Opening statements in the retrial of former bodega clerk Pedro Hernandez on murder charges in the notorious 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz are scheduled to begin Wednesday morning in Manhattan Supreme Court after five weeks of jury selection.
The first trial of Hernandez, who became a suspect in 2012 after relatives told police he had talked about killing a young boy, lasted 10 weeks, followed by nearly three weeks of deliberation before ending last year with the jury deadlocked 11-1 for conviction.
Justice Maxwell Wiley has told jurors the trial will again last a few months. The jury of eight men and four women and five alternates was chosen after screenings that began on Sept. 12.
Etan’s disappearance in 1979 on his way to catch a school bus in SoHo prompted a media frenzy and a massive police investigation. He was one of the first missing children to appear on milk cartons, and the case launched a national movement to help child victims.
As at the first trial, prosecutors said they will call Etan’s mother, Julie, when testimony begins Friday, and are expected to focus their case on inculpatory statements Hernandez made to relatives and a church group, and his videotaped confessions to police in 2012.
The defense contends Hernandez’s confession was a delusion caused by a mental disorder. His lawyers are expected to focus on psychiatric experts and discrepancies between the confessions and known facts about the disappearance.
The defense also plans to again point a finger at an alternative culprit — convicted pedophile Jose Ramos, a friend of a woman who walked Etan to school who was long the favorite suspect of some law enforcement investigators.
After the first trial, jurors who favored conviction said the confession had the ring of truth and included small details that were corroborated by other evidence, but the holdout had doubts about the confessions because of Hernandez’s history of mental problems.