A judge is expected to rule today on whether prosecutors can use critical evidence in the murder case against the man accused of killing Key West restaurant server Jonathan Alvarado Perez.
Defense attorneys for Peter Erik Hedvall argue that Key West police violated their client's constitutional rights relating to search and seizure when they confiscated the white suit he was allegedly wearing the night Perez was killed.
Hedvall was charged with first-degree murder in the case.
County Judge Wayne Miller heard oral arguments on the matter today from defense attorney Alan Fowler and Assistant State Attorneys Val Winter and Christine Poist.
Central to the debate is the defense team's (Hedvall's co-counsel is Jason Smith) argument that Hedvall only consented to police looking at the suit and not testing it for blood, and that they never acquired a search warrant or tried to get consent from the clothes' actual owner -- Jared Michael Hobgood.
Hobgood later died in December, and is in no other way related to the Hedvall case.
What Miller is mulling is whether Hedvall gave police the legally required consent, Fowler said.
Video taken of Hedvall's interrogation at the police station shows him consenting to police viewing the clothes, but not consenting to a blood test, nor did he give consent to police keeping the clothes, Fowler said.
Hedvall, 28, did explain to police that the clothes didn't belong to him, and that he needed them back because they were on loan from Hobgood, Fowler said.
"Here's what I think this case is all about," Fowler said. "It's the biggest event of the year (Fantasy Fest 2011) and the worst thing happens with a local near a local bar. I think they're (police) are in a hurry to make a case stick, and they weren't careful about what they were doing. I think they're trying to fit a square peg through a round hole."
State Attorney Catherine Vogel declined to comment on the case.
"We really can't argue our position anywhere except in the courtroom," Vogel said.
One issue also hanging over the case is motive. The state doesn't have to prove motive, only that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but questions as to why Hedvall would allegedly kill Perez have been swirling around the case since his arrest.
A tentative trial remains set for March 17 before Miller.
Prosecutors allege both Hedvall and Perez, 32, had been in the neighborhood tavern Dons' Place, 1000 Truman Ave., hours before Perez's body was found beneath a commercial truck parked just a few houses away on Grinnell Street.
Perez was strangled with wire from that Fantasy Fest costume and bludgeoned by a rock, according to a Monroe County medical examiner's autopsy report.
Police detective Matthew Haley also testified at Hedvall's bail hearing that small drops of blood on a white Fantasy Fest costume that Hedvall was wearing matched Perez's DNA.
Former Dons' Place bartender Kurt Lubs testified that Perez was drunk, but not quarrelsome, before the tavern closed on Oct. 28, 2011.
Former Truman Avenue resident Honus Hicks testified he saw a man in a white suit bickering with a man wearing costume angel wings the morning Perez died.
Hedvall was taken into custody by Waukesha County, Wis., deputies on Dec. 21, 2011, near Milwaukee, and he extradited back to the Florida Keys shortly thereafter.
Hedvall, formerly of Watson Street, was a former bouncer at Irish Kevin's bar and Bare Assets strip club.
The state is not seeking the death penalty against Hedvall, who remains at Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island in lieu of $500,000 bail. Circuit Judge Mark Jones ruled Hedvall should be granted a high bail in June 2012, despite the state's efforts to convince him otherwise.
Perez formerly worked at La Trattoria Oceanside, 3593 S. Roosevelt Blvd.