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Sentencing Postponed in Etan Patz Murder Trial

By Irene Plagianos | February 23, 2017 6:04pm
 The original missing child poster for Etan Patz, who disappeared in SoHo in 1979.
The original missing child poster for Etan Patz, who disappeared in SoHo in 1979.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — A judge has agreed to postpone the sentencing for Pedro Hernandez, the man convicted last week of killing 6-year-old Etan Patz, as defense lawyers continue to investigate possible jury contamination in the retrial.

Defense lawyers asked Manhattan Supreme Court judge Maxwell Wiley Thursday to give them more time to prepare their "relevant post-verdict motions," which could include a request for a hearing to determine whether jurors received improper information about jurors from Hernandez's initial trial, his lawyer Harvey Fishbein told DNAinfo New York.

Fishbein said that the investigation into jury contamination was sparked after DNAinfo and Newsday reported that a retrial juror, in an interview after Hernandez's conviction, said that court officers made him aware that jurors from the first trial were attending the second trial.

Lawyers were not allowed to mention the first trial as they argued their cases for a second time in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Wiley, who has overseen both of Hernandez's trials — the first of which ended with a hung jury in May 2015 — granted the defense request to push back the sentencing, which had been scheduled on Feb. 28. 

The Manhattan District Attorney's office objected to the postponement, saying in a letter to the judge that the family has waited long enough for a resolution.

"While the defendant’s conviction on February 14th provided great solace to the family, this circle will not and cannot be closed until the defendant’s sentencing," prosecutors wrote. "Any further delay will only cause considerable anguish to a family that has already suffered enough and who seek closure. "

Prosecutors also argued that Patz family members had already made travel arrangements and booked flights to attend the Feb. 28 hearing.

Lawyers for both sides will still need to be in court on Feb. 28. In lieu of the sentencing, defense lawyers will discuss the scope of the motions they are filing.

Hernandez, a father of three from New Jersey with no prior criminal record, was charged with Patz's death in 2012 after he confessed to police. He said he strangled the boy in the basement of the Prince Street bodega where he worked before placed his body in a trash bag and throwing it on a nearby garbage heap.

Defense lawyers argued that Hernandez is mentally feeble, suffers from delusions and gave coerced confessions. 

Patz, who went missing in 1979 on the first day he was allowed to walk alone to his school bus stop, has never been found.