It was an emotional day of testimony in court Monday morning for the Kristin Smart murder trial as the woman who claims Paul Flores told her where Smart’s body was buried was on the stand once again.
Flores and his father, Ruben, are charged in connection with Smart's disappearance in 1996. Paul and Kristin were both students at Cal Poly at the time.
Paul Flores is charged with Smart's murder. Ruben is charged as an accessory after the fact, accused of helping hide her body.
In court on Monday, Jennifer Hudson broke down in tears several times and told jurors she feels "partially responsible for the Smart's suffering all these years" and that not telling anyone about the conversation sooner is her "only demon."
Hudson’s testimony began Thursday when she told jurors that during the summer of 1996, she was at a skateboard gathering with Flores when a public service announcement came on the radio asking for information about the disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart.
She says Flores told her that he was “at a party with her and she was an **expletive.** He said he put Kristin under the ramp at his place in Huasna.”
Hudson says she was only a teenager at the time and was scared to tell anyone about the conversation.
During cross-examination, Paul Flores' defense attorney, Robert Sanger, asked Hudson to clarify the timeline of events. She says she told her friend, Justin Goodwin, about the conversation when they were drunk in 2002.
She says Goodwin reconnected with her in 2019 after hearing the “Your Own Backyard” podcast. Hudson told jurors he ultimately talked her into first contacting podcaster Chris Lambert with her story and later law enforcement.
Sanger questioned Hudson for several hours about inconsistencies he says were in the story she told investigators about her two encounters with Paul Flores.
Sanger asked how much of her own investigation she’d done. Hudson admitted to taking Goodwin, Lambert and a real estate agent to the Huasna property. The real estate agent looked into the property ownership and couldn’t find any record of the Flores family ever owning it, Hudson testified.
She also said that Lambert asked her not to tell authorities that they’d been to the property once she contacted them, but Hudson said she told authorities everything they knew during her meetings with them, even about Lambert’s request to withhold information.
Sanger also asked Hudson if she’d been able to locate any of the others who’d been at the skateboard get-togethers. She said no. Sanger then pressed her about past drug use and what he described as her involvement in motorcycle gangs.
Also during cross-examination, Harold Mesick, the defense attorney for Paul Flores' father, Ruben, asked Hudson whether she is aware of the reward in the case and if she feels entitled to it. However, before Hudson could answer, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe sustained an objection by the prosecution.
During re-direct examination, Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle asked Hudson what she meant when she told investigators she felt partially responsible for the Smart family’s suffering. She broke down in tears and said, “If I was not a coward, I would have come forward then.”
Hudson was also asked if she’d ever reached out to the Smart family directly and she said she had not.
Justin Goodwin takes the stand
Monday afternoon, Justin Goodwin, a friend and former roommate of Hudson, was on the stand.
He told jurors that in 2002, Hudson told him she’d met Paul Flores and Flores had told Flores where Kristin’s body was buried.
Peuvrelle asked Goodwin how he knew Hudson. He said he met her through his sister when the two women worked together. Later, he moved into her house and rented a room from her.
Goodwin said late one night when the two of them had been drinking, the subject of Kristin Smart came up.
Goodwin said Hudson seemed like she was scared and after trying to get more information out of her the next morning, she asked Goodwin to keep the information about what she says Paul told her back in 1996 to himself and not talk about it again.
Ultimately, Goodwin reported the information three different times. He says he submitted a tip to the FBI, to the website “Son of Susan” and later to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office in 2019.
During cross-examination of Goodwin, Sanger pointed out several inconsistencies in the two stories.
Goodwin told investigators that Paul and Hudson met between 10 and 12 times and did meth together. When asked if that was true, Goodwin said it was conjecture.
Mesick asked if Goodwin’s testimony was mostly conjecture with very few facts. Judge O’Keefe sustained an objection from the prosecution.
During re-direct examination, Goodwin was asked which part of the testimony was fact. He replied, “Jennifer told me she heard Paul say he killed Kristin.”
Mesick asked the two final questions on whether Goodwin was aware Hudson used meth and whether he ever used meth with Hudson. Peuvrelle objected to both questions and both objections were sustained by the judge.
A forensic DNA analyst was also on the witness stand Monday afternoon. Angela Butler was involved in the case but by late Monday afternoon, had not been asked any questions in court related to the Kristin Smart case.
Juror raises concerns about defense questioning
Late Monday afternoon, the judge met with a juror who asked for a break and expressed concerns about aggressive questioning by the defense, specifically about the attorneys asking the same question over and over again.
The judge said it is appropriate to ask for a break at any time. She asked the juror if there is anything that may make her biased and the juror said "no."
The judge has spoken to this juror twice before. The first time, she expressed some anxiety about the case and asked about aggressive questioning. The second time, she became emotional at the presentation of archaeology evidence. The judge read her numerous admonitions and the juror agreed to all of them and said she could still be fair.
After the juror left, Robert Sanger expressed concern about the juror, saying her actions were adding up to a juror who is inclined to support the prosecution and said she should be excused.
The judge said she found no evidence that the juror can't be fair and impartial and denied the request to remove her.