1979 Missing Boy Case: Manhattan DA Intends To Retry Case

1979 Missing Boy Case: Manhattan DA Intends To Retry Case
Rain on Broadway, SOHO, New York City, b/w Tony Fischer CC BY 2.0

On Monday, a Manhattan prosecutor announced that he intends to retry the case of a New Jersey man who admitted to killing a six year old New York boy who had been missing since 1979.


Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said on MSNBC’s “The Cycle” about setting a June 10 court date in the case.

The judge in the Etan Patz murder trial declared it as a mistrial, as after two weeks of deliberations the jurors told the judge they could not reach a unanimous decision as to whether Pedro Hernandez (despite his admittance that he killed Etan) committed the crime. The jurors said they were deadlocked.

According to Deutsche Welle, Etan went missing while he was walking to school on May 25, 1979. His body was never found.

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At the time, Hernandez was a teenage stock clerk near where Etan lived. Although Hernandez admitted to the crime, he later retracted his statement. Harvey Fishbein, Hernandez’s defense attorney, argued that Hernandez was suffering from “borderline-to-mild retardation.”

As reported by NBC 4 New York, eleven of the 12 jurors were convinced Hernandez was the perpetrator who had kidnapped and subsequently killed Etan in SoHo. One juror said he was persuaded that Hernandez was suffering from mental health issues and cast doubt over the validity of his “very bizarre” confession and the way in which it was acquired.

Vance said on MSNBC, “I think the evidence put in by our prosecutors was compelling and was clear.”

“It’s a challenging case, I’ve never said otherwise, but it’s a case we believe should be prosecuted. That’s why we did, and in our system it happens from time to time that jurors cannot be unanimous and this was one of those cases.”

On Monday, Fishbein told NBC 4 New York, “I have not received any official notification but if the D.A.’s office elects to retry the case, I assure you we will be ready.”

The deliberations, which lasted for more than two weeks and 115 hours, saw the jury reviewing exhibits and assessing testimonies from key witnesses. It became one of the longest New York City criminal trial deliberations in decades.

Neither was Etan’s body discovered, nor did any physical evidence in the case surface that could connect Hernandez to the crime.

Stanley Patz, Etan’s father, said he and his family were convinced that Hernandez was “guilty of the crimes to which he has confessed beyond any reasonable doubt.”

“The family of Etan Patz has waited 36 years for a resolution as to what happened to our sweet little boy in 1979,” Stanley said. “Let me make very clear that we are frustrated and very disappointed that the jury has been unable to come to decision. Our long ordeal is not over.”

He welcomed the DA’s intention to retry the case, saying in a statement on Monday, “We are pleased that the D.A.’s office is willing to expend the time and energy to retry Pedro Hernandez.”

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