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Hedvall v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

November 6, 2019

Peter Erik HEDVALL, Appellant,
The STATE of Florida, Appellee.

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          An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Monroe County, Mark H. Jones, Judge. Lower Tribunal No. 11-1072-A-K

          Michael Ufferman Law Firm, P.A., and Michael Ufferman (Tallahassee), for appellant.

         Ashley Moody, Attorney General, and Jonathan Tanoos, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

         Before SCALES, LINDSEY, and MILLER,[1] JJ.


         LINDSEY, J.

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          Peter Erik Hedvall appeals his conviction and sentence for the murder of Jonathan Perez. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.


          A. The Investigation and Events Leading to Trial

         Jonathan Perez (the "Victim") was brutally murdered in 2011 in Key West during Fantasy Fest.[2] He was found lying on a driveway under a vending truck parked approximately 100 feet from Don’s Place, a bar in downtown Key West. A pool of blood was flowing from the Victim’s head toward the street. There was a large wound just above his right ear. Glittery costume wings were wrapped tightly around his neck. A large coral rock, stained with blood, was discovered near the Victim’s body. The injuries were consistent with a time of death between 4:00 a.m. and 4:15 a.m. the morning of October 28, 2011.

         A medical examiner’s autopsy of the Victim revealed that a firm metal wire covered in cloth, which was part of the costume wings, was wrapped around the Victim’s neck. The wire had been twisted very tightly. The Victim had bruising on his face, hand, wrist, elbow, and chest. The Victim also had lacerations on his scalp. In addition, the Victim had suffered skull fractures and bruising to the brain. The injuries were consistent with the Victim’s head being hit with a hard object. The causes of death were asphyxiation and blunt force head trauma, although either alone would have caused his death. The medical examiner opined that the manner of death was homicide.

         A detective looked through the Victim’s mobile phone and Facebook page to confirm his identity. Word of the murder began to spread in the community, and individuals who knew the Victim began contacting the police. The detective interviewed some of the Victim’s friends and began developing leads on the case. Ultimately, the investigation led to Don’s Place. A bartender saw Peter Erik Hedvall ("Defendant") at Don’s Place early in the evening the night of the murder wearing a pinstriped "zoot suit" with a big wide hat.[3] The bartender first saw the Victim around 1:30 a.m. or 2:00 a.m.

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and served him a drink. The Victim left without paying. Around 3:45 a.m., close to last call, the bartender saw the Victim again. Defendant was sitting at the end of the bar, while the Victim was standing at the middle of the bar. The Victim appeared intoxicated.

          Yet another bartender also saw the Victim earlier in the evening wearing all black with glittery fairy wings. A friend of the Victim confirmed she met the Victim at Don’s Place that night and that he was dressed in black and wearing costume wings. The friend last saw the Victim around 3:45 a.m., just before she left. Another patron remembered seeing the Victim that night and stated that he was wearing wings and appeared drunk. Yet another patron who worked at Wing Masters, just in front of Don’s Place, went to Don’s Place and left around 3:55 or 4:00 a.m., when the bartender announced last call. As he was walking home, this person saw an argument between two people by the dumpster next to Don’s Place. According to this person, one sharply-dressed man was wearing a white suit, a hat, and white pants. The other man was wearing all black and wings.

          Twenty-four hours after the Victim’s body was found, Defendant went to the police station for an interview. During the interview, he acknowledged being at Don’s Place the morning of October 28, 2011, and seeing the Victim, but he denied arguing with him. In addition, Defendant admitted he was wearing a white and blue zoot suit and a hat. Police asked to go with Defendant to his home to get the clothing and Defendant agreed. Defendant retrieved the clothing and boots he had worn the night the Victim died and returned to the station with the police. Once there, a detective visually inspected the clothing items and boots in the presence of Defendant and immediately noticed what appeared to be dry bloodstains on the pants. Another detective then came in wearing gloves, and Defendant was asked if she could take the clothing to inspect it. He agreed. A presumptive blood test was conducted, which came back positive for the presence of blood. A detective then read Defendant his constitutional rights. Defendant was not arrested and was allowed to leave the police station.

         The clothing and boots and the Victim’s costume wings were submitted to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for DNA testing. Multiple samples were submitted, including Defendant’s and the Victim’s DNA. Swabs from the crime scene, including stains from the coral rock found near the victim, were also submitted. One blood stain on the back of Defendant’s pants matched the Victim. A second blood stain, above the toe of Defendant’s right boot also matched at least two individuals, the Victim being one of them. Two blood stains found on Defendant’s clothing matched Defendant. Blood taken from the coral rock matched the Victim. Defendant was subsequently arrested and indicted for premeditated murder in violation of section 782.04(1)(a), Florida Statutes.

          B. The Motion to Suppress

          Before trial, Defendant moved to have the clothing and DNA evidence suppressed on the basis that the detectives exceeded the scope of consent he had given them. At the hearing on the motion, two detectives testified, and the State admitted three video recordings of the police’s interactions with Defendant. The trial court entered a written order denying the motion.

          C. The Trial

          1. Voir Dire

         During jury selection, Defendant challenged

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three jurors, F, S, and H[4] for cause, alleging they were neither impartial nor unbiased. After an extensive jury selection and multiple rounds of questioning, the trial court denied the cause challenges. Defendant exercised peremptory challenges to strike the three jurors from the jury panel. At the conclusion of voir dire, and after Defendant’s peremptory challenges had been exhausted, Defendant identified two additional jurors who sat on the jury whom he would have stricken had he not used three of his peremptory challenges on Jurors F, S, and H.

          2. Testimony on Blood Pattern Analysis

         Prior to trial, the State submitted a discovery exhibit in accordance with Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.220, which included a list of "Category A" witnesses. It listed Detective Underwood and attached a copy of Detective Underwood’s Report. In addition, the State submitted an amended discovery exhibit with Detective Underwood’s curriculum vitae. Further, Detective Underwood was deposed. Detective Underwood’s Report included the following:

There was a large pool of blood under the Victim’s head and what appeared to be high velocity blood splatter extending from the Victim’s head/face towards the street for a total distance of four feet in a cone like shape (expanding outwards from the Victim’s head/face towards the street). There was a barely perceptible void in the pattern, suggesting that someone or something had been present when the splatter, from the blow to the head was struck. The shape and size of the splatter droplets were elongated, definitely directional, and indicated a flight pattern of less than thirty degrees, away from the Victim’s head. No ‘cast off’ patterns were observed. Swabs were collected from areas of bloodstains. Evidence at the scene suggest that the head wound was a single blow and was struck while the Victim’s head was already down on the driveway surface.

         During trial, the State tendered Detective Underwood as an expert witness. Defendant objected, asserting the State had failed to identify Detective Underwood as an expert and that Defendant would be prejudiced if the trial court allowed the detective to testify to his blood pattern analysis. At a hearing outside the presence of the jury, the trial court declined Defendant’s request for a Daubert hearing on the basis that Defendant could have filed a motion "a long time ago."

         However, in lieu thereof, the trial court required the State to lay a predicate for Detective Underwood’s testimony. The trial court identified the following expert opinion testimony requirements under section 90.702, Florida Statutes: (1) the testimony must be based on sufficient facts or data; (2) the testimony must be the product of reliable principles and methods; and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.

          Defendant objected on the basis that the witness was not qualified to testify to the methodology and principles. Defendant further objected to the reliability of the principles and methods used by the detective. The trial court then told the State that the detective needed to address the reliability issue. The trial court allowed Defendant to conduct further voir dire of Detective Underwood. In addition, the trial court conducted its own examination. The trial court then concluded:

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I’m going to allow the detective to testify to his opinion. You’ll [sic] been given a chance to cross-examine him on many of the issues he’s raised. The Court finds that the detective followed the methods and measurements and that the measurements are reliable as far as we know from the experts that’s [sic] he’s quoted, who wrote the books, so to speak.

I’m going to find he used sufficient facts and data under the circumstances as he was taught. I’m going to find that he applied them reliably to the facts as presented.
The only thing I find him able to testify to is the 30 degree angle he’s talked about, and his conclusion that the trajectory is one that would indicate that the victim’s body was at a very low position, or on the ground when it was struck.

          The detective rendered his expert opinion and Defendant cross-examined the detective on his opinion in front of the jury.

          3. Testimony of the Medical Examiner

          Dr. Jay Radke, a medical examiner licensed in the State of Florida, testified that his examination of the left side of the Victim’s scalp revealed hemorrhaging and that hemorrhaging was consistent with the Victim’s head being hit on the left side by a hard object such as a sidewalk. Dr. Radke also identified multiple broken fragments of skull. He opined that blunt force trauma to the right side of the Victim’s head was caused by an irregularly shaped object. Dr. Radke also explained that a single blow to the head would not cause blood to travel four feet from the Victim and that an initial blow to the head would not cause any blood to fly out or spurt. Dr. Radke also testified that a subsequent blow to the head would cause already pooling blood to splash and fan out.

          4. Evidence of Glitter and Debris from Defendant’s Clothing

          Prior to trial, in July of 2013, the State and counsel for Defendant met with Detective Haley to inspect Defendant’s clothing that was in the State’s possession. During this inspection the clothing was placed on a clean piece of brown paper. The brown paper caught debris that fell from the clothing. Once the inspection was completed, the paper was repackaged with the clothing. Only Detective Haley handled the clothing during the original inspection.

          Mid-trial, on March 22, 2014, a second inspection was conducted by the State; counsel for Defendant; and Ms. Varan, a DNA expert. When the inspection was completed, counsel for Defendant allowed the State to discard the new piece of brown paper that was placed under the clothing during the inspection. After counsel for Defendant left, a third inspection was held (also on March 22, 2014.) A third piece of brown paper was placed under the clothing during the inspection. This piece of paper was repackaged with the clothing and the paper from the first inspection.

          At trial, the State sought to move both pieces of brown paper into evidence and argued that the debris found on the paper came from the coral rock and the wings worn by Defendant. The trial court admitted the brown paper over the Defendant’s objection. In so doing, the trial court found that Defendant and counsel had access to inspect (1) the clothing; (2) the paper placed under the clothing; (3) any loose debris that had fallen during the two inspections they were present for prior to trial; and (4) the debris collected during the third inspection before it was admitted into evidence. The trial court further found that Defendant had deposed the DNA expert, Mrs. Varan, the day following the second and third inspections.

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          At the conclusion of trial, and after testimony from more than 25 witnesses, including Defendant, the jury convicted Defendant of the lesser included offense of second-degree murder. The trial court sentenced Defendant to 40 years imprisonment followed by probation for life. This timely appeal followed.

          II. ANALYSIS

          Defendant alleges five grounds for reversal: (1) the trial court erred by allowing the testimony of Detective Underwood, who Defendant contends was an undesignated and unqualified expert witness for the State; (2) the trial court erred by denying Defendant’s challenges for cause to Jurors F, S, and H; (3) the trial court erred by allowing the State to introduce glitter and debris from the clothing Defendant wore on the night of the murder; (4) the trial court erred in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress the clothing Defendant wore on the night of the murder; and (5) there are errors on the sentencing scoresheet and the judgment.

          A. The Expert Blood Pattern Analysis Testimony

         1. The Alleged Discovery Violation and Failure to Conduct a Richardson Hearing

         Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.220(b)(1)(A) requires the State to disclose "a list of the names and addresses of all persons known to the prosecutor to have information that may be relevant to any offense charged or any defense thereto ...." The Rule further requires that the persons listed be designated in one of three categories: A, B, or C. Id. Category A, which is relevant here, lists eight subcategories of witnesses, including "expert witnesses who have not provided a written report and a curriculum vitae or who are going to testify." Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.220(b)(1)(A)(i).[5]

          Defendant alleges the trial court erred in allowing Detective Underwood to testify as an expert on blood pattern analysis because even though he was designated as a Category A witness, he was not specifically designated as an expert witness. This, Defendant argues, was a discovery violation requiring the trial court to conduct a Richardson hearing.[6] See Richardson v. State, 246 So.2d 771, 774 (Fla. 1971) ("[T]he violation of a rule of procedure prescribed by this Court does not call for a reversal of a conviction unless the record discloses that non-compliance with the rule resulted in prejudice or harm to the defendant."). The State contends that listing Detective Underwood as a Category A witness was sufficient, and therefore, a Richardson hearing was unnecessary because there was no violation of a procedural rule.

          Although we note that the plain language of Rule 3.220 does not require

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the State to identify any witness specifically as an expert or provide an expert witness list, we need not decide whether the State complied with the requirements of Rule 3.220 because, even if it did not, the failure to do so was harmless error.[7] "[T]he failure to conduct a Richardson hearing is not per se reversible error, but rather is subject to a harmless error analysis." Durrance v. State, 44 So.3d 217, 221 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010) (citing State v. Schopp, 653 So.2d 1016, 1020-21 (Fla. 1995)). A discovery violation may be considered harmless if an appellate court can determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defense was not procedurally prejudiced by the violation. Casica v. State, 24 So.3d 1236, 1240 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009) (citing Scipio v. State, 928 So.2d 1138, 1150 (Fla. 2006)).

         Assuming, arguendo, there was a discovery violation, there is no evidence that this violation resulted in Defendant’s trial preparation or strategy being materially impaired. First, Defendant was given the opportunity to depose Detective Underwood on his report and opinions. The State also provided Detective Underwood’s curriculum vitae and report. Second, Defendant’s theory of the case was not how the victim was killed but that someone, other than Defendant, killed the victim. Third, in his opening statement, counsel for Defendant stated that the Victim "was brutally taken from us." Fourth, even if Defendant did not anticipate Detective Underwood would render the opinion that he did, his opinion could not have changed Defendant’s preparation or strategy in light of the cumulative medical examiner’s testimony that the causes of death were asphyxiation and blunt force trauma to the head. Moreover, there is no evidence that ...

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