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Etan Patz's Alleged Killer Made a False Confession, Lawyer Says

By Irene Plagianos | November 15, 2012 11:22am | Updated on November 15, 2012 1:52pm

MANHATTAN CRIMINAL COURT — Pedro Hernandez gave a false confession when he told cops he murdered 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979, Hernandez's lawyer told reporters Thursday.

Hernandez, 52, made a brief appearance in Manhattan Criminal Court a day after he was indicted on charges he allegedly kidnapped and murdered Etan 33 years ago. His attorney, Harvey Fishbein, railed against the Manhattan District Attorney's office for pursuing the case against his client who is schizophrenic and suffers from delusions.

“His statements are not reliable, they are false confession,” Fishbein said, adding that Hernandez is fit to stand trial and they "will be fighting this case" all the way.

"What has really occurred since day one when the DA's office hesitated to bring charges against my client, and investigated this case for six months and at the end of six months they have basically the same evidence, they've now decided to move forward. It's unfortunate," he said.

Prosecutors announced Hernandez’s indictment in court Thursday on two counts of murder and one count of kidnapping for allegedly grabbing 6-year-old Patz off a SoHo block as he walked from his home to a nearby school bus stop on May 25, 1979.

It was revealed Wednesday that a grand jury had voted to indict the father of two, more than five months after Hernandez admitted to police that he strangled the young boy.

Hernandez, clean shaven and wearing a gray T-shirt and sweat pants, said nothing during the brief hearing.

Fishbein said his client remains under treatment for mental illness.

"The really sad part about this case, besides that my client has to go through what he’s going through, is that this trial will take time, will take money and it will not tell the city and unfortunately it will not tell the Patz family what happened to Etan Patz, " Fishbein said.

Hernandez's confession and subsequent arrest at the end of May has been met with skepticism by some, including the boy's own parents. Police have reportedly found little to no physical evidence to corroborate Hernandez's story, and investigators have been dogged by questions regarding Hernandez's mental state — both Hernandez’s wife, Rosemary Hernandez, and his lawyer, Harvey Fishbein, have long said he suffers from mental health problems.

In late July, Hernandez was moved to a Manhattan jail after spending weeks in Bellevue Hospital undergoing a psychiatric evaluation.

He's due back in court on Dec. 12.

Rosemary Hernandez and her daughter declined to comment after the hearing. But their lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, told reporters, "they support him 1,000 percent."

"They don't believe his confession at all...they don't buy it for a moment," Gottlieb said, adding that the family is "shocked and appalled" that his case has gone this far.

Fishbein said if the case survives legal challenges and makes its way to trial, they are prepared to use who he considers the world's leading expert on false confessions.

According to the Innocence Project, an organization that works to exonerate those wrongly convicted, in 25 percent of cases that had been reversed through DNA evidence, people had made false confessions, pleaded guilty or made other incriminating statements.

When asked why his client would have made such a damning confession, Fishbein said "elements of mental condition, low intelligence, police coercion — there's a number of factors that would have led and did lead to this confession."