Inquest into Death of Daniel Smith Put on Hold

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) - An inquest into the death of Anna Nicole Smith's 20-year-old son was put on hold Thursday pending a legal challenge filed by Howard K. Stern, the lawyer-turned-partner of the former Playboy Playmate.

A judge in the Bahamian Coroner's Court had picked a seven-member jury and was preparing to call witnesses when Stern's lawyers persuaded him to halt the proceedings until the island's Supreme Court could rule on a motion to submit a questionnaire to potential jurors to gauge any bias.

Stern attorney Wayne Munroe argued it would be "reckless" to continue the inquest before the Supreme Court had ruled on the issue.

No date has been set for a Supreme Court hearing on the issue and it was unclear when the inquest would resume, though jurors were instructed to return to court on April 11.

"I'm very disappointed with the delay tactics they are using," Virgie Arthur, Anna Nicole Smith's mother, told reporters as she left the court. "But I'll be here every day. I'll be here until the end."

Daniel Smith died Sept. 10 as he visited his mother three days after she gave birth in a Nassau hospital to her daughter, Dannielynn. Authorities say he died from a combination of drugs including methadone and antidepressants, but an inquest was convened to determine whether the death was accidental, suicide or perhaps even a homicide.

Anna Nicole Smith died Feb. 8 in Florida from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs, including a powerful sleep aid that a lawyer for Stern said she took to cope with grief over her son's death.

Bahamian officials had summoned dozens of witnesses for the inquest, including Stern and Larry Birkhead, a California photographer and former boyfriend of Smith's who claims he is Dannielynn's father and has petitioned for custody of the girl.

A Bahamian court had ordered DNA tests of Dannielynn to determine paternity, but that order has been appealed by Stern to the island's Court of Appeal, which was scheduled to hold a hearing on the matter on Monday.