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Judge weighs DNA test

March 14, 2007|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

A judge said Tuesday that Anna Nicole Smith's boyfriend at the time of her death might be forced to give DNA for a test to determine the father of her 6-month-old daughter, according to lawyers at the hearing.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert A. Schnider denied a motion by Smith's former boyfriend Larry Birkhead asking that Smith's companion, Howard K. Stern, be compelled to immediately join the case, which could result in him being ordered to give his DNA, lawyers for the parties said. But Schnider left open the possibility that he could change his mind later this month. The next hearing in Los Angeles is scheduled for March 28.

Because paternity hearings are closed, court officials won't acknowledge that the case is being heard, even as they coordinate news conferences for dozens of cameras and reporters.

The question of the baby's parentage has become the focus of a media firestorm and a test case in law schools across the country. Smith, the former Playboy bunny and jeans model who married oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall a year before his death, died at the age of 39 in Hollywood, Fla.

She gave birth to Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern in the Bahamas; Stern is listed as the father on the birth certificate, but Birkhead has long said that he is the father.

Last month in Florida, Birkhead and Stern, along with Smith's estranged mother, Virgie Arthur, feuded over what should be done with Smith's body before she was ultimately buried in the Bahamas. Now the fight over the baby's parentage has moved to courtrooms in Los Angeles and the Bahamas. At stake is not only who will raise Dannielynn but who will get potentially millions from Marshall's estate.

Lawyers for Birkhead and Stern had dramatically different interpretations of the judge's ruling and clashed in front of the courthouse after the hearing.

Stern is "the father administratively, not biologically," said Birkhead's lawyer, Debra Opri. "Stop perpetrating a fraud, James," she said to Stern's lawyer, James Neavitt.

Neavitt did not respond directly. He and Ron Rale, who represents Smith's estate, downplayed the question of whether the judge would change his mind on Stern.

Meanwhile, a hearing is scheduled Friday in the Bahamas to take up the issue of Dannielynn's parentage.

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jessica.garrison@latimes.com

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