Thursday marked the conclusion of the presentation of evidence for the Kristin Smart murder trial.
“You have now heard all of the evidence in this case,” Judge Jennifer O’Keefe told both juries around 3 p.m. “The next step in this process is to hear the evidence of Counsel.”
Closing statements for the Paul Flores case and the Ruben Flores case will take place on Monday and Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., respectively.
Both juries will deliberate separately.
The juries will begin deliberation immediately after the closing statements are delivered in their case. If closing statements end at the end of the day, jury deliberations will begin the next morning.
The verdicts in each case will be read after both juries reach their respective verdicts but will be delivered outside the presence of the other jury.
“I want to thank you very very much for all the time and attention that you have spent on this,” Judge O’Keefe told both juries before dismissing them.
Forensic analyst clarifies her previous testimony on behalf of the prosecution
After an off-the-record day on Wednesday, prosecutor Christopher Peuvrelle brought Angela Butler, a forensic analyst, back to the stand on Thursday as a rebuttal witness.
This comes after both defense attorneys rested their case on Tuesday. Throughout their case, the defense has called two expert witnesses to the stand that called the validity of the forensic evidence presented by the prosecution into question.
On Sep. 19 and Sep. 20, Butler testified on behalf of the prosecution about soil samples that she received from the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office that were taken from under Ruben Flores’ deck on his property at 710 White Ct.
The prosecution believes that Paul and Ruben buried Smart there at some point.
During her testimony last week, Butler said that some of the samples yielded positive results using a HemDirect test, while other samples tested negative.
As she explained, the HemDirect test detects the hemoglobin present in human blood.
On Thursday, Butler said that it was “not unusual” that some of the samples did not yield the same results.
“It’s not a concern at all to me,” she said, later adding that she was “not surprised by those results at all.”
Elizabeth Johnson, a forensic DNA consultant who testified on behalf of the defense on Sep. 22, said during her testimony that the HemDirect test “cannot be considered reliable because it is not properly validated for use on this type of sample.”
During her testimony, Johnson specifically cited the fact that there had been no validation studies for the use of the HemDirect test on soil, thereby arguing that the results of the HemDirect test could not be considered valid.
On Thursday, Butler cited a study done to observe the effects of the environment on blood samples using the HemDirect test.
The study placed liquid blood on a rusty dumpster, an air vent, a metal doorframe, a wooden door frame and brick. The researchers then tested the blood using the HemDirect test, which yielded positive results until after about two to four weeks depending on the material the blood was placed on.
Butler added that “[the researchers] hypothesized that it wasn’t… the exposure to the elements” which made the blood stop reacting positively after four weeks, but rather that “it was difficult to swab from those particular surfaces.”
She also noted that the study had a “very small sample size” and said that “it was not reproducible.”
During his cross examination, Paul Flores’ attorney, Robert Sanger, said that the study yielded weaker results as time went on.
Butler confirmed this, but noted that “they were still positives.” She also agreed with Sanger when he said that “nobody has done a validation study with regard to using HemDirect in soils.”
Sanger also asked Butler about the frequency of positive versus negative results that she obtained from the soil.
“If you take all the tests that you did with HemDirect, you had substantially more negatives than positives or weak positives, right?” he asked.
“I don’t think you understand the way the sampling works with the test,” Butler replied, explaining that it would be improper forensic analysis to give the samples “an overall weight of being negative” just because more samples tested negative than positive.
“Per the manufacturer’s instructions, any line is considered a positive result,” she said earlier in her testimony.
During her testimony last week, Johnson also questioned the validity of the test in this case by saying that too much time had passed for the blood samples to react positively; “You would expect the human hemoglobin to be degraded after this much time,” she said.
On Thursday, Butler explained that her lab has tested “old blood” samples from the 1970s and 1980s before and added that “we have gotten positive results from those bloodstains.”
During his cross examination, Ruben Flores’ attorney, Harold Mesick, said those particular samples had been kept “inside, not under the earth for 10, 20 years,” which Butler agreed with.
Butler also agreed with Mesick when he said there was no way to source the samples that tested positive, and she also agreed there was no way to tell if the HemDirect test was reacting to ferret blood or advanced primate blood.
The latter point has been a point of contention between the parties throughout the trial.
During his testimony on Aug. 29, Edward Chadwell, the contractor in charge of building the property on 710 White Ct., said that there were no human, primate or ferret bodies on the property when he built it in 1991.
Court proceedings will resume Monday morning, starting with Peuvrelle’s closing statement to Paul Flores’ jury.