Smith's mother seeks 'justice' at inquest


NASSAU, Bahamas -- Anna Nicole Smith's mother said Tuesday that she hopes an inquest into the death of her 20-year-old grandson will lead to justice as a Nassau court selected a jury to hear the case.

Virgie Arthur, who flew to the Bahamas for the long-delayed proceedings, has suggested foul play contributed to Daniel Smith's death last year in the Atlantic archipelago where he was visiting his celebrity mother.

"I hope this starts the process of justice," Arthur told reporters as she entered the courthouse.

Magistrate William Campbell told the seven-member Coroner's Court jury that its only duty is to determine the cause of death and said police have no evidence of homicide.

"Nobody is on trial here," he said, but noted the jury can refer the case for criminal charges if it finds evidence of negligence.

About 35 witnesses are expected to testify during the inquest, which was postponed until Nov. 19 due to the approach of Tropical Storm Noel.

Daniel Smith died Sept. 10, 2006, as he visited his mother three days after she gave birth in a Nassau hospital to her daughter, Dannielynn. A private pathologist said he died from combination of drugs, including methadone and antidepressants.

Anna Nicole Smith died in Florida on Feb. 8 at age 39 from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs, including the painkiller methadone and a powerful sleep aid.

In February, Arthur claimed in a television interview that Smith's boyfriend-turned-attorney Howard K. Stern played a role in both deaths, but she did not provide evidence.

Stern has feuded with Arthur over issues including the grandmother's access to Dannielynn and the burial location for Anna Nicole Smith. As the executor of the late reality TV star's will, he filed papers last month to make Dannielynn the sole beneficiary of Smith's estate, which stands to inherit millions from the oil fortune of her late husband J. Howard Marshall II.

The inquest had been delayed by a challenge from Stern's legal team, which wanted jurors to take a questionnaire to test for possible bias. Stern did not attend the session Tuesday, and the courtroom was closed to reporters during jury selection.

Campbell told jurors not to discuss the case with reporters and to avoid media coverage.

"Listen if you must, but don't get your minds clogged up," he said.

An attorney for Arthur, Neil McCabe, said he hopes the probe will clarify whether anyone bears responsibility for Daniel's death.

"We have our own ideas and our own suspicions. We just hope the inquest will get to the bottom of this," McCabe said.

Stern, who came to the Bahamas with Smith last year, has been living in the waterfront home they shared and initially claimed he was the father of her infant daughter. He gave up custody last spring after DNA tests proved Smith's ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead is the father.