Deliberations Drag On in Etan Patz Case


For nine days, the 12 jurors asked to see dozens of exhibits, to have hours and hours of trial transcripts read to them and for access to a computer to organize their thoughts about the murder trial of a man accused of killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979.

Then, midway through the 10th day Wednesday, came a note: “We are unable to reach a unanimous decision.”

A judge instructed the jury to keep deliberating and on went a waiting game befitting a notorious missing-child case that’s already spanned decades. Looking worn, jurors went back behind closed doors to try to decide whether Pedro Hernandez is guilty of murder and kidnapping.

“I just really believe that we have no reason to believe that some other jury is going to be able to resolve this case,” Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley told jurors.

Hernandez’s lawyers objected to having the jury keep going, saying that amounted to pressure to reach a verdict. Prosecutors said they had faith that the jury could reach a verdict.

“Try to enjoy the outdoors and think about something else for a while,” Wiley said when dismissing them Wednesday afternoon. They were excused early ahead of lengthy rereading of both sides’ closing arguments on Thursday.

Jurors appeared to be getting along at least until Wednesday, when they came into court stone-faced after saying they were at an impasse. But several nodded as the judge noted that their 10 days of deliberating hadn’t all been in discussion — it was punctuated by lengthy readbacks and, on the first day, what the judge described as a break for birthday cake. (Jurors later sent a note asking to clarify the record: “We, the jury, actually did not eat the cake until after we were instructed to stop deliberating!”)

Since beginning deliberations April 15, jurors have asked for — and mostly gotten — a variety of items including Hernandez’s videotaped confessions and a missing-person poster signed by Hernandez.

They’ve asked for the weather report the day Etan went missing. Hernandez said it was a nice day. Records showed it was cloudy and cool.

They also got access to the computer with a spreadsheet program, but not to a printer they said would help in the process. The judge told them the printer wasn’t feasible.

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