By Natasja Sheriff
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jurors considering a murder charge against the man who confessed to killing Etan Patz in 1979 ended a seventh day of deliberations on Thursday without reaching a verdict in one of the most vexing disappearances in New York history.
Pedro Hernandez, 54, is charged in state Supreme Court in Manhattan with kidnapping and murdering the 6-year-old boy, who disappeared on May 25, 1979, as he was walking alone for the first time to his school bus stop.
Patz was one of the first missing children whose pictures appeared on milk cartons in an effort to locate them.
Hernandez, who worked in a deli near Patz's Manhattan home, confessed to police in 2012 that he lured the boy into the store's basement with the offer of a soda, strangled him and left his still moving body in a box in an alley.
Hernandez's defense maintains he is mentally ill and that his confession was coerced.
His lawyers have said the real culprit is Jose Ramos, long a prime suspect in the disappearance. His girlfriend once walked Patz and his friends home from school. Ramos is a convicted child molester now serving a prison sentence in Pennsylvania.
During deliberations on Thursday, the jurors asked to review a videotaped interview of Ramos by a prosecutor. The interview, which was presented as evidence in Hernandez's trial, followed a 1982 incident in which Ramos allegedly tried to lure two boys into a drainpipe in a New York City park where he was living.
In the video, Ramos said he knew of Patz through his girlfriend but had never met the boy.
The jury was scheduled to resume on Friday morning.
The panel has asked for a rereading of all the testimony by a former federal prosecutor and a former special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, both of whom worked on the Patz case and recommended prosecuting Ramos.
"I don't know how you can look at Ramos, and the evidence against Ramos, and be able to ignore Ramos in this case," Hernandez' defense attorney Harvey Fishbein said outside the courtroom.
"In order to convict Pedro Hernandez, they have to exclude Ramos. I think that's a very difficult thing to do," he said.
Patz was never found, and a court in 2001 declared him legally dead.
If convicted, Hernandez faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst, Barbara Goldberg, Ted Botha, Toni Reinhold)