An estimated 90 percent of 120 prospective jurors appearing on the first day of jury selection Monday in the retrial of Pedro Hernandez for the 1979 disappearance of Etan Patz had concerns about their availability to hear a trial expected to last till late January.
The group packing a courtroom in Manhattan Supreme Court began murmuring as soon as Judge Maxwell Wiley told them the case was the notorious abduction of the 6-year-old boy, and some groaned when they heard the trial’s duration.
“Yes, this is that case,” Wiley said, but he told the potential jurors that sitting on the trial would likely be one of the most “significant events” in their lives and they would “almost never be bored — it will be interesting every single day.”
The judge said jurors who would be free to serve could fill out a questionnaire and return later this week, and invited those with time conflicts to meet with him and the lawyers to describe their problems. Only about 12 filled out questionnaires and left, while dozens waited to speak to the judge.
Wiley hopes to follow the same process with 400 jurors this week, and then use the questionnaires of those who remain for further questioning.
Hernandez, 58, a former bodega worker in Patz’s SoHo neighborhood, is charged with strangling the boy, but no body was ever found. Hernandez’s first trial ended last year with the jury deadlocked 11-1 for conviction. It took more than three weeks to pick that jury.