SALINAS, Calif. – Closing arguments in the Kristin Smart murder trial are underway. Judge Jennifer O’Keefe began the proceeding at 8:50 a.m. by reading instructions to the jury.
For more than 45 minutes, the judge went through the specific requirements the prosecution needs to prove in order to convict defendant Paul Flores guilty of the alleged crime of first degree murder.
Following the instructions, the prosecution began presenting its closing argument at 10 a.m.
Paul Flores is accused of killing Smart, who was a 19-year-old Cal Poly student at the time of her disappearance in May 1996, and Ruben Flores, Paul's father, is being charged as an accessory to the crime.
The courtroom was very full today with many members of the public, media, members of Smart family, as well as San Luis Obispo District Attorney Dan Dow San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson.
Ruben Flores was also at court, as well as Susan Flores, Paul’s mother. Closing arguments for Ruben Flores are set to be held tomorrow.
The judge said closing arguments for Paul Flores are expected to last most of today. Once the closing arguments are completed, the jury may begin deliberating immediately.
Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle delivered the prosecution's closing argument.
He started by noting it has been nearly 1,400 weeks since Smart disappeared in May of 1996, but added that “justice delayed does not have to be justice denied.”
Peuvrelle began by saying smart was dead, “plucked off the face of the earth and never seen again.”
He added there are no witnesses to the crime, but ground penetrating radar and lab work shows she was buried under the deck of the Arroyo Grande house owned by Ruben Flores, Paul's father.
Peuvrelle pointed out witness testimony during the trial indicates Flores obsessed about Smart for months.
He frequently used the term “hunted” in describing Flores behavior towards Smart, while also saying he was “guilty as sin,” multiple times.
Peuvrelle also pointed out four separate cadaver dogs all altered to human decomposition in Flores' Cal Poly dorm room during a search of the campus in the weeks following Smart's disappearance.
He also pointed out a number of lies Flores was found to have said during police interviews, and spent a considerable amount of time going over evidence collected at the Flores home.
The evidence included soil samples from under the deck, which expert testimony said included human blood.
After the lunch break, court resumed with prosecutor Peuvrelle quickly wrapping up his closing argument, saying “I ask you render a truthful verdict that Paul Flores is guilty of the murder.“
He was followed by Flores' defense attorney, Robert Sanger.
Sanger then began his closing argument saying, "the evidence does not show a murder was committed" and that the prosecution case is "a bunch of conspiracy theories not backed by facts."
Sanger went on to say Peuvrelle is "grasping at straws" and trying to "bootstrap" a murder and that there is no evidence of a murder, nor any evidence of a rape, both of which is accused of.
Sanger said the prosecution’s case rests in large part to the witness testimony of Jennifer Hudson. She is a woman who testified that Flores admitted to her in the summer of 1996 that he buried Smart under a skateboard ramp. Sanger called Hudson "bizarre" and said she is not credible, and has been inconsistent with her statements, and called her testimony "preposterous."
Sanger went on to remind the jury that any defendant in a criminal case is presumed to be innocent unless the evidence proves the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He emphasized the entire prosecution case is circumstantial.
He then went on to say that Kristin Smart was engaged in “risky behavior” during her time at Cal Poly, including the night of her disappearance.
Sanger went on to say the elephant in the room is the publicity this case is generated for more than 26 years, including consistent local and national TV coverage, news programs, website, and specifically the “Your Own Backyard” podcast by Chris Lambert.
He said the continuous capacity has influenced witness testimony, and there has been a crusade by many in the community to convict Flores.
The courtroom was filled with many spectators, such as Smart's parents, who have been present throughout the trial – as were many other family members and friends.
San Luis Obispo District Attorney Dan Dow and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson were also in attendance.
Ruben Flores, Paul’s father, who is charged with being an accessory to the crime, sat right behind his son, as did Susan Flores, Paul’s mother.
Several members of the media also filled a large portion of the courtroom, indicating how much attention the 26-year-old case continues to attract locally and nationally.
The judge said previously, a verdict will not be announced until both juries have reached a decision.