Closing arguments are underway in the Kristin Smart murder trial.
Following more than two months of testimony in the case against Paul and Ruben Flores, jurors will begin deliberating this week.
While the father and son duo are being tried together, they each have separate juries who will hand down separate verdicts.
Paul’s jury was given jury instructions Monday morning. Once closing arguments in his case are complete, jurors can begin deliberating immediately.
Ruben’s jury is expected to hear closing arguments Tuesday.
Court started off Monday with about 45 minutes of jury instruction.
Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe read several pages outlining the charges against Paul and what the jurors would be asked to decide during their deliberation.
San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle then laid out the prosecution’s theory about what happened to Kristin Smart.
He told jurors the “truth is, Kristin Smart is dead and the evidence is clear that she was killed by Paul Flores.” Peuvrelle also said, “While the Smart’s searched, Ruben accumulated trophies in his bedside nightstand and Paul kept raping women.”
Peuvrelle was referring to several items related to the case that investigators say were found at Ruben’s house during a search along with witnesses who came forward claiming Paul sexually assaulted them while they were under the influence of drugs and alcohol in the years following Kristin’s disappearance.
Peuvrelle went on to tell jurors, “We don’t have a body, but we do have blood.” He later showed pictures of presumptive positive blood tests he says were from the soil beneath the deck of Ruben Flores’ Arroyo Grande home.
Peuvrelle laid out a timeline for jurors alleging Paul killed Kristin sometime Saturday morning after the party they both attended and then called his father to help him hide the body.
In court Monday, the prosecutor spent quite some time recapping the evidence, including re-playing portions of interviews Paul did with law enforcement early on in the investigation.
The rest of the time was spent carefully tying the evidence to the jury instructions given earlier by Judge O’Keefe.
Peuvrelle told jurors that in order to find Paul guilty of first-degree murder, they have to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that Kristin died while Paul was either raping or attempting to rape her.
Peuvrelle explained that the law allows them to consider the later allegations of rape to prove that Paul was intending to rape Kristin when she died and told jurors that if they believe the “preponderance of evidence” in either of the later cases shows Paul may have raped those women, they can conclude that he is inclined to commit sexual offenses and may have attempted to rape Kristin the night of the Crandall Way party.
Peuvrelle also told jurors, justice delayed doesn’t have the be justice denied.
Paul’s defense attorney, Robert Sanger, objected several times, saying he was mis-characterizing the jury instructions, but Judge O’Keefe allowed the closing argument to continue.
Sanger, got his chance to talk to talk to the jury Monday afternoon.
He told jurors the case is straight forward: "There is no evidence of a murder, so that is really the end of it."
Sanger also reviewed some of the judge's instructions with jurors. He put up a slide on the screen that said, "Unless the evidence proves the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, he is entitled to an acquittal, and you must find him not guilty."
Sanger spent several hours pointing out inconsistencies in the witness testimonies and how several of their stories changed over time. Sanger said one person who has not changed his story for the past 26 years is Paul Flores, adding that it is a sad case and there is a missing person but the DA's office has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his client had anything to do with it.
Sanger reminded jurors several times that they must each decide individually on the case and only based on the evidence presented in court.
He described the case as built on passion, prejudice, opinion and innuendo. Sanger said this is not a case of majority rules, but they all must agree individually on whether the evidence supports a guilty verdict.
At one point, Sanger and Peuvrelle got into an exchange about Sanger's description of the dog handler testimony.
Judge O'Keefe overruled an objection by Peuvrelle and asked Sanger to continue with his closing, which did not conclude before court ended for the day Monday.
After Sanger is finished with his presentation to the jury, Peuvrelle will have one last chance at rebuttal before the case is handed over to jurors.
Jurors in Ruben’s case are asked to be present at the courthouse Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.
Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe said last week that once verdicts are reached in both cases, they will be announced at the same time.
Jurors were instructed to not discuss the case with anyone including each other prior to the verdicts being read in court.
Many people turned out to the Salinas courthouse Monday in anticipation of closing arguments, including San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson, whose office conducted the April 2021 arrests on Paul and Ruben, and also San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Down, who filed the charges against the two men.
Monterey County court officials tell KSBY badges were handed out to 60 members of the public, which includes the Smart family, for Monday's hearing.
Paul and Ruben were arrested and charged in connection with the May 1996 disappearance of Kristin Smart, who disappeared from the Cal Poly campus following an off-campus party.
Witnesses said Paul was the last person to be seen with her and was a longtime person-of-interest in the case prior to his arrest.
While Kristin’s body has never been found, she was declared legally dead in 2002.
The prosecution is arguing that Kristin’s body was buried underneath the deck of Ruben Flores’ Arroyo Grande home and then dug up and moved.
The defense says there is no proof there was ever a body there or that Paul and Ruben had anything to do with Kristin’s disappearance.
If convicted, Paul, who is charged with murdering Kristin, faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life behind bars. He’s currently in custody at the Monterey County Jail.
Ruben, currently out of custody, is charged as an accessory and faces a maximum of three years in jail.
Judge O’Keefe is not allowing audio or video recording of the trial and denied an additional request to allow video of closing arguments and the reading of the verdicts. Only still photography is allowed.
The trial was moved out of San Luis Obispo County after a judge ruled he didn’t think it was likely the pair could receive a fair trial there.
KSBY is in court for closing arguments in Paul’s case Monday and will have a wrap-up of what takes place on KSBY News at 4, 5 and 6 pm.
For more on the Kristin Smart case and trial, click here.