The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney's Office is preparing to fight a change of venue motion filed by the defense in the upcoming Kristin Smart murder trial.
The motion argues that it's likely that Paul and Ruben Flores will not be able to get a fair and impartial trial in San Luis Obispo.
Paul Flores is charged with Smart's murder. His father, Ruben, is charged as an accessory after the fact, accused of helping hide her body.
The change of venue motion points to the extensive media coverage of the case and the prominence of Smart's likeness in the community on billboards and at memorials as well as the podcast dedicated to her disappearance. It claims Paul Flores has been "disparaged and demonized" while being portrayed as the only suspect in the case. It also points to the small population of San Luis Obispo County compared to other counties in California and the gravity of the charge of murder.
However, in a brief filed in opposition to the change of venue request, the District Attorney's Office says the defense's arguments do not demonstrate that the two men will be unable to get a fair and impartial trial in SLO County.
"Both Paul and Ruben Flores are unable to meet their burden to show that a change of venue is warranted in this case," the court filing reads. "Because the defendants have not demonstrated any actual bias against them among prospective jurors in the county and because all five factors identified by the California Supreme Court do not weigh in favor of a change of venue, the court should deny the defendants' motions."
The prosecution argues that news coverage of the case has been neutral and factual and that the defense has failed to demonstrate any actual effect that media coverage has had on the potential jury pool. In addition, prosecutors say the gravity of the alleged crime does not rise to a capital case and that both Flores and Smart were unknown to the public prior to the crime. As for the population of San Luis Obispo County, the DA's Office argues that the California Supreme Court has denied change of venue motions in counties smaller than SLO.
Both sides will get a chance to argue their points at a hearing on the change of venue motion scheduled for next Wednesday, March 30.
The trial is currently set to begin in San Luis Obispo County on April 25.
Paul Flores and Kristin Smart were both students at Cal Poly when Smart disappeared.
She was last seen walking back to the dorms with Flores after an off-campus party on the early morning of May 25, 1996.
While her body has never been found, Smart was declared legally dead on May 25, 2002.
Paul and Ruben Flores were arrested in April 2021.