By Natasja Sheriff
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Jury deliberations resumed for a 14th day on Monday in the trial of a former deli worker who confessed to the 1979 killing of Etan Patz, a New York boy whose disappearance brought national attention to the issue of missing and abducted children.
The jury has been struggling since April 15 to decide on kidnapping and murder charges against Pedro Hernandez, 54, in the death of 6-year-old Patz, who vanished on May 25, 1979 as he walked alone for the first time to a school bus stop.
Hernandez told police in 2012 that he had choked Patz in the basement of the deli, stuffed him in a box and left his still-moving body in an alley.
Hernandez’s attorneys argued that he is mentally ill and that police coerced his confession.
Last Wednesday, the jury told Justice Maxwell Wiley at state Supreme Court in Manhattan that it was deadlocked but he sent them back to keep trying.
If the jury stalemate holds and a mistrial is declared, the prosecution would have to decide whether to retry the case.
Patz’s disappearance from his Soho neighborhood in Manhattan changed the way the United States responds to reports of missing children, and his picture was among the first to appear on milk cartons in a national campaign to locate them.
The panel retired on Friday after rehearing the trial’s summation by the prosecution and taking another look at photographs of the alleged crime scene, snapshots of Patz, excerpts of an interview of Hernandez by a psychiatrist and excerpts of his confession to a prosecutor in 2012.
Jurors earlier heard ten weeks of witness testimony in the case.
The crime long haunted New Yorkers who can recall the massive search for the missing blond boy. He was never found and was declared dead in 2001.
Hernandez’s defense attorneys blame the boy’s disappearance on Jose Ramos, whose girlfriend walked Patz home from school and who was long considered the prime suspect.
Ramos, convicted of sexually abusing boys, is serving a prison term in Pennsylvania.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Susan Heavey)