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Anna Nicole Burial Will Be as Dignified as the Judicial Proceedings

Florida- For three days, Judge Larry Seidlin barked orders like a general and bantered like a comic, but when it came to crunch time, he sobbed like a baby and punted the final say about where to bury Anna Nicole Smith to a lawyer.

“I want her buried with her son in the Bahamas. I want them to be together,” Seidlin blubbered in a bizarre – and unprecedented – meltdown that set a new low for judicial decorum on the bench.

Then the long-winded, Bronx cabbie-turned-Florida jurist wimped out on making a decision.

He gave custody of Smith’s body – and the power to decide what to do with it – to Richard Milstein, the court-appointed lawyer for Smith’s baby Dannielynn. The sniffling Broward County judge left it to Milstein to hash out a burial plan with the warring parties.

The judge admitted he wasn’t tough enough to stand up to the media glare that had haunted Smith for the past decade.

“She had to live all her years under this exposure. After a week and a half, it’s ready to flatten me down,” the Broward blubberer said.

“She’s gonna be with her son. … She’s gonna have her son next to her,” he rambled on, but he left it to the soft-spoken Milstein to make that happen.

In less than 40 minutes, the baby’s lawyer sat down privately with bitter paternity foes Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead and Smith’s estranged mom, Virgie Arthur, to work out a “unified” funeral plan. Soon the parties emerged from the Fort Lauderdale courthouse arm-in-arm to announce their ceasefire.

“We all understand that we all loved Anna, and it’s in her best interest to come together and get this thing worked out,” said Birkhead, 34, gazing kindly at Stern even though he had, just hours earlier, accused him of enabling Smith’s drug habit.

A tearful Stern agreed.

“I just want to say that I am very grateful that Anna Nicole’s wishes will be carried out. She’s going to be in the Bahamas with her son. I am very happy with the decision.”

The goodwill was so great that Stern, who is listed as father on Dannielynn’s birth certificate, apparently agreed to let Birkhead see 5-month-old Dannielynn for the very first time in the days to come.

“Larry will be seeing his daughter very soon at the funeral, and I just want to say thank you to Howard,” said Birkhead’s lawyer Debra Opri, her voice cracking.

Also choked with emotion was Smith’s red-eyed mom.

“I loved her with all my heart,” Arthur said in a weak voice as Birkhead cradled her in the crook of his arm.

Although Arthur agreed to participate in planning Smith’s funeral in the Bahamas, her lawyers rushed to appeal Seidlin’s ruling in a last-ditch bid to get the body back to her home state of Texas.

The trio’s joint press conference capped a hearing in which Birkhead, Arthur and Stern took turns smearing each other and trading blame for Anna’s death – and her son Daniel’s, which was drug-related.

The medical examiner, Dr. Joshua Perper, who will fly with Smith’s body to the Bahamas, said the trip will be delayed for “one to two days” while Arthur’s appeal is under consideration. He said the cause of Smith’s death on Feb. 8 is still undetermined, pending tests, but there was no obvious “foul play.”

“Everybody is working together to arrange the details, and hopefully it will be what it should be – a very private family matter. You can go home,” said Stern’s lawyer Krista Barth.

For the first time in three days, Birkhead lawyer Debra Opri agreed with her courtroom foe.

“Anna deserves the best and the privacy that she sought,” Opri said.

But as the parties begin planning what was described as a “private, family” funeral for Smith, the battle over Dannielynn’s paternity will resume today in Broward County Family Court – just down the hall from where the body battle was waged.

Birkhead’s lawyer will ask the judge to enforce a California court’s order calling for a DNA test to determine who the baby’s dad is. The paternity fight is also expected to spill into a courtroom in the Bahamas next week.

“I hope to God that you guys give the kid the right shot,” Seidlin told the parties before he wrapped his role in the case.


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