By KAREN VELIE
A San Luis Obispo County judge ruled Friday that “Your Own Backyard” podcaster Chris Lambert won’t have to testify or provide records during the trial of Paul and Ruben Flores for the alleged murder of Kristin Smart.
Flores’ defense attorney had subpoenaed Lambert, whose podcasts renewed interest in the 1996 disappearance of Kristin Smart, to testify. Robert Sanger sought records of Chris Lambert’s correspondence with law enforcement, all records related to the court case, and all records related to his investigation into the disappearance of Smart, and the Flores family.
California courts are required to conduct a balancing test, weigh the needs of a criminal defendant for the journalist’s notes and material and then determine if the information can be obtained from sources other than the journalist.
Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe ruled in favor of Lambert’s motion to quash Sanger’s subpoena.
During July, Judge O’Keefe ruled on multiple motions regarding evidence and testimony at trial including:
Paul Flores’ mother’s attempt to quash a subpoena regarding her testimony at trial failed, meaning it is likely Susan Flores will be asked to testify, which may lead to self-incrimination.
The judge ruled a Jan. 2020 recording between Paul Flores and his mother, in which Susan Flores refers to a podcast discussing Smart’s disappearance, is admissible.
Also admissible are recorded conversations between Paul Flores and a detective on May 31 and June 19, 1996 that appear to implicate his father. The jury for Ruben Flores will be required to leave the courtroom while the recording is played.
According to the “Aranda Bruton Rule,” a defendant’s 6th Amendment right to confront and cross-examine witnesses can be violated when a recorded statement made by a co-defendant appears to implicate the defendant if admitted in their joint trial.
Therefore, each defendant will have his own jury, which will listen to most of the trial simultaneously. The two juries will rotate between the jury box and the gallery in a trial expected to last between three and five months.
The judge ruled a statement made by Ruben Flores in May 2021 while deputies collected DNA samples from him with plans to swab his ex-wife and her boyfriend next is admissible.
“They didn’t commit a felony,” Ruben Flores said. “Only I did.”
Paul Flores is accused of murdering Smart, a student at Cal Poly, in 1996 following a party they both attended in San Luis Obispo. Flores’ father Ruben Flores is charged as an accessory after the fact. He is suspected of helping his son dispose of Smart’s body.
Opening statements are expected to begin on July 18.