U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Podcast host subpoenaed a second time for testimony in murder case

Incident Details

Date of Incident
July 10, 2022
Salinas, California

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue
July 15, 2022 - Update

Second subpoena for podcast host testimony, documents quashed

A Monterey County Superior Court judge revoked the subpoena for testimony and other material from Chris Lambert, a freelance reporter and podcast host, on July 15, 2022, according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

The subpoena sought testimony and reporting materials from Lambert, whose 2019 podcast, “Your Own Backyard,” examined the 1996 disappearance and murder of California Polytechnic State University student Kristin Smart. According to the Tribune, the subpoena asked for everything from recordings and outtakes to documents and communications with sources.

Lambert tweeted that Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe granted the motion to quash the subpoena, with the court ruling that the defense did not overcome California Shield Law and First Amendment reporter’s privileges.

Lambert told the Tribune that the subpoena was nearly identical to one issued by the defense in 2021, which a San Luis Obispo County judge similarly quashed in September 2021.

The trial of Paul Flores, accused of Smart’s murder, and his father, Ruben Flores, accused of helping to hide her body, began on July 18, 2022.

July 10, 2022

Freelance reporter and podcast host Chris Lambert was issued a second subpoena ordering him to testify during hearings around the 1996 disappearance and murder of a California Polytechnic State University student.

Lambert’s 2019 podcast, “Your Own Backyard,” chronicled his independent investigation of the murder of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart. In the span of 10 episodes, he interviewed new witnesses whom law enforcement officers had cited as “valuable” in their decision to arrest Paul Flores and his father, Ruben Flores, two longtime suspects in the case.

Attorneys for Paul Flores issued a subpoena to Lambert seeking testimony and reporting materials in August 2021, which San Luis Obispo County Superior Judge Craig van Rooyen dismissed, citing California’s journalist shield law. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documented that case here.

The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported that the case was moved to Monterey County Superior Court after van Rooyen ruled that pretrial publicity had made it unlikely that the defendants would receive a fair trial in the county.

On July 10, 2022, Lambert tweeted a photo of a section of the subpoena, which shows that he was ordered both to appear to testify at a hearing as well as provide “items” listed in an attachment. While he did not specify what the items were, the first subpoena demanded confidential interview recordings, emails and notes gathered in the course of producing the podcast.

Lambert, who could not immediately be reached for comment, told The Tribune his attorney’s advised him against speaking further about the subpoena or providing additional details because of the gag order placed on the case.

According to The Tribune, opening arguments in the case are scheduled for July 18.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].