Jury selection underway for Ruben Flores in Kristin Smart murder trial

Posted at 7:10 AM, July 12, 2022 and last updated 9:48 AM, October 21, 2022

By Kathrene Herndon

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KSBY) — Potential jurors for the Kristin Smart murder trial are once again filling a Salinas courtroom.

Jury selection for Ruben Flores, charged as an accessory in Kristin’s 1996 disappearance, got underway Monday.

This combination photo shows suspects Paul Flores (L) and Ruben Flores (R), who were arrested Tuesday, April 13, 2021, for the murder of Kristin Smart. Flores, the longtime suspect in the 25-year-old disappearance of the California college student was arrested Tuesday, April 13, 2021, on suspicion of murder, and his father was booked in jail as an accessory to the crime. Flores, 44, who was the last person seen with Smart on the California Polytechnic State University campus in San Luis Obispo before she vanished in 1996, was taken into custody in the Los Angeles area. (San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

It was scheduled to begin in the morning, but did not actually start until after 2 p.m.

Between 10 and 25 jurors were dismissed right away, before formal questioning began.

Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe spent a lot of time informing the remaining, potential jurors that they are prohibited from watching or reading anything related to the case or doing any sort of outside research.

While Paul and Ruben are being tried at the same time, they will each have separate juries. Judge O’Keefe mentioned that there will be times when the individual juries are not together, like opening statements and closing arguments, which will be done separately for each defendant.

There will be other times where Paul’s jury will hear evidence that does not pertain to his father, so Ruben’s jury will be removed from the courtroom during that time.

By late in the day Monday, no other jurors had been excused by either side. Jury selection in Ruben’s case will resume Tuesday.

Twelve jurors and eight alternates for Paul, who is charged with Smart’s murder, have already been selected.

The initial juror pool was around 1,500 people, but that has been narrowed down extensively.

Last week, pre-trial motion hearings in the case were held. Soil sample evidence and other DNA results were discussed extensively Friday, but testimony has not concluded, so Judge Jennifer O’Keefe said the hearing for the defense’s request to exclude this evidence from being admitted during trial will resume Thursday.

Kristin Smart/NamUs

The high-profile murder trial is taking place in Monterey County following a San Luis Obispo County Superior Court judge’s ruling earlier this year where he said he did not believe Paul and Ruben could receive a fair and impartial trial in the county following the years of publicity in the case.

It’s expected to last into at least October with opening statements taking place July 18.

If convicted, Paul, who is being held without bail, faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison. His father, Ruben, currently out on bail, faces a maximum of three years behind bars.

The trial will not be televised. Judge O’Keefe has restricted audio or video recordings during the trial and is only allowing still photography.

This story was originally published July 11 by KSBY in Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo, an E.W. Scripps Company.

MORE NEWS