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Lawyers Want Guilty Verdict in Patz Case Thrown Out Over Jury Contamination

By Irene Plagianos | February 28, 2017 2:02pm
 Pedro Hernandez (right) is accused of killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979.
Pedro Hernandez (right) is accused of killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979.
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Stan Patz/ Steven Hirsch

MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — Lawyers for Pedro Hernandez, the former SoHo bodega worker found guilty of killing 6-year-old Etan Patz, are asking for his conviction to be thrown out over claims of jury contamination.

"The only protection Mr. Hernandez had was the sanctity and integrity of the judicial process," Josh Dubin, a lawyer for Hernandez, told reporters after a brief hearing before judge Maxwell Wiley in Manhattan Supreme Court Tuesday. "We know that that process wasn't kept in tack, the integrity wasn't there."

The court appearance comes after Judge Wiley agreed, at the defense's request, to postpone Hernandez's sentencing as lawyers continued to investigate whether jurors in the retrial were given improper information — namely that jurors from Hernandez's first trial, which ended in a hung jury, were attending his retrial.

A schedule for the defense lawyers to submit their post-verdict motions was set Tuesday, but the specific motions were not discussed in any detail during the hearing.

Dubin told reporters the defense team has "grave concerns" over the "extent to which jurors from the first trial have been public advocates for Mr. Hernandez's guilt."

"We maintain that Mr. Hernandez is innocent and we'll be filing a post trial motion to set forth the reasons why we know that, how we know that, and why this verdict should be set aside so that Mr. Hernandez should get a fair trial," he continued.

Harvey Fishbein, a lawyer for Hernandez, has said that the investigation into jury contamination was sparked after DNAinfo and Newsday reported that a retrial juror interviewed after Hernandez's conviction on Feb. 14 said court officers made him aware jurors from the first trial were attending the second trial.

During the retrial, lawyers were not allowed to mention the first trial, and could only reference it as a "previous proceeding."

"The concern is that jurors were provided information they should not have had," Fishbein said Tuesday after the court appearance.

Lawyers for Hernandez, a father of three from New Jersey with no prior criminal record, argued that their client suffers from delusions and a low I.Q., and that his confessions were coerced by police.

Etan, who disappeared in 1979 after he was allowed to walk less than two blocks to his Prince Street bus stop by himself for the first time, was never found. He was declared dead in 2001.

Hernandez has been in jail since his 2012 arrest, after a relative contacted police, saying Hernandez had confessed many years earlier to hurting a young boy. 

In several hours of taped confessions to authorities, Hernandez described strangling a small boy, then placing his limp body in a garbage bag and throwing him on a nearby trash heap.