New York jury begins third day of deliberating 1979 Patz murder case

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 17, 2015 10:50 AM

By Natasja Sheriff

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jurors began a third day of deliberations on Friday in the trial of a former New York deli worker accused of murdering 6-year-old Etan Patz, whose 1979 disappearance raised national awareness of missing and abducted children.

The jury in state Supreme Court in Manhattan appear to have focused on the confession of Pedro Hernandez, 54, who told police in 2012 that he had choked the boy, stuffed him in a box and left him in a lower Manhattan alley.

Jurors in the kidnapping and murder trial on Thursday asked the judge, Maxwell Wiley, to repeat his instructions about how they should weigh his confession, which Hernandez's defense lawyers say was coerced.

Wiley had explained that they could throw out a confession if it is involuntary, and outlined the standard for determining whether a confession is voluntary or not.

The Patz case changed the way authorities respond to reports of missing and abducted children. The boy's picture was one of the first to appear on milk cartons in a national campaign to locate children who had disappeared.

Patz vanished on his first walk alone to a school bus stop on May 25, 1979, and has never been found. He was declared dead in 2001.

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon says Hernandez told the truth when he confessed and the statement was completely voluntary.

Defense attorneys say Hernandez made a false confession, and that he is mentally ill, intellectually disabled and suffers hallucinations.

The defense places blame for the murder on Jose Ramos, who dated a Patz family babysitter. Long considered the prime suspect, Ramos is in prison after being convicted of sexually abusing boys.

If convicted, Hernandez faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Frank McGurty and Jonathan Oatis)