Ruben Flores sits in Monterey County Superior Court as his jury announces they've reached a verdict on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. Credit: Laura Dickinson | SLO Tribune

Editor’s note: This is a developing story and is updated as more information becomes available.

Ruben Flores’ jury reached a verdict Monday morning, marking the end of jury deliberations for the People v. Ruben Flores case.

Paul Flores’ jury has yet to reach a verdict. After they do, both verdicts will be read back-to-back outside the presence of the other jury — that is, the verdict for the Ruben Flores case will remain sealed until Paul Flores’ jury reaches their verdict.

Ruben Flores’ jury entered the courtroom on Monday around 11:37 a.m.

“Has the jury reached the verdict?” Judge Jennifer O’Keefe asked.

“Yes,” the foreperson for Ruben Flores’ jury replied.

The foreperson handed a sealed envelope containing the verdict to the court clerk, after which O’Keefe told the jury that the verdict reading will be delayed until Paul Flores’ jury reaches a verdict, as well. 

O’Keefe also instructed the jury not to discuss the case with anyone until both verdicts are reached. Throughout the trial, jurors have been repeatedly reminded not to speak about the case nor to consume any media about it until after the verdicts are read. 

Ruben Flores’ jury began deliberating on Oct. 5. However, the jury restarted their deliberations on Oct. 13, after a juror was dismissed and replaced with an alternate.

The jury deliberated with the alternate juror for part of the day on Oct. 13, the full day of Oct. 14 and the morning of Oct. 17.

Paul Flores’ jury began deliberating on Oct. 4, although Monday only marks about four full days of deliberations for them.

O’Keefe dismissed Ruben Flores’ jury from the courtroom around 11:45 a.m., asking them to be able to return to the courthouse within one hour in the case that Paul Flores’ jury reaches a verdict. 

Both cases will conclude after Paul Flores’ jury reaches a verdict.

Paul Flores’ attorney motions for mistrial, citing ‘inappropriate’ contact between the prosecution and the Smart family

Paul Flores’ attorney, Robert Sanger, made a motion for a mistrial outside of the presence of both juries after Ruben Flores’ jury was dismissed from the courtroom.

“There’s an issue I would not like to address if I didn’t have to,” Sanger told O’Keefe. “But I think I do.” 

Sanger said that his investigator, Ramona Messina, was in the hallway on Monday around 9 a.m. when she saw members of the prosecution team — namely prosecutor Christopher Peuvrelle, District Attorney investigator James Camp, SLO Sheriff’s Detective Clint Cole and SLO County Sheriff Ian Parkinson — hugging members of the Smart family in the presence of Paul Flores’ jury.

“I think that’s inappropriate,” Sanger said, citing that the interaction “clearly could have an influence on a jury that’s been out all these days.”

Sanger finished his motion by telling the Court that he was “forced by law to make a motion for a mistrial,” marking the ninth time that he has motioned for a mistrial throughout the case. 

Peuvrelle responded to the motion, telling O’Keefe that it was “news to me” that the Court was going on record for the People v. Paul Flores case at all.

“A small degree of compassion is, in my view, entirely appropriate,” Peuvrelle said, asking O’Keefe to deny the request.

O’Keefe denied the motion for a mistrial, citing that members of the jury already know not to consider anything that happens outside of the courtroom as evidence. 

“These jurors have been admonished daily to disregard anything they learn outside of testimony,” O’Keefe said. “They have worked very hard to adhere to these admonishments.” 

Sanger responded to the denial of the motion, referring to the incident as “unforgivable.”

“Who knows what could put them over the edge, one way or another?” Sanger posed, asking the Court to read additional admonishments to the jury on Monday.

Upon Sanger’s request, O’Keefe asked Paul Flores’ jury to come back to the courtroom around 2:45 p.m., where she told them to “disregard anything that happens outside of court” as evidence for the case.

After the jury left the courtroom, Peuvrelle told the Court that he “did not have an opportunity to obtain any facts” before Sanger filed the motion. 

He clarified that he and investigator Camp did not hug members of the Smart family, telling O’Keefe that it was only the witness coordinator and Detective Cole.

“Detective Cole should not have done that,” Peuvrelle said, calling the interaction a “brief hug” in a “moment of comfort.”

“I had nothing to do with that,” Peuvrelle said, adding that he will be submitting a memorandum reflecting the events that led Sanger to file for a mistrial.

Sanger confirmed that Peuvrelle and Camp did not hug members of the Smart family, although he said Cole, the witness coordinator and Parkinson did. 

“I don’t think this is a minor breach,” Sanger said.

Paul Flores’ jury will continue deliberating until they reach a verdict.