Paul Flores appears in court for his defense attorney's closing statement earlier this month. Paul Flores was found guilty of first degree murder of Kristin Smart on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022. Credit: Laura Dickinson | SLO Tribune

Editor’s note: The People v. Flores murder trial has been covered each day by Mustang News. Follow @CPMustangNews on Twitter and Instagram for more updates. Read previous articles about the trial here.

Paul Flores was found guilty on Tuesday of the 1996 murder of Kristin Smart. His father, Ruben Flores — accused of helping his son hide and bury Smart’s body — was found not guilty. 

Paul Flores was convicted for willful, deliberate and premeditated murder in the first degree. Judge Jennifer O’Keefe set his sentencing date for Dec. 9. 

The two separate verdicts come from two different juries, who were kept separate during their respective deliberations.

Paul Flores is facing anywhere from 25 years in prison to a life sentence, and is currently remanded without bail. His father was facing up to three years.

Denise and Lindsey Smart — Kristin Smart’s mother and sister — engaged in a tearful embrace after the court clerk read Paul Flores’ verdict. 

Denise Smart cried during the reading of Ruben Flores’ verdict. The rest of the Smart family rubbed her back in comfort.

Verdicts were read on Tuesday at 1:37 p.m. and 2:04 p.m. for Paul and Ruben Flores, respectively.

“Ruben Flores is discharged [from electronic monitoring],” O’Keefe said after the court clerk read the defendant’s verdict. “The Court will be in recess.” 

Ruben Flores had been wearing an ankle monitor since his arrest in April 2021.

Ruben Flores’ attorney, Harold Mesick, spoke to reporters — including Mustang News — after the reading of his client’s verdict.

“I’m very pleased obviously with the outcome,” Mesick said. “Like I said at the beginning, [my client is] not just not guilty — absolutely innocent.”

Ruben Flores told reporters he felt “relieved” after his verdict. A producer from CourtTV asked him what he was planning on doing tonight.

“Don’t know,” Ruben Flores said.

Mesick and his client also spoke to the press outside the courtroom.

Regarding his son’s guilty verdict, Ruben Flores said he didn’t know how to react. 

“I was hoping it was not guilty but it’s just tough,” Ruben Flores said.

Ruben Flores said there was “no evidence against anybody, me or Paul.”

While responding to a question from a reporter, Mesick said that “it is very likely that Paul’s attorney [Robert Sanger] will file a motion for a new trial.” 

Sanger has made nine motions for a mistrial throughout the trial, all of which were denied by O’Keefe.

Judge O’Keefe released both juries from the courtroom after the verdicts were read, thanking them on behalf of the court for their service in this case.

“I understand what a great sacrifice this was,” O’Keefe told Paul Flores’ jury. “Thank you. You are now excused.” 

Ruben Flores (right) and his defense attorney, Harold Mesick (left) appear in court on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022. Credit: Laura Dickinson | SLO Tribune

Ruben Flores’ jury yielded a verdict on Oct. 17, although it stayed sealed until Paul Flores’ jury came back with theirs on Oct. 18.

Cal Poly freshman Kristin Smart went missing in 1996. Paul Flores, also a freshman at the time, was the last person to be seen with Smart. He had told another student that he would walk Smart back to her dorm after an off-campus party. 

The verdicts come three months after the start of the trial on July 18 — and more than 26 years after Smart originally went missing. 

Paul Flores’ jury began deliberating on Oct. 4 after San Luis Obispo Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle and Paul Flores’ attorney, Robert Sanger, presented their closing statements. They deliberated for about four and a half days before turning in a verdict.

Jury deliberations for Ruben Flores’ jury began after Peuvrelle and Harold Mesick, Ruben Flores’ attorney, presented their closing statements on Oct. 5

On Oct. 13, however, Ruben Flores’ jury re-started their deliberations after a member of the jury was replaced with an alternate. They deliberated for under two days before turning in their verdict.  

After the presentation of evidence concluded in the trial, the juries have not sat in the courtroom at the same time. Closing statements, jury deliberations and the verdict readings were kept separate between the two defendants. 

The juries sat in the courtroom together throughout the majority of the presentation of evidence throughout the case. On a few occasions, one jury was not allowed to see a piece of evidence presented in the case for the opposite defendant. Judge O’Keefe presided over the trial for both defendants in Monterey County Superior Court. 

The prosecution rested their case Sept. 20, and the defense rested theirs on Sept. 28

Throughout the trial, the prosecution called more than 50 witnesses to the stand. Among them were members of Smart’s family, witnesses who were present at the party the night that Smart went missing, a witness, Jennifer Hudson, who said she heard Paul Flores admit to the murder in 1996, law enforcement officials involved in the case and forensic experts who testified about evidence acquired by the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department in 2021.

The defense called four witnesses to the stand: two forensic experts, Hudson’s ex-boyfriend and the lead investigator of the Smart case for the SLO Sheriff’s Department.

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.

Outside the presence of both juries, O’Keefe said that the Court “will modify the gag order [restricting the attorneys from speaking to media about the case] to allow Counsel to comment on the evidence presented in the case, as well as to discuss the facts that were presented.”

Sanger objected to the lifting of the gag order.

Update, 3 p.m.: This article was updated to include information from Harold Mesick and Ruben Flores’ interview with reporters.