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Deliberations for both sets of juries in Kristin Smart murder trial continue

Kristin Smart
File

SALINAS, Calif. – Both juries in the Kristin Smart murder trial continue deliberations.

Paul Flores' defense attorney Robert Sanger, and Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle were present at the Monterey County Courthouse in Salinas.

Paul Flores' jury is also present in the courthouse.

Paul Flores at the Monterey County Courthouse.

On Monday, closing arguments began for Paul Flores. The courtroom was full of many members of the public, media, the Smart family, and San Luis Obispo District Attorney Dan Dow and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson.

Ruben Flores was also at court, and Susan Flores, Paul’s mother.

Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle delivered the prosecution's closing argument.

He noted that 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 several lies Flores found to have said during police interviews and spent considerable time reviewing evidence collected at the Flores home.

The evidence included soil samples under the deck, which expert testimony said included human blood.

Robert Sanger, Paul Flores’ defense attorney concludes closing arguments for the Kristin Smart murder trial Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.

Paul Flores' defense attorney, Robert Sanger, stepped in for his closing arguments.

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 on 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, 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 had 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 had 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 media members also filled a large portion of the courtroom, indicating how much attention the 26-year-old case attracts locally and nationally.

On Tuesday, closing arguments continue with Robert Sanger.

Defense Attorney Robert Sanger wrapped up his closing arguments for Paul Flores in the Kristin Smart murder trial, recapping all the evidence presented by the prosecution.

Ultimately, he said there is no evidence to convict Paul Flores.

Sanger talked about the witnesses, what he called the “scientific evidence, but no evidence was involved,” and a recap of what happened the night Smart disappeared.

He also mentioned the blood soil samples and said “there is no validation study for ‘hem’ direct soil.”

The defense attorney constantly reminded the jurors that whatever lawyers say, they will say it in good hope.

But ultimately it is the jury’s decision.

Sanger wrapped up by saying that what’s important are the facts and the law and that the prosecution has a burden to overcome this innocence because Kristin Smart’s body has not been found.

Sanger finished and said “the only proper verdict is not guilty.”

Deputy District Attorney Chris Puevrelle then proceeded with a rebuttal.

Puevrelle said the defense team said the prosecution's case is only conspiracy.

The Deputy District Attorney said Sanger is absurd to have the jury believe 50 witnesses are involved in a grand conspiracy, six dogs are on it and even the media is on it.

Puevrelle continued on to talk about the evidence and the night Smart disappeared, saying that the jury had to see things no human being should.

Puevrelle said “there is no doubt Kristin Smart was dead.”

He said that in order to find Paul Flores not guilty, the jury would have to believe that a serial rapist took Kristin Smart by himself to his dorm room, by herself, and let her go and live her life.

Puevrelle continued to say that every witness was insulted up at the stand.

He finished and said “sometimes we tell our kids monsters do not exist, and that's not true, we've seen one in this trial.”

The Deputy District Attorney said Paul Flores is guilty of murder.

Judge Jennifer O'Keefe then gave Paul Flores’ jury two verdict forms – one is guilty, and the other is not guilty – and she reminded the jury not to hesitate to change their mind but to keep an open mind.

Paul Flores’ jury was dismissed for deliberation around 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.

Jury instructions proceeded by Judge O'Keefe.

Closing arguments for Ruben Flores begin in the Kristin Smart murder trial. Court proceeded at 8:40 a.m. with San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle's closing arguments for the prosecution.

Closing arguments for Ruben Flores began Wednesday morning.

San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle began that morning by thanking the jury for their patience and dedication over the past 12 weeks.

The Deputy District Attorney started by telling the jury, “the truth is quite simple, Paul Flores murdered Kristin Smart, and he and his dad buried her.”

He added that while there is no body, science and witness expertise will put it all together, especially since, he said, “we have human blood.”

Peuvrelle told the jury that all the Smart family has of their daughter is a few grains of bloody sand found under the deck of Ruben Flores’ Arroyo Grande home.

He then instructed the jury that “you cannot have sympathy for Ruben Flores” and that he may be old now, but that doesn’t change what he did in the past and continued to do for 26 years, which was to hide Smart’s body.

Peuvrelle said to the jury that he would go through all the evidence and witness testimony that shows Paul Flores killed Kristin Smart. To convict Ruben Flores of being an accessory to the crime, he must prove a crime was committed.

The prosecutor then began a PowerPoint presentation, displaying a photo of Smart in high school, saying, "there is no doubt Kristin Smart is dead."

A PowerPoint presentation is shown to Ruben Flores' jury by the prosecution Wednesday morning. Photo credit: Laura Dickinson/San Luis Obispo Tribune

He then proceeded to show bullet points of how he believes Paul Flores "hunted " Smart during their time at Cal Poly.

Peuvrelle then went through a timeless of the Crandall Way party where Smart encountered Flores on the night of May 24, 1996, detailing witness testimony that showed Smart went from sober to incapacitated within a two-hour time frame.

He called Flores a “serial drugger and serial rapist,” saying he knew Smart was incapacitated and saw it as an opportunity to take her back to his room.

He added Ruben Flores was “the one person who would help him get away with murder,” and “Ruben Flores has been helping him for the past 26 years.”

Ruben Flores (left) and his attorney, Harold Mesick.

Ruben Flores's defense attorney Harold Mesick then started his closing arguments in defense of his 81-year-old client.He started by thanking the jury for their commitment and sacrifice during the now 12-week-long trial.

Mesick said Ruben Flores is “absolutely innocent, hasn't done a thing and hasn't dug a grave in his life.”

He called the prosecution's case “lacking any physical evidence."

Mesick added that Peuvrelle had done a great job “demonizing” both Paul and Ruben Flores during the case. He later said Paul Flores was a “socially awkward 19-year-old while at Cal Poly, and he didn't kill Smart; he kindly walked her home the night of her disappearance, which Mesick described as doing a “good deed.”

He later argued that blood found under the deck was minuscule and that staining in the soil could be from iron oxide related to the avocado orchard that used to be on the site under the house.

Mesick also questioned several of the prosecution's witnesses, including Hudson, who he accused of looking for a reward or “15 minutes of fame” and is part of a “Facebook posse” that will do whatever it takes to put the Flores' behind bars.

As for the cadaver dogs that alerted in Paul Flores' dorm room in 1996, Mesick argued it did not provide any scientific evidence and said, “this is not how we convict people in America, and this isn't evidence.”

He told the jury, “if you don't know what happened, this is reasonable doubt.” He added, “this case screams a total lack of evidence, and the state has not met its burden.”

Mesick said to the jury the prosecution is asking it to “fill in the blanks” and is trying to “bootstrap” a murder case and pin it on Paul Flores, which he once again argued didn't kill or rape Smart.

He closed by saying, “I'd like you to find my client not guilty and send us all home.”

Article Topic Follows: San Luis Obispo County
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Karen Cruz-Orduña

Karen Cruz-Orduña is a reporter for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Karen, click here.

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