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Confessed Etan Patz Killer's Lawyer Is Denied Bid for Grand Jury Minutes

By Andrea Swalec | March 27, 2013 4:50pm

MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — The lawyer for the man who confessed to killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in SoHo 33 years ago hoped securing early access to grand jury minutes would prove there was insufficient evidence to indict Pedro Hernandez, but a judge has turned down the attorney's request. 

With Hernandez in court Wednesday afternoon appearing gaunt, Hon. Maxwell Wiley denied attorney Harvey Fishbein's request to review the evidence prosecutors presented to the grand jury that indicted Hernandez.

"We felt [the minutes] would be of benefit, but the court disagreed," Fishbein said. 

Prosecutors ordinarily do not hand over grand jury records to the defense until just before a trial starts. Fishbein will eventually receive the grand jury minutes at that point, but he had hoped to receive them sooner.

Fishbein said he plans to submit a court motion challenging the legal validity of Hernandez's confession, which he said was made after Hernandez had been in police custody for more than seven hours. Fishbein has previously said that hallucinations and an IQ in the "borderline-to-mild mental retardation range" contributed to Hernandez's confession.

"The reliability of the confession is the key issue," Fishbein said. 

Etan, whose family still lives on Prince Street, disappeared on May 25, 1979, the first day he was allowed to walk to the school bus by himself. A lengthy police investigation proved inconclusive. 

In 2001, the child was declared dead, even though his body was never found.

In May 2012, Hernandez, a 52-year-old husband and father of two with no criminal record, became the centerpiece of the reopened investigation when authorities received a tip from a family member.

Hernandez, who was 19 at the time of Etan's disappearance, told investigators he lured Etan into the basement of the West Broadway bodega where he worked with the promise of a soda, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in May.

Hernandez said he choked the child and put his body in a plastic bag, which he left on the street, police said.

Hernandez is due back in court May 15.