Prosecutors in the Etan Patz murder trial will be permitted to close their case on Friday by showing the jury pictures of a "boy in a box" to illustrate the way they believe defendant Pedro Hernandez disposed of the 6-year-old's body, a judge said Thursday.
Hernandez, in a now-disputed 2012 confession that is at the core of the prosecution's case, said that after strangling the boy in a SoHo bodega basement in 1979 he stuffed the body in a produce box and dumped it in an alley.
Prosecutors contend the boy-in-a-box pictures will show Hernandez could have done what he said he did, and a boy could have fit in a box.
Justice Maxwell Wiley rejected defense objections that the pictures would prejudice the jury and were meaningless, because Hernandez never gave box dimensions and the boy used as a model was not a match for Etan.
"To say he fits in a box -- it could have been a bigger box or a smaller box," said defense lawyer Harvey Fishbein. "We have no idea."
Hernandez, 53, a married father from Maple Shade, New Jersey, was a teen working as a clerk at the bodega in 1979. Etan disappeared without a trace on his way to school. The defense contends Hernandez's 2012 confession was the product of a mental disorder.
After a weather-shortened day Thursday, prosecutors plan to rest their case Friday.
In addition to the box pictures, they are expected to call a jailhouse informant to testify to post-arrest incriminating statements by Hernandez, and a medical examiner to testify that his description of how he strangled Etan was realistic.
In testimony on Thursday, one of three NYPD detectives who got Hernandez to confess during a six-hour interrogation testified that he got "goose bumps" on his arms when the cops first displayed a picture of Etan.
But under cross-examination, Det. Jose Morales admitted he had been caught up in the NYPD ticket-fixing scandal -- recorded on a wiretap asking whether tickets had been fixed for his brother-in-law, and later telling internal affairs officers that he couldn't remember the call.
Fishbein, who contends detectives have provided a scripted version of the tactics they used to get Hernandez to talk, said the ticket episode raises questions about Morales' credibility. Prosecutors said he received departmental sanctions.
Also Thursday, prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said she was mistaken this week when she disclosed in court that a man claiming to be Etan Patz recently contacted the district attorney's office.
She said the man actually believed he had been a classmate of Etan's. Her earlier statements were reported by Newsday and other news outlets.