Kristin Smart

The hearing for a change of location in San Luis Obispo’s Kristin Smart murder trial will be held tomorrow morning.

Paul Flores is charged with the murder of Kristin Smart, a Cal Poly freshman who was reported missing in 1996. Ruben Flores, Paul Flores’ father, is charged with accessory to the murder. 

The Flores trial is scheduled to begin April 25 — about a year after their arrest.

Defense attorney Robert Sanger filed a motion to move the location of Paul Flores’ trial outside of San Luis Obispo due to a lack of impartial bias.

The County District Attorney’s office prosecuting the case wrote an opposition on Friday.

A judge will hear both sides in the change of venue debate at a hearing on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. in the San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

In Sanger’s briefing, he listed the different instances in which the Smart case was publicized. Flores’ defense team said the media and press attention towards the Smart case has “saturated the San Luis Obispo County community for almost 26 years.”

Venue changes for court hearings have to include reasoning such as “pretrial publicity, bias, political atmosphere, and any other circumstance that the parties believe would prevent them from obtaining a fair trial in the county in which the case was originally filed,” according to the Judicial Council of California.

“Given the saturation of the adverse publicity into the public consciousness, it would be futile to attempt to obtain assurances from the prospective jurors that they could be fair and impartial,” Sanger wrote.

In addition, the defense cited how the circumstances of the case would influence the results of the jury. This reasoning included the media, the size of San Luis Obispo and the notoriety of the victim and the charged. 

However, in an opposition to Flores’ statements, District Attorney Dan Dow, representing the People of California, wrote that the media coverage on the Smart case has not been harmful.

“When the reporting is largely factual and most of the coverage refers to evidence that is ultimately admitted at trial, something more than sensational facts is needed to justify a change of venue,” Dow wrote.

Dow also wrote that the public’s reaction to the case or what Sanger called “vicious and relentless” was linked to the content of the situation.

“Many serious offenses are likely to engender sympathy for the victims no matter where the trial was held, and this stems from the nature of the crime and not the location of the trial,” Dow wrote.

Smart was last seen with Paul Flores, also a former Cal Poly student, after walking back with him to the residence halls on campus from an off-campus party. Smart was legally presumed dead in 2002, although her body has not been discovered.

YouTube video
25 years after her disappearance, students in the San Luis Obispo community honored the life and legacy of Kristin Smart by taking what is known as her “last walk” before she disappeared on May 25, 1996. Video by Lauren Walike

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