Pedro Hernandez: NY judge rules man who confessed to Etan Patz murder to stand trial

Pedro Hernandez appears with his lawyer Harvey Fishbein (unseen) in the Manhattan Criminal Court in New York November 15, 2012. REUTERS/Louis Lanzano/Pool
Pedro Hernandez appears with his lawyer Harvey Fishbein (unseen) in the Manhattan Criminal Court in New York November 15, 2012. REUTERS/Louis Lanzano/Pool

A New Jersey man who confessed to the 1979 killing of Etan Patz should stand trial for murder and kidnapping in the 6-year-old boy’s disappearance, a judge ruled on Wednesday.

An attorney for Pedro Hernandez, 51, of Maple Shade, New Jersey, had asked the judge to throw out the indictment, arguing that the confession alone was not legally sufficient to support the charges. Under New York law, a confession must be corroborated by some evidence that the crime in question occurred, though the statute is considered by legal experts to set an extremely low bar.

But in a very brief hearing, Justice Maxwell Wiley ruled in state Supreme Court in Manhattan that the trial may proceed, finding there is enough evidence to try Hernandez on the felony charges.

Police said Hernandez in May 2012 confessed to a chilling crime that has long haunted New Yorkers, saying he had lured the boy near his family home in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood and strangled him on May 25, 1979.

Hernandez, who worked in the 1970s at a nearby deli, no longer admits to the crime, said his lawyer, Harvey Fishbein.

Patz had disappeared while walking alone for the first time to a school bus stop, and his case helped focus national attention on the issue of missing children. He was one of the first missing children to have their photograph posted on the side of a milk carton as part of an appeal for information from the public.

Patz’s body was never found but he was legally declared dead in 2001.

In the months after Hernandez’s confession, a grand jury indicted him on two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree kidnapping.

Fishbein asked the judge to throw out the indictment, noting that authorities appear to have no physical evidence to corroborate Hernandez’s confession.

“You can’t support the indictment solely with these statements,” Fishbein has said. “There is no crime scene here. There were no witnesses to a crime.”

He has also said the confession is false and that Hernandez suffers from mental illness, including hallucinations.

A spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, Erin Duggan, has said prosecutors believe Hernandez’s confession will withstand scrutiny.

After the court hearing on Wednesday, Fishbein said he would argue the confession should be thrown out because it was obtained in violation of Hernandez’s constitutional rights.

“There will be a hearing to find out if the statements were constitutionally taken. He was held for seven, eight hours before he was told he had the right to remain silent. He has a psychiatric condition and he has a low IQ,” Fishbein told reporters.

For years, Jose Ramos, a friend of Patz’s babysitter, was the prime suspect in the case, although he was never criminally charged. Ramos was found liable for Patz’s death in a 2004 civil case.

Ramos, 69, was released in November from a Pennsylvania prison after serving 20 years for molesting children but was immediately rearrested on other charges.

Fishbein has maintained that Ramos remains a “far more likely” suspect in Patz’s disappearance than Hernandez.

(Additional reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Cynthia Osterman)


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Local

Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

NBA

Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.

Parenting

How to parent without gender stereotypes in a…

Christia Spears Brown, Phd. author of "Parenting beyond Pink & Blue" gives advice on raising kids free of gender stereotypes.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.