Judge orders deadlocked New York jury to keep deliberating in 35-year-old case of missing boy Etan Patz

  • Jurors in the trial of Pedro Hernandez, the man accused of murdering Etan Patz more than 30 years ago, said they could not reach a verdict
  • A judge told the jury to keep trying to reach a verdict, an order an attorney are called 'inherently coercive'
  • Hernandez confessed to police that he choked the 6-year-old and stuffed him in a box, but his defense attorneys claim he is mentally ill
  • Patz' disappearance gained national attention, the young boy was one of the first to appear on milk cartons 

Etan: Jurors in the case of the man accused of murdering 6-year-old Etan Pazt (above) said they could not reach a verdict

Etan: Jurors in the case of the man accused of murdering 6-year-old Etan Pazt (above) said they could not reach a verdict

Jurors in the trial of a former deli worker accused of kidnapping and murdering 6-year-old Etan Patz in New York in 1979 said on Wednesday they could not reach a verdict, but a judge ordered them to keep trying.

The New York City boy's 1979 disappearance brought national attention to the issue of missing and abducted children.

Pedro Hernandez, 54, had confessed to police in 2012 that he choked 6-year-old Patz, stuffed him in a box and left him in a New York alley. 

But his defense attorneys had argued that Hernandez is mentally ill and his confession was coerced by police.

The jury in its 11th day of deliberations at state Supreme Court in Manhattan sent a note to Justice Maxwell Wiley.

'We the jury after 10 days of deliberation, want the court to know that we are unable to reach a unanimous decision,' the note read.

Wiley ordered the panel to keep working.

Patz vanished on May 25, 1979 as he walked alone for the first time to a school bus stop in his Manhattan neighborhood. 

The crime long haunted New Yorkers who can recall the massive search for the missing boy, who was never found. He was declared dead in 2001. 

Confession: Pedro Hernandez, 54 (photographed), had confessed to police in 2012 that he choked 6-year-old Patz, stuffed him in a box and left him in aNew York alley

Confession: Pedro Hernandez, 54 (photographed), had confessed to police in 2012 that he choked 6-year-old Patz, stuffed him in a box and left him in aNew York alley

Hernandez's defense attorneys put the blame on Jose Ramos, who dated a Patz family babysitter and was long considered the prime suspect.

Ramos is serving a prison term after being convicted of sexually abusing boys.

Hernandez was arrested in 2012 on a tip that he had confessed to a church prayer group in New Jersey.

Vanished: Patz vanished on May 25, 1979 as he walked alone for the first time to a school bus stop in his Manhattan neighborhood, 

Vanished: Patz vanished on May 25, 1979 as he walked alone for the first time to a school bus stop in his Manhattan neighborhood, 

Site: Hernandez was working in 1979 at this corner convenience store, near the location Patz was last seen

Site: Hernandez was working in 1979 at this corner convenience store, near the location Patz was last seen

In a confession videotaped by police, he described luring Patz into the deli where he worked, taking him to the basement and strangling him.

The 12-member jury was clearly struggling to reach a unanimous decision in the case, which hinged on the now-disputed confession. The panel asked to rehear reams of testimony from the trial, which started in late January.

On Wednesday, the jury asked Justice Wiley for a readback of the lawyers' closing arguments, which took nearly two full days in court. 

Crime: The crime long haunted New Yorkers who can recall the massive search for the missing boy, who was never found, he was declared dead in 2001

Crime: The crime long haunted New Yorkers who can recall the massive search for the missing boy, who was never found, he was declared dead in 2001

But before the judge could tell the jury he would grant the request, the panel sent out a note saying it was deadlocked.

The defense, upon hearing the jury was hung, made a motion for a mistrial, which the judge denied.

Defense attorney Alice Fontier told the court that ordering the jury to keep deliberating is 'inherently coercive' and any continuation of proceedings would be over the strenuous objections of the defense.

Stanley Patz
Julie Patz

Parents: Patz' parents, Stanley (left) and Julie (right) helped bring in an era of law enforcement advances that make it easier to track missing children and communicate between agencies

Disappearance: Patz' disappearance brought attention to the issue of missing and abducted children; his picture was one of the first to appear on milk cartons (here, Patz is seen with his mother Julie)

Disappearance: Patz' disappearance brought attention to the issue of missing and abducted children; his picture was one of the first to appear on milk cartons (here, Patz is seen with his mother Julie)

If the jury remains unable to reach a verdict and a mistrial is declared, it will be up to the prosecution to decide whether to retry the case. 

Patz' disappearance brought attention to the issue of missing and abducted children, and his picture was one of the first to appear on milk cartons. 

His parents helped bring in an era of law enforcement advances that make it easier to track missing children and communicate between agencies.

They were at the White House when Ronald Reagan named May 25 National Missing Children's Day. 

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