A New York state judge on Thursday rejected a request from a former delicatessen worker to throw out his February conviction for murdering Etan Patz, a 6-year-old boy whose disappearance in 1979 became one of the country’s most infamous missing child cases.
The decision paves the way for Pedro Hernandez, 56, to be sentenced on April 18 for murder and kidnapping. He faces up to life in prison.
Patz vanished as he walked alone to a bus stop in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood on May 25, 1979. The ensuing media attention raised awareness of the plight of missing children, and Patz was one of the first whose photo appeared on a milk carton seeking information.
Hernandez confessed, but his lawyers argued at trial that his admission was the product of mental illness. Patz’s body was never found.
Defense lawyers said in court papers that some jurors at the second trial knew that jurors from the first trial were in the courtroom, sitting near Patz’s father, Stanley Patz.
But Judge Maxwell Wiley ruled on Thursday that fact, even if true, was not enough on its own to throw out the verdict.