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Flores defense team continues presenting its case in Kristin Smart murder trial

SALINAS, Calif. – The Kristin Smart murder trial resumed in Salinas late Thursday morning for the second day of witness testimony on behalf of the Flores' defense team.

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, because he was reportedly the last one to see her alive after an off-campus party that spring. Paul's father, Ruben Flores, is charged as an accessory to the crime.

Monterey county Superior Court Judge Jennifer O'Keefe began Thursday's hearing by announcing a slight change in the schedule for the upcoming week's hearings. Because the trial started two months ago, on July 19, proceedings on Tuesdays and Thursdays are scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m., and hearings every other day will start at 8:30 a.m.

The earlier start times signal the trial nearing the end and will allow for the questioning to finish as quickly as possible, O'Keefe said.

The defense then resumed its questioning of Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, a forensic DNA specialist at a private practice who was called to the stand on Wednesday.

Defense attorney Robert Sanger asked Johnson about DNA testing, how it works, and what conditions can affect results for nearly an hour. He asked her about tests conducted by Angela Butler, a DNA analyst who performed soil testing on soil samples found at Ruben Flores' Arroyo Grande home.

Earlier in the trial, Butler said that she detected the presence of human blood in the soil. However, Johnson said that it was her opinion that the testing cannot be reliable, adding that the results were "completely uninformative" because there were no extensive validation studies performed on blood samples exposed to soil.

Under cross-examination from San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle, Peuvrelle questioned Johnson's credibility, noting that she has not worked in a lab since 2003 and has not published any papers since 1997.

Peuvrelle also asked Johnson how much she was being paid to testify to the defense, to which she responded that all her work so far has added up to be about $4,000 to $5,000.

He also pointed out that Johnson has only spoken as a lecturer at conferences across the country held for defense attorneys or public defenders. He asked her why she hasn't spoken at any state or national district attorney office conferences, to which she replied that she wasn't invited.

Sanger then went on to ask if Johnson has ever shaped her opinion to benefit the defense. Johnson replied, "I have not."

Another witness, Brent Moon, was then called to the stand. Moon previously dated and lived with Jennifer Hudson, who earlier testified that Paul Flores told her that he killed Smart in the summer of 1996.

Moon testified that he didn't know Paul Flores and that Hudson never mentioned him or what he supposedly said to her.

Under cross-examination, Moon added that Hudson, for unknown reasons, stopped going to the same house where Flores supposedly made the confession despite it being a place where they used to hang out together.

The trial will resume Monday morning.

Article Topic Follows: San Luis Obispo County
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Jade Martinez-Pogue

Jade Martinez-Pogue is the Assignment Editor and web journalist at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Jade, click here

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