Opening statements for the Kristin Smart murder trial are set to begin Monday morning in Monterey County Superior Court.

Paul Flores is charged with Smart’s murder, while his father, Ruben Flores, is charged with accessory after the murder. Both men were charged in April of 2021, almost 25 years after Smart disappeared as a Cal Poly freshman. 

Smart went missing on May 26, 1996 after walking home from an off-campus party with Paul Flores. She was legally declared dead in 2002, though her body has not been found.

Paul and Ruben Flores are both set to appear before the judge on Monday at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., respectively.

During opening statements, both sides will present a preview of their evidence for the case before the jury. 

The People v. Flores trial will continue after Monday until a verdict is reached. 

The trial moved to Monterey County after former Presiding Judge Craig Van Rooyen ruled that the trial could not be fair and impartial in San Luis Obispo due to the years of media attention surrounding the case.

Judge Jenifer O’Keefe is now presiding over the trial. There will be two separate juries for the two defendants, but both cases will be heard within the same trial. 

Defendants Paul Flores (left) and Ruben Flores (right) sit in a pretrial session at the Monterey County Superior Court on July 6. Chloe Jones | SLO Tribune

Judge O’Keefe has already ruled on several motions that have shaped the trial so far. According to the San Luis Obispo Tribune, one such ruling came after the defense tried to require “Your Own Backyard” podcast host Chris Lambert to testify in court. O’Keefe ruled against the subpoena on Friday, arguing that the defense did not make a strong enough case to overcome California Shield Law and reporter’s privilege under the First Amendment. 

Defense attorney Robert Sanger, who helped achieve a not-guilty verdict for Michael Jackson in his 2005 molestation case, is representing Paul Flores in the trial. San Luis Obispo criminal and civil attorney Harold Mesick is defending Ruben Flores. San Luis Obispo Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle is prosecuting the case.

If convicted, Paul Flores can face anywhere from 25 years in prison to a life sentence. His father is facing a maximum sentence of three years.