NYC hearing for Etan Patz suspect put off to October 1

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 20, 2012 5:48 PM
NYC hearing for Etan Patz suspect put off to October 1
By Joseph AxNEW YORK (Reuters) - A hearing for a man who confessed to the 1979 strangling of 6-year-old Etan Patz, one of the first missing children to appear on a U.S. milk carton, has been postponed until October 1, the Manhattan District Attorney's office said on Wednesday.The hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court for Pedro Hernandez, 51, had been scheduled for Monday, when the results of a psychiatric examination were expected to be discussed.Hernandez was arraigned on a second-degree murder charge on May 25, exactly 33 years after he says he killed Patz, whose disappearance from his New York neighborhood prompted a national sea change in the way authorities respond to missing child cases.Erin Duggan, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Cyrus Vance, said in a statement that both Hernandez's court-appointed defense lawyer, Harvey Fishbein, and prosecutors had agreed to the delay."The purpose of the adjournment is to allow all parties to proceed with their investigations in a measured and fair manner," she said.Hernandez has not yet been indicted by a grand jury, and the adjournment means prosecutors will have more than three months to continue building a case. Under New York law, an uncorroborated confession is not enough to prove guilt, and police said in May they have no physical evidence to connect Hernandez with the crime.Fishbein did not immediately respond to a request for comment. During Hernandez's initial court appearance, held via video link from Bellevue Hospital where Hernandez was being held for observation, Fishbein told a judge that his client has a history of mental illness, including hallucinations.Hernandez's confession came only weeks after police excavated a basement on Patz's block used by a handyman, who was questioned but not charged. A third man, Jose Antonio Ramos, had long been considered the chief suspect and was found civilly liable for Patz's death in 2004. He is serving a sentence for child molestation in Pennsylvania in an unrelated case.(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)