Kristin Smart case: Defendants seek change of venue, citing case publicity | Crime and courts


Defendants charged in the 1996 death and disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart requested a change of venue for their upcoming trial, believing they would not get a fair or impartial jury, according to a court filing. San Luis Obispo County Superior Court.

Bob Sanger, attorney for Paul Flores, cited several reasons in this motion for the request to move the location of the jury trial out of San Luis Obispo County, including the “nature and extent” of media coverage. local, which he says paints his client as the only suspect in the case when there were several.

“The ensuing legal proceedings, including the seven-week preliminary hearing, generated extensive reports in the news or infotainment media,” Sanger wrote in the petition, adding that the community was exposed to such reports for nearly 26 years. “Over these 26 years, the local community has been exposed to a constant stream of news articles, memorials and billboards.”

Additionally, Sanger cited the harassment that resulted from his client being presented as the only suspect in the case, the small size of the local community that was exposed to the publicity of the case, the nature of the offenses and Smart’s elevation to “posthumous celebrity” because she was constantly promoted after her disappearance.

Some of the acts of harassment included people shouting comments through a megaphone outside the residence of Susan Flores, the mother of Paul Flores; and people approaching them at restaurants and making derogatory comments, according to the filing.

Paul Flores, 45, of San Pedro is charged with the murder of Smart, 19, in his Santa Lucia Hall dorm on May 25, 1996 after they both returned from an off-campus party on Crandall Way.

His father, Ruben Flores, 80, is charged as an afterthought accessory and accused of hiding Smart’s body under the bridge at his Arroyo Grande residence in the 700 block of White Court. They both pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Paul Flores was the last person seen with an intoxicated Smart near the intersection of Perimeter Road and Grand Avenue, a short walk from their dorms, around 2 a.m., according to Cheryl Manzer, who returned with them from the party before going their separate ways. her own.

Smart was not seen again. Her body was never found and in 2002 she was declared legally dead.

More than two decades passed without arrest before Orcutt native Chris Lambert produced the “Your Own Backyard” podcast series about the 2019-2021 case, which Sanger cited in his motion as “advancing theories on why Paul Flores is guilty”.

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office served a series of search warrants at the respective residences of Paul and Ruben Flores in March and April 2021, which included searches using ground-penetrating radar, cadaver dogs and an archaeologist who located a burial ground under the Pont de la Cour Blanche.

Paul and Ruben Flores were arrested on April 13, 2021 and charged the following day. Paul Flores is still being held in the San Luis Obispo County Jail with no bail amount given. Ruben Flores posted $50,000 bond on April 21, 2021 after agreeing to release conditions, which included wearing an ankle monitor and surrendering his passport.

“There was something there,” Cindy Arrington, an archaeologist with the Sacramento-based Natural Investigations Company, said in her testimony during the seven-week preliminary hearing for the defendants, August 2 to September 22, 2021. .

Superior Court Judge Craig Van Rooyen upheld the charges on September 22 after finding sufficient probable cause and the defendants were arraigned for a second time on the charges on October 20, which began their 60-day countdown to begin the trial, which they agreed to begin on April 25.

“Given the factors discussed above, it would be unreasonable to expect members of the San Luis Obispo County community to serve on a jury in this case and to be impartial,” Sanger said in the request. “Furthermore, it would be impossible to conduct juror inquiries without exacerbating the harmful influence of advertising.”

Sanger’s motion is scheduled to be heard March 30 in Department 5 of the Superior Court. Both defendants are scheduled to appear for a pre-trial conference via Zoom on March 16 at 8:30 a.m. in Department 5, records show.

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