Whether or not camera and audio recordings will be allowed in the courtroom for upcoming hearings involving the father and son charged in connection with the disappearance of Kristin Smart was the main topic of discussion during a hearing Monday afternoon.
Paul Flores, 44, and Ruben Flores, 80, were arrested in April, nearly 25 years after the Cal Poly freshman went missing.
Paul is charged with murder and is being held in San Luis Obispo County Jail without bail. Ruben is charged with accessory after the fact and is out on bail.
Both appeared virtually for their hearing on Monday afternoon along with their attorneys. Aside from letting the judge know they waived their right to appear in person, neither defendant spoke.
Defense attorneys for the Flores’s argued that while the preliminary hearing, set to get underway next month, would be open to the public, cameras in the courtroom should not be allowed.
An attorney representing KSBY and NBC Universal also spoke during the hearing, stating cameras and also audio of the weeks-long hearing should be approved, citing it being an important part of the criminal justice process and adding that the public interest in the case should override the opposition filed.
Judge Craig van Rooyen ultimately decided to stick with the current order in place, which does not allow the re-broadcasting of audio from any of the hearings.
While not required to give an explanation behind his decision, Judge van Rooyen stated some reasons for his decision, which included fairness for the proceedings. The judge said thousands of people to date have logged on to watch each hearing, all of which have been broadcast via Zoom. He also said he worries it could taint the potential jury pool if the case were to go to trial and also deter witnesses from testifying or alter testimony from other witnesses.
Video and still photography will be allowed with modifications, including no recording of any witnesses or audience members.
The preliminary hearing for the pair where evidence and discovery in the case will be presented before the judge is still set to begin the afternoon of July 6. It will take place in person and could last more than two weeks.
While not speaking specifically about the case, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s told KSBY News that preliminary hearings that take longer than one week to complete are “very rare.”
Another pre-preliminary hearing is set for Wednesday, June 23.