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Long weekend ahead for jurors in Kristin Smart murder trial

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Posted at 5:45 PM, Oct 07, 2022

Jurors in the Kristin Smart murder trial are going home for a long weekend without having reached a verdict.

They still have to decide whether Paul Flores is guilty of murder in the commission of a rape and whether his father, Ruben Flores, was an accessory who helped cover up the alleged crime.

Kristin Smart was a freshman at Cal Poly when she disappeared in May 1996. Multiple witnesses identified fellow student Paul Flores as the last person they saw with her as they walked back to the dorms from an off-campus party.

Flores and his father were arrested in April 2021 and charged in connection with the case. Their trial started this past July.

The two men have their own juries that are deciding their fates separately.

There are approximately 12 weeks of evidence each juror must review and consider as they make their decisions.

“I suspect, in this case, the jury instruction is about this thick, probably a couple of inches thick,” remarked San Luis Obispo-based defense attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu.

“The judicial council of California is responsible for providing the jury instructions," explained Trace Milan, a local defense attorney. "They maintain volumes of text... that all the judges and lawyers have.”

“Each juror reads the instructions at his or her own pace so it takes quite a bit of time to read the instructions, number one. Then number two, you have to understand the instructions. And number three, then you deliberate amongst yourselves as to what the instructions mean,” Funke-Bilu added.

While we do not currently have access to the specific instructions for the Kristin Smart murder trial, Milan says the packet likely includes definitions for homicide, instructions on what reasonable doubt is, circumstantial evidence, and anything else that might come into play when the jurors are finalizing their decisions.

By law, juries must also consider lesser included offenses.

That presents another set of instructions to follow.

“So if they are unable to decide whether Flores is guilty of murder, they move on to 'well, let’s see if we can decide if he's guilty or not guilty of a lesser included offense such as manslaughter,” Funke-Bilu said.

Once the jury decides the defendant is guilty, they don’t have to go into the lesser included offenses.

The jury for Paul Flores began deliberating on Tuesday, while the jury for Ruben Flores started deliberations on Wednesday.

The juries will not resume their deliberations until next Thursday as court will be dark Monday through Wednesday for a pre-scheduled break.

If convicted, Paul Flores faces a sentence of 25 years to life. Ruben Flores faces a maximum sentence of three years in jail.

On Friday, the judge overseeing the case against Paul and Ruben Flores went on the record briefly.

With many members of the media inside the courtroom along with the prosecution and defense, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O'Keefe said she'd received several reports of media taking photos of jurors.

Jurors' identities are shielded during trials and photos and video of them are usually strictly prohibited.

O'Keefe said this time, she's giving the benefit of the doubt that the actions were misconstrued but warned that if it happens again, the person responsible will be excluded from all future hearings.