Jurors deliberating in the Anna Nicole Smith drug conspiracy case have every right to declare a deadlock if they can't agree on some or all of the charges, the trial judge says.
After reading the written notes from the jurors, Superior Court Judge Robert Perry told them Wednesday they should not hesitate to make such a declaration if agreement just won't come on the charges against the former reality TV star's two doctors and her boyfriend-lawyer.
"If you can't reach a verdict, you can't reach a verdict," Perry told the panel. "We declare a hung jury on that count."
The jury is set to try again Thursday. The panel has already deliberated for 56 hours over 12 days.
Defendants Howard K. Stern and Drs. Sandeep Kapoor and Khristine Eroshevich were in the courtroom when the jury received the instructions.
After the panel was dismissed for lunch, Eroshevich burst into tears and was comforted by Stern. Her attorney Brad Brunon said she was reacting to the stress of waiting for the verdicts.
Perry also told the six women and six men in their third week of deliberations that it was a tough case, and he invited them to ask for readback of testimony and for additional legal instructions, if needed.
Jurors asked earlier in the day what they should do if unable to reach a verdict on "a count or an object crime."
They also asked whether it would be correct to conclude that if prescriptions to Smith were written in excessive amounts, "Does it follow that the prescriptions also have no legitimate medical purpose?"
After conferring with lawyers, the judge told them, "The answer to that is no."
Stern, Kapoor and Eroshevich have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to provide Smith with excessive amounts of prescription drugs and other charges. They are not charged in her 2007 overdose death.
The defense has claimed all the drugs were prescribed to alleviate Smith's chronic pain and illnesses.