family lawyer Mark Vincent Kaplan of Los Angeles, who has handled many celebrity paternity cases, said he believes Stern initially will receive custody of the child because he is listed on the birth certificate.
"The paternity test should be expedited," he said, "because if he is not the bio dad he has no rights to custody. But I predict there will be a will saying that Howard K. Stern is the father."