Errors at lab used in Kristin Smart case not likely to impact Flores

June 30, 2024

Kristin Smart


Hundreds of cases could be upended because of an error at the lab that conducted DNA and blood evidence tests in the Kristin Smart case. However, it is unlikely to factor into Paul Fores’ murder conviction.

In 2022, a Monterey County jury found Flores guilty of murdering Smart during an attempted rape in 1996 following a Cal Poly frat party. After the party, Flores helped escort Smart, who was found passed out on a lawn outside the party, back to her dorm room. She was never seen again and her body was never found.

During Flores’ trial, technicians determined DNA evidence from the mattress in his former dorm room was too degraded to either identify or exclude Smart as having been on Flores’ bed, testing done by Serological Research Institute (SERI Lab).

The lab is under fire after it was discovered an employee put an inaccurate system setting in an instrument used to detect DNA in Jan. 2017. The error was not corrected until Jan. 2, 2022.

While operating under the wrong setting, the machine was used in 580 cases across California, which has led officials to research the impact of the results.

In Sonoma County, Daniel Carrillo was on trial for the 2016 murder of Kirk Kimberly when an amended analysis of the knife he allegedly used to kill Kimberly showed “significantly lower values” of Carrillo’s DNA than the earlier test. Carrillo’s attorney then filed for and received a mistrial. The court is now considering dates for a new trial.

Even though prosecutors in Paul Flores’ murder trial relied on testing performed by SERI Lab equipment and personnel, it was primarily related to the Hem Direct test of samples from under a porch that tested positive for the presence of human blood, said SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow.

“This case was not built on DNA evidence,” Dow said. “While it will likely be added to the appeal, it is not likely to have an impact.”

After a Monterey County jury found Flores guilty of murdering Smart, Judge Jennifer O’Keefe sentenced Flores to to 25 years to life in prison.

In April, 2023, Flores’s former attorney, Robert Sanger, filed a notice of appeal. The state then appointed attorney Solomon Wollack to represent Flores.

Following two brutal attacks, Flores is currently serving his sentence at California State Prison in Corcoran.


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