Florida Keys News
Friday, May 16, 2014
Lawyers want to hear from jurors
Defense files for new trial

Defense attorneys for a man convicted of second-degree murder in the 2011 death of Jonathan Alvarado Perez want to interview some or all of the jurors, according to court records.

The attorneys for Peter Hedvall have already filed a motion for a new trial, which caused the case to be reassigned to a new judge.

Circuit Judge Mark Jones has set a hearing date for June 4 in which defense attorneys are expected to outline why and how many of the jurors who sat on the murder trial they wish to interview.

Hedvall's sentencing -- he faces life in prison -- has been postponed pending the outcome of that debate and other motions that have arisen since Hedvall's conviction.

In their motion for a new trial, defense attorneys cited one juror's claim that she was bullied into supporting the guilty verdict. She later told The Citizen in an interview after the trial that she felt Hedvall was innocent.

Whether the defense team -- lead counsel Jason Smith and co-counsel Alan Fowler -- want to interview her or the entire jury panel remains to be seen.

Attorney Julio Margalli handled the DNA portion of the trial in Hedvall's defense pro bono, but has subsequently withdrawn as co-counsel, according to court records.

Questions over remaining defense strategy will likely go unanswered until next month's hearing. Jones still has to rule on whether a gag order on lawyers on both sides remains in effect.

Former presiding county Judge Wayne Miller issued the gag order prior to Hedvall's trial, as judges sometimes do in high-profile cases. A gag order means lawyers are not allowed to discuss the case in public and more directly, through the media.

Miller told The Citizen that the gag order would be lifted postverdict, and indeed State Attorney Catherine Vogel made a brief statement to the press thanking jurors for their service after the trial, but calls to the defense lawyers went unanswered.

Assistant State Attorney Val Winter, lead prosecutor at trial, declined to comment for this story citing the gag order issue. Assistant State Attorney Christine Poist is co-prosecutor in the case.

A jury convicted Hedvall, 28, on March 28 after about eight hours of deliberation. Though he faces life in prison, he could receive less than that based on presentence report done by prison officials that takes into account mitigating factors and his criminal history -- if his conviction stands as it remains to be seen if he will be retried.

Perez was found strangled and bludgeoned to death Oct. 28, 2011, at 1019 Grinnell St. 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 as the bar was closing about 4 a.m. that day.

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.


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