Judge denies Flores' motion to dismiss case, trial in Kristin Smart's murder continues

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Paul Flores appears at his arraignment Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Flores is charged in the killing of Kristin Smart, a Cal Poly student who disappeared in 1996. (David Middlecamp/The Tribune (of San Luis Obispo) via AP, Pool)
Paul Flores appears at his arraignment Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Flores is charged in the killing of Kristin Smart, a Cal Poly student who disappeared in 1996. (David Middlecamp/The Tribune (of San Luis Obispo) via AP, Pool)

The case against Paul and Ruben Flores in the death of Kristin Smart will move forward after a ruling in a San Luis Obispo court Friday morning.

Paul Flores, who is being charged with the murder of Smart, a fellow Cal Poly student from Stockton, was the last person to see Smart before her disappearance on May 24, 1996.

His father, Ruben Flores, is being charged with accessory after the fact to the murder.

“I do believe that the magistrate had sufficient probable cause to issue a holding order as to both Paul Flores and Ruben Flores, so I am going to deny the motion to set aside the information as to both defendants,” Judge Jacquelyn Duffy said.

Paul Flores' attorney Robert Sanger and Harold Mesick, the attorney representing Ruben Flores, filed a series of motions in December including a requests to dismiss the case and set aside information against the men.

At the start of the hearing, “we do not want to ask for a continuance of the hearing of this matter because that could have a snowball effect, a domino effect, in delaying the actual trial of the matter if we were to get to that point or delaying the ruling of the court to dismiss the matter,” Sanger said.

In his more than 20 years of experience, “the stronger the prosecution case, the shorter the prelim (preliminary hearing),” Mesick said.

Mesick referenced an 11-day preliminary hearing in a case Duffy had previously presided over — a three-defendant gang murder case — and how she then recognized the preliminary was “a little excessive in its length,” he said.

A wide, single shot livestream view of the defense and prosecution showed the Flores’ representatives (Mesick was present but off camera) and Christopher Peuvrelle, deputy district attorney for San Luis Obispo County. At the far-left, a man who appeared to be Paul Flores wearing a face mask — as all people in court as seen in the livestream video were wearing — sat silently next to a security guard.

Sanger discussed how parts of the testimony transcripts (from 2021) were quoted and did not mention how a district attorney’s investigator presented bias when wearing a purple tie to court — “Kristin Smart’s favorite color” — after a website seeking to convict Paul Flores called for people to wear purple.

From the left: Attorney Robert Sanger, reads back a statement to a witness. He and Sara Sanger both represent Paul Flores. At right is San Luis Obispo County Assistant District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle. Tuesday Aug. 3, 2021. (POOL - David Middlecamp/The Tribune (of San Luis Obispo)/The Tribune (of San Luis Obispo) via AP)
From the left: Attorney Robert Sanger, reads back a statement to a witness. He and Sara Sanger both represent Paul Flores. At right is San Luis Obispo County Assistant District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle. Tuesday Aug. 3, 2021. (POOL - David Middlecamp/The Tribune (of San Luis Obispo)/The Tribune (of San Luis Obispo) via AP)

“It was an issue because it was showing solidarity with this website,” Sanger said. When filing replies, Sanger noted “how inappropriate it is to sanitize the testimony,” by avoiding the context of the purple tie.

The defense further discussed how the proficiency of search dogs contributed to the extension of the preliminary hearing time. Cadaver dogs were used during the search for Smart.

“None of the dog handlers could testify to proficiency, specifically to the false positives,” of search results, Sanger said. “An alert is not evidence. The dogs are a tool to help find evidence and alerting in and of itself should not be evidence,” he said.

“The dog’s behavior in just alerting is not evidence,” Sanger said. There were multiple dog searches, scenes inspected, excavations where dog alerts came up, “and nothing was found.”

Paul Flores looks on at the second day of his preliminary hearing Tuesday Aug. 3, 2021. He was taken into custody in San Pedro and booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail on suspicion of the murder of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart.
Paul Flores looks on at the second day of his preliminary hearing Tuesday Aug. 3, 2021. He was taken into custody in San Pedro and booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail on suspicion of the murder of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart.

The judge said she considered documents, evidence, and oral arguments. She continued to present different arguments identified by the defense for the basis of the motion to set aside information, primarily that:

  • Insufficient evidence to support a finding of probable cause.

  • The People’s case was based on speculation.

  • Witness testing was significantly influenced by publicity.

  • An insufficient foundation was laid to establish the admissibility of the dog alerts.

  • The dog handler's testimony had no evidentiary value.

  • Insufficient foundation for the admission of the soil sample evidence.

  • The 1996 interrogation/interview of Paul Flores went against his Fifth and Sixth Amendments.

She then proceeded to re-state the timeline of events since Kristin Smart attended a party and disappeared in May 1996, the investigation and testimony details from then, up until recent developments.

Duffy denied the defense motion to dismiss the case.

The Flores' are scheduled for a trial status conference on Feb. 2, a trial readiness conference on April 6 and a jury trial on April 25.

More on Kristin Smart's case:

Record reporter Laura Diaz covers social justice and societal issues. She can be reached at ldiaz@recordnet.com or on Twitter @laurasdiaz_. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow.

This article originally appeared on The Record: Kristin Smart murder: Flores' motions denied, trial will continue

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