A defendant’s murder conviction in a retrial over the disappearance and death of six-year-old Etan Patz in 1979 should be thrown out because the new jury knew members of the first jury were sitting in court with the victim’s family, his attorneys said Wednesday.
Alice Fontier said in court papers that her client Pedro Hernandez could not have gotten a fair trial because the jury was unfairly influenced by how close former jurors were to the Patz family. Members of the first jury who voted to convict Hernandez in 2015, a case that ended in a mistrial on an 11-1 vote, attended the second trial and often sat with Stan Patz in court.
“In this highly emotional case, the presence of the prior jurors and their close and obvious relationship with the Patz family conveyed the message that they believed in Mr. Hernandez’s guilt,” Fontier wrote. “This information deprived Mr. Hernandez of a fair trial.”
The Manhattan DA’s office response is due this Wednesday.
Fontier said the defense team uncovered the information after news reports that a juror in the second trial, Michael Castellon, said he had been told by court officers that the first jury was with the family.