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Juror Is Excused In Kristin Smart Trial After Seeking Spiritual Guidance From Priest: ‘This Case Hasn’t Been Easy’
Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe opted to dismiss the juror — who had been serving on the jury to determine Ruben Flores’ fate — out of an “abundance of caution.”
A juror has been dismissed from the Kristin Smart trial after admitting to speaking to a priest about the case for “spiritual guidance.”
Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe made the decision Thursday to remove the juror, who is serving on the jury tasked with reaching a verdict against Ruben Flores, after speaking with the man about the conversation, according to ABC News.
Two separate juries have been tasked with determining the fates of Ruben Flores and his son Paul. Paul is accused of killing his college classmate Kristin Smart during an attempted rape in 1996, while his father Ruben stands accused of later helping his son cover up the crime by hiding the body.
Jurors serving on both juries were instructed not to speak to anyone about the case, including to therapists or spiritual advisors.
Deliberations for both juries began last week; however, the jury for Ruben will now have to restart deliberations from the beginning after the juror was removed and a female alternate juror was assigned to take his place.
O’Keefe made the decision to remove the juror, referred to in court as juror #262, after he confided in another juror that he had talked to his priest about his struggle to make a decision in the case. That juror then reported the conversation to the judge, who questioned juror #262 on the record about the incident.
Juror #262 told O’Keefe he had spoken to his priest during a Saturday confession to receive a “blessing,” saying he needed “spiritual guidance” about the case and other personal issues he had been struggling with, according to The San Luis Obispo Tribune.
“This case hasn’t been easy. It’s very hard,” the juror said. “There’s lives at stake.”
The man insisted he had not spoken to the priest about any facts of the case or any of the decisions going as part of the deliberations.
Before making her decision, O’Keefe also spoke to the female juror who had reported the infraction.
She told the judge that juror #262 had told her that he spoke with his priest both inside the confessional and outside of it.
The priest had allegedly told him that “regardless of what the decision is, there is someone up there that oversees and assigns everybody’s judgement,” according to the local paper.
She said the juror had told his priest he could only talk about the case inside the confessional and she believed that meant that he was talking about the facts of the case with the priest.
O’Keefe made the decision to remove the juror “out of an abundance of caution” after hearing the varying accounts.
"Sometimes the appearance of impropriety is just as bad as actual impropriety. I need to protect the record," she said, according to ABC News.