After excusing his last witness on Tuesday, Robert Sanger rested his case on behalf of his client, Paul Flores.
“We, as well, rest, Your Honor,” Harold Mesick said on behalf of his client, Ruben Flores, after the council privately spoke with Judge Jennifer O’Keefe for a couple of minutes.
This marked the end of witness testimony for the case, subject to rebuttal testimony from the prosecution.
O’Keefe excused the jury and asked them to come back on Thursday at 10:30 a.m.
“We are near the end of this case,” O’Keefe said, reminding them not to consume media related to the case or speak about it with anyone until jury deliberations.
Outside the presence of the jury, Sanger added that he was resting his case “in light of circumstances that were beyond our control.”
He said this in reference to an expert dog handler witness, James Ha, who was supposed to testify in court as part of the defense’s case.
Ha testified in the 2021 pretrial motions for the case, but he was not able to make it to Monterey County to testify in the trial because he was unable to book a flight due to Hurricane Ian.
Council will meet with O’Keefe privately over Zoom on Wednesday to discuss scheduling, and court proceedings will resume in person on Thursday.
Lead investigator on the Kristin Smart case for the SLO Sheriff’s Department testifies about previous witness testimony
Tuesday’s proceedings centered around testimony from Detective Clint Cole, the lead investigator for the Kristin Smart case.
Cole was assigned to the case in 2017, when he said that his legal clerk re-organized the files for the case.
During his direct testimony, Sanger established that the files included documents from the Cal Poly Police Department, a civil attorney named Jim Murphy representing the Smart family, the District Attorney’s office, the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department and the FBI.
Cole said that there were “at least” 150,000 to 200,000 files in the Kristin Smart case.
Sanger also asked Cole about a Facebook page titled “Justice for Kristin Smart,” which Cole said he “monitored.”
Sanger asked him multiple times if the contents of the page were “dedicated” to convicting Paul Flores for murder. This led to many objections from prosecutor Christopher Peuvrelle, most of which were sustained.
“In my opinion, it was dedicated to get justice for Kristin Smart,” Cole said. “And it was a lot of talk about Paul Flores, yes.”
Both defense attorneys have argued multiple times throughout the trial that many people have targeted their clients as a result of the negative media attention they have received because of this case.
Cole also agreed with Sanger when he asked him if he became “concerned at some point that the contents of the page would jeopardize the investigation.”
On Sept. 8, Jennifer Hudson, a San Luis Obispo local, testified that she heard Paul Flores admit to burying Smart in 1996.
She said that Paul Flores made the statement at a house where people would often go skating, where he admitted to the murder outside the presence of anybody except herself and a man nicknamed “Red.”
About two weeks later, Hudson said she drove out to a skate ramp while following a white pickup truck in Huasna to drop off some friends, which she later said she realized was the same place that Paul Flores referred to in his statement from their first interaction.
“Were you ever able to associate that property with Paul Flores ever being out there?” Sanger asked on Tuesday.
“No,” Cole replied.
Cole also confirmed that law enforcement was never able to find or contact “Red” or corroborate the fact that Paul Flores was a skater in 1996, either.
During her testimony on Sept. 12, Hudson told Sanger that she reached out to a friend out of concern for her security when she went to the police in 2019.
“You called somebody who was in a motorcycle gang who could assign prospects to stalk people out,” Sanger said.
Hudson did not confirm that her friend was in a motorcycle gang, and told Sanger that she only made a call to a friend because “I was afraid that [Paul Flores] or his family was gonna come after me.”
“What are ‘prospects?’” Sanger asked Cole on Tuesday.
“Lower level subjects who are trying to join an outlaw motorcycle gang,” Cole said.
During her testimony, Hudson said she only ever told one person about the interaction: Justin Goodwin, who submitted a tip about the information to the FBI in 2004 and to the SLO Sheriff’s Department in 2019.
Sanger asked Cole on Tuesday if he understood that “Justin Goodwin was angling to get the reward, the $75,000 reward” when he went to the police with the information that Hudson told him.
Cole said Goodwin made “no official” move to get the reward but testified that “he was talking about it on messages, for sure.”
Another one of Sanger’s main lines of questioning concerned a wiretap of Paul, Ruben, Susan and Linda Flores’ phones from January to February 2020 conducted by the Sheriff’s Department.
The jury heard about this on Aug. 30, when SLO Deputy Sheriff Gregory Smith said the purpose of the wire was to get a confession from the family.
During his testimony, Smith confirmed that the police leaked information about the case to Chris Lambert, the owner of the “Your Own Backyard” podcast about the Smart case, to prompt the family to talk about the case on the phone.
Cole confirmed this on Tuesday.
“You’re trying to cause the people whose phones are being tapped to talk about the case,” Sanger told him.
“Absolutely,” Cole said.
Cole also confirmed that, during the wiretaps, he offered Linda Flores immunity from prosecution if she talked to him, which she never did.
During his cross examination, Mesick asked Cole about the various excavations that law enforcement has conducted in relation to the Smart case, which Cole believes there were around 10 of.
“In all of these excavations, there have been no human remains found,” Mesick said.
“No,” Cole said.
Peuvrelle asked Cole about this later, saying that “human blood was found” under Ruben Flores’ home on 710 White Ct.
Sanger objected to this question, arguing that this was “not [Cole’s] expertise,” and Judge O’Keefe sustained it.
Defense attorney motions for a mistrial citing ‘prosecutorial misconduct,’ which Judge Jennifer O’Keefe denies
During Cole’s cross examination, Peuvrelle asked him if Hudson ever told him that she was “afraid” the Flores family would come after her if she came forward with her information. Sanger objected to the question.
“I have a motion,” Sanger said.
Judge Jennifer O’Keefe dismissed the juries, and Sanger put forth a motion for a mistrial based on “prosecutorial misconduct.”
“The last question was way overboard,” Sanger said, arguing that Peuvrelle citing Hudson’s “fear of the Flores family” made his client look like someone who is “conspiring with his father” to harm Hudson.
Sanger said there isn’t any evidence of that conspiring, and the question could instill bias in the jury.
Peuvrelle asked the court to deny the motion, arguing that Hudson said she was afraid to come forward out of fear of the Flores family and that the statements she made to Cole corroborated that testimony.
“The question was in direct response to an hour and a half of leading questions,” Peuvrelle added.
Judge O’Keefe suggested the council move on from this line of questioning.
“I am going to respectfully deny the motion,” O’Keefe said. “Today has been, for some reason, a longer day than usual.”
Sanger asked O’Keefe for “further inspection” of his motion, which she denied.
“Mr. Sanger, you did ask many many many leading questions,” O’Keefe said, adding that she has already instructed the jury not to take the council’s questions as evidence.
Former detective clarifies previous witness testimony
Tuesday’s proceedings began with the defense’s fourth witness: Henry Stewart, a former detective for the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office assigned to the Kristin Smart case from 1996 to 1999.
During his direct examination, Sanger asked Stewart if he and another detective “surveilled” Paul Flores at some point throughout his participation in the case..
“I don’t recall following him around… I did go to places that he worked,” Stewart said.
Earlier in the trial, the jury heard from Tim Davis, who said that he found Smart, intoxicated, lying down on a lawn next to the house on Crandall Way the night she went missing in 1996. Davis said he helped her up, and he and another friend, Cheryl Manzer, began walking back with her to Muir Hall.
In August, Davis said that Paul Flores “just kind of came out of the darkness” and started walking with them after offering to help carry Smart back to the dorms.
On Tuesday, Stewart testified about an interview he did with Davis in 1996, where Davis said that Paul Flores was walking with a group from another frat house when he came up and offered to help walk Smart home, contradicting Davis’ testimony from August.
The trial was set to continue on Thursday.