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Friday, May 9, 2014
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New judge assigned in 2011 murder case

Circuit Judge Mark Jones has been assigned the Peter Hedvall murder case after the original judge on the case stepped down last month.

Chief circuit Judge Luis Garcia assigned Jones, which means the new trial hearing filed by Hedvall's defense attorneys will likely be argued in Key West and not move to the Plantation Key courthouse where Garcia sits.

That hearing date has yet to be set, said Assistant State Attorney Val Winter.

Hedvall's sentencing -- he faces life in prison -- has been postponed pending the outcome of that hearing.

Defense attorneys cited one juror's claim that she was bullied into supporting the guilty verdict and that Miller improperly allowed prosecutors to enter evidence during closing arguments in their motion for a new trial.

Prosecutors showed jurors glitter found on the clothes Hedvall wore the night Jonathan Alvarado Perez was killed -- glitter that came from the fairy wings Perez wore for Fantasy Fest, prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys -- Jason Smith, Julio Margalli and Alan Fowler -- also argued that Miller called defense attorneys "unethical" during the trial, and "allowed gratuitous and irrelevant testimony" regarding Perez's sexuality. Multiple witnesses testified Perez was openly gay.

Miller subsequently stepped down following the defense motion, as he is required to do so as per Florida law due to the conflict of interest, said State Attorney Catherine Vogel.

"That doesn't mean he is admitting to the allegations," Vogel explained. "He has to step down due to the rules. It would be unfair to think that his recusal is in any way an admission that the allegations made by the defense are correct. He is legally bound to do so."

A Key West jury convicted Hedvall on March 27 after a 10-day trial of second-degree murder after eight hours of deliberations in the strangulation and bludgeoning death of 32-year-old Perez.

Perez was found dead on Oct. 28, 2011, beneath a commercial truck parked on Grinnell Street.

Hedvall was found guilty of strangling Perez using wire from the wings that were part of Perez's Fantasy Fest costume, and bludgeoning him with a 20-pound coral rock.

Perez's last moments occurred just a few blocks away from the local bar Dons' Place, 1000 Truman Ave., where Hedvall and Perez had interacted the night before.

A DNA expert for the state told jurors that Perez's blood was found on a motorcycle boot and a white costume suit worn by Hedvall the day of the murder.

Hedvall was originally charged with first-degree murder but never faced the death penalty.

With a second-degree murder conviction, Hedvall faces a potential maximum sentence of life in prison, but could receive less depending on a presentencing investigation report completed by the Florida Department of Corrections.

That report details Hedvall's criminal history and other factors when suggesting a prison term to the judge.

alinhard@keysnews.com

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