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Judge rules on podcaster's subpoena for Kristin Smart murder trial

The decision, however, is not final
Your Own Backyard.JPG
Posted at 2:30 PM, Jul 15, 2022

Pre-trial motion hearings in the Kristin Smart murder trial are now complete.

The last day of court this week for Paul and Ruben Flores’ case presented a debate between Paul’s defense attorney, Robert Sanger, and the council for Central Coast podcaster Chris Lambert.

Sanger alleged Lambert inherently made himself a witness when gathering information regarding Kristin’s 1996 disappearance from the Cal Poly campus for his podcast, “Your Own Backyard.”

Sanger recounted that during Lambert's personal investigation into the case, the podcaster maintained communication with key witness Jennifer Hudson, who, during the preliminary hearing, testified that she may have heard Paul admit to burying Kristin’s body.

On Friday, Sanger described Lambert as an "active agent in endangering the testimony," saying Lambert must be cross examined and called to testify about influencing the testimony.

He asked Monterey County Superior Judge Jennifer O’Keefe to allow the subpoena requiring Lambert to submit evidence he collected while obtaining information on the case, saying there are no alternative sources to retrieving additional substantial evidence.

Lambert's attorney, Diana Palacios, countered as she did during the preliminary hearing last year where Lambert was also subpoenaed, again citing that the Shield Law and First Amendment protected his privileges as a reporter to gather details and speak with witnesses for the production of his podcast.

Palacios provided a rebuttal to Sanger's claim that there were no alternative sources other than Lambert, saying a testimony from Hudson would provide sufficient material evidence during trial.

Palacios requested that the subpoena be quashed.

Following the statements from both attorneys, Judge O'Keefe read to the court the privileges protected by the First Amendment and Shield Law. She noted that during criminal cases, the privileges of the defendant must be equal to those of the reporter.

At the end of that hearing Friday, Judge O'Keefe declared that a subpoena of Lambert would be impeachment at this point. She said Lambert's communication with Hudson, as well as the information he sought, had a right to be restricted and protected, ultimately deciding to quash Sanger's request for subpoena.

Still, O’Keefe said her ruling may be different once the trial gets underway, saying the court may reconsider the decision in the near future.

Sanger then demanded that Lambert preserve the evidence he collected in the event the judge’s ruling changes in the near future.

Palacios agreed to the request.

O'Keefe also said Lambert is allowed to be in attendance for the trial come Monday.

Other hearings from Friday's pre-trial motions involved Judge O'Keefe's rulings regarding three statements allegedly made by Paul in his dorm room and in a detective's vehicle.

She stated that while two detectives' testimonies were admissible for both Paul and his father, testimony for another detective would only be admissible for Paul.

Opening statements in the trial are set to get underway Monday morning in Salinas.

Two juries made up of 12 jurors and eight alternates have each been seated, one for Paul and another for Ruben.

If convicted, Paul, who is charged with Kristin’s murder, faces 25 years-to-life behind bars. Ruben, charged as an accessory, faces up to three years in jail.

KSBY will have extensive coverage from court Monday on both KSBY and KSBY.com.

For previous stories on the Kristin Smart case and criminal proceedings for Paul and Ruben Flores, click here.