Deli Worker Faces Retrial in Etan Patz Murder
Pedro Hernandez will be tried again for the 1979 murder of 6-year-old Etan Patz after a mistrial was declared earlier this month because a jury was unable to reach a verdict, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. told MSNBC on Monday.
Decades after the boy went missing from his Soho neighborhood in Manhattan, in a case that changed the way the U.S. handles reports of missing children, Hernandez confessed in 2012 to strangling the boy in the basement of a deli where he had worked.
That highly disputed confession, which the defense said was coerced by police from a mentally ill man, was the crux of the state’s case against Hernandez, now 54 years old.
“Certainly I intend to retry the case,” Vance told MSNBC in an interview broadcast on Monday.
“I think the evidence put in by our prosecutors was compelling and it was clear,” he said about the case that resulted in 18 days of jury deliberations in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, believed to be among the longest in state judicial history.
“It is a challenging case. I’ve never said otherwise. But it is a case that we believe should be prosecuted. In our system, it happens from time to time that jurors cannot be unanimous and this was one of those cases,” Vance said.
After the jury for a third time told Justice Maxwell Wiley it was deadlocked, the judge declared a mistrial. At a later media briefing, jurors said 11 of them were in favor of conviction and only one held out for acquittal.
Patz vanished on May 25, 1979 as he walked alone for the first time to a school bus stop. Hernandez later confessed that he lured the boy into the deli with the promise of a soda, choked him and stuffed his still-moving body into a box, leaving it in a New York alley.
The boy’s father, Stan Patz, said after the mistrial that the family was “frustrated and very disappointed” by the jury’s inability to reach a verdict.
Defense attorney Harvey Fishbein said, “I’m sure the Patz family is very interested in a resolution in this case. We firmly believe Pedro Hernandez is not the right man.”