The defense in the Kristin Smart murder trial rested its case Tuesday, marking the end of witness testimony in the nearly 3-month-long legal process to bring justice to the Cal Poly student who disappeared 26 years ago.
San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle argued the case against Paul Flores, who is accused of Smart’s murder, and his father, Ruben Flores, who is charged with helping his son conceal the crime.
Paul Flores’ defense attorney, Robert Sanger, and Ruben Flores’ defense attorney, Harold Mesick, presented their case for about a week.
The decision to rest their case comes after another attempt for a mistrial by Sanger.
The defense attorney alleged Peuvrelle engaged in prosecutorial misconduct when asking San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office Det. Clint Cole if witness Jennifer Hudson, who testified Paul Flores told her he killed Smart, was afraid of the Flores family. The motion was denied.
The defense’s final witness, James Ha, could not make it to court because his flights from Florida kept getting canceled due to Hurricane Ian, Sanger said in out-of-jury proceedings. Ha’s testimony was meant to challenge the accuracy of cadaver dogs, according to unsealed court documents.
Jurors were asked to return to court Thursday at 10:30 a.m., and off-the-record conversations between the parties mentioned closing arguments potentially taking place Friday or Monday. It is unclear what will happen in court on Thursday, and closing arguments had not been scheduled yet as of Tuesday evening.
Defense Questions Testimony that Paul Flores Confessed
Cole’s afternoon testimony focused on Hudson’s credibility. Hudson previously testified Paul Flores told her he killed Smart while the two were at a house popular with skateboarders in 1996.
“That b–ch was a d–k tease. I was done playing with her, and I put her (or buried her) under my place in Huasna,” Hudson testified Flores told her.
Cole testified he had trouble corroborating some details in Hudson’s story, including other potential witnesses to the alleged confession and the location and ownership a skate ramp in Huasna to which Hudson allegedly followed Flores.
Hudson told Cole in November 2019 that she had heard one of the Flores trucks had been reported stolen — a detail Cole said he only shared to podcaster Chris Lambert in January 2020 when the Sheriff’s Office had a wiretap on the Flores family’s phones.
Lambert’s podcast “Your Own Backyard” follows the investigation into the Smart case.
Cole said he does not know where she got that information.
Three separate cadaver dogs alerted to a large area in Huasna, and after excavating an area measuring 40 feet by 60 feet, no human remains were found, Cole said.
In total, Cole estimates there were 9-10 excavations searching for Smart’s remains or her burial site. Physical evidence of human remains were not found at any of the excavations, Cole said, though two animal bones were found at an excavation on the hillside of Cal Poly.
Cole said his agency never notified the news media, to his knowledge, before searches at a Flores residence were carried out or before the Flores men were arrested in April 2021.
Before court adjourned, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe emphasized to jurors how important it was that they continue to avoid any media dealing with the Smart case, and avoid talking about the case with anyone.
“As you can tell, we are very near the end of this case,” the judge said. “It is extremely important you continue to adhere to admonishments.”
Chloe Jones for the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Contact her at email@example.com.