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Flores’ defense requests change of venue for Kristin Smart’s murder trial, exactly what this means


Flores’ defense requests change of venue for Kristen Smart’s murder trial
Posted at 7:47 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-02 22:47:24-05

There is no doubt that Kristin Smart’s disappearance has haunted the Central Coast since 1996.

“This county has kept this woman's memory for over 25 years, and we should be commended, it is a good thing, she was a beautiful young woman, who was starting this chapter of her life in university,” said Trace Milan, a criminal defense attorney in San Luis Obispo, who is not involved in the Smart case.

In Wednesday’s pre-trial hearing, defense attorney Robert Sanger requested a change of venue on behalf of Paul and Ruben Flores who are charged in connection with the Cal Poly student’s murder.

Kristin Smart's body was never found, but she was declared legally dead on May 25, 2002.

“Because of the community’s connection to this I don’t think personally that they can get a fair trial in this case, and I think Mr. Sanger’s motion is well paced,” added Milan.

A change of venue is a request made when a case has garnered too much local attention.

“You want to be able to choose jurors that have not been saturated with this story regardless because it is something they saw on the media or that they grew up here and it’s a local legend,” explained Milan.

In the Kristin Smart case, Milan explained that the community has kept her memory alive through billboards and marches, which could lead to a biased jury.

In order to request a change in venue, the case has to be considered a “high-profile” one.

"It is a very serious offense like murder or maybe it involves someone that is famous nationwide or maybe just well-known in the community,” said Milan.

James Askew III is a criminal defense attorney, who works with Tri Counties Criminal Defense and does appointed work for the Superior Court of San Luis Obispo County. Askew III said a defense attorney has to prioritize a client’s needs.

“Making sure that he is treated fairly and that you are aggressively representing to the best of your abilities and sometimes that means that San Luis Obispo might not be the right venue for your client to get a fair shake then you have to move to a different county,” explained Askew III, who is not working on the Smart case.

Multiple factors have to be taken account for a request of venue to move forward.

“You got to remember why it is biased in the first place in the county you are currently in, you gotta make sure those same factors aren’t in the county you want to move it to,” added Askew III.

Both Milan and Askew III agreed that the selected county should not be too far because there would be several trips involved during a trial.

“Both the defendant's family, the victim’s family, potential witnesses, which could be civilian witnesses or officer witnesses will all have to go to where it goes, wherever it is removed from, in most cases it is a neighboring county,” said Milan.

The last major trial moved from San Luis Obispo County according to the District Attorney’s office was the case of Rex Krebs convicted of raping and killing two San Luis Obispo college students Rachel Newhouse and Aundria Crawford in 1998 and 1999 respectively. Krebs’ case transferred to Monterey County, and he was sentenced to death.

During Wednesday’s pre-trial hearing, parties agreed to discuss the change of venue request on March 30, 2022.

All parties will appear for a status conference via zoom on March 16, 2022.

The trial is set to begin on April 25, 2022 but that could change if this motion passes.