Smith Courtroom Circus Comes to Sad Conclusion

Published February 23, 2007

The women stood around the television at Jimmy's Courthouse Convenience Store, nodding emphatically as they watched Judge Running Mouth issue his ruling at 4 p.m. Thursday.

"I want her buried with her son," Broward Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin said. "I want her buried in the Bahamas."

"Yes, yes, yes!" Lynn Ferron shouted, hands clasped prayerfully around a coffee cup.

Then Judge Running Mouth turned into Judge Waterworks, choking up as he talked about giving Anna Nicole Smith's surviving infant daughter, Dannielynn, "the right shot" at a better life.

"There's no crying in law!" Denise Melanson shouted at the screen.

This wasn't an O.J. moment, a verdict that fractured the country along racial fault lines.

This was more like an overdue triumph of common sense, even if Judge Pass The Buck weaseled out by officially turning over Smith's body to the baby's court guardian he appointed.

"An excellent decision," said cashier Milagros Sayegh. "Now, let her rest in peace. It went on too long."

As it was, Judge Running Mouth mercifully beat his self-imposed deadline by a day, issuing his surprise ruling just in time for the evening newscasts.

"This is what should be," said Ferron, a process server from Fort Lauderdale. "It's what every mother would want, to be buried next to her son. It doesn't matter how addled on drugs she was. This is what she wanted."

Inside the deli, the six women who watched all agreed with the decision to have Anna Nicole buried next to her son, Daniel, in the Bahamas. And they were happy the block around the courthouse might soon return to normal.

"It was good for business, but at the same time, it's really sad everyone had to make a big joke out of this," said Sayegh.

"It wasn't that good for business," said store owner Su Shin. "Mostly people coming in and buying a 99-cent pack of gum, a dollar bottle of water. But we sold a lot of shirts."

She pointed to $17.99 shirts hanging next to the television. They read: "I'm the baby's daddy."

"A lot of the local lawyers bought them," she said. "The cameramen from New York and Boston loved them. I sold out Tuesday and Wednesday, got another batch today. The lady from CNN bought five this morning."

I bought an extra-large for posterity's sake.

Across the street, gawkers descended on the courthouse as word of Seidlin's ruling spread. One man carried a poster that read "Jack Nicholson for President," perhaps in tribute to the constant non-sequiturs offered by Judge Running Mouth.

Mauricio Toledo, 28, of Tamarac, who took the day off from his nearby mortgage brokerage, came out with a Camcorder in hand, waiting for the cast of characters to exit.

"Definitely a no-brainer," Toledo said about the Bahamas decision. "This could have been wrapped up in two days."

The courtroom circus concluded Thursday with the pre-lunch collapse of one attorney and a videotape of Anna Nicole wearing clown makeup. (Insert your Send In the Clowns joke here).

And then, in a bizarre final flourish, the warring parties emerged arm-in-arm, with two of the men who claim to be Dannielynn's father, Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead, flanking Anna Nicole's mother, Virgie Arthur.

The bigger surprise was they didn't leave a trail of grease behind them.

There was so much damning testimony of who was sponging what off Anna Nicole and how much each tried to make off her that there was nobody left to root for.

"Nobody had clean hands," said Fort Lauderdale attorney Bradford Cohen, a former intern for Seidlin and one-time reality TV star on The Apprentice. "There was no white hat."

Instead, there was just tragedy layered upon tragedy, a self-destructive marginal celebrity who died at 39 in South Florida some five months after her 20-year-old son died visiting her in the Bahamas.

"This is a family affair," said Krista Barth, Stern's attorney. "You guys can all go home."

With an appeal filed, a family court hearing scheduled for today, paternity hearings to come and Smith still in the morgue, fat chance.

The Bahamas for a weekend burial is the best anybody could hope for.

Michael Mayo can be reached at mmayo@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4508

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